Tragedy of the Commons as Conventional Wisdom in Sustainability Education

Tragedy of the Commons as Conventional Wisdom in Sustainability Education

CBIE_WP-2019-001

Abstract

More than 50 years ago biologist Garrett Hardin published his influential essay "The Tragedy of the Commons." In this essay, Hardin argued that in situations where people share resources, external intervention via governmental regulations or privatization of the resource is needed to avoid resource overexploitation. While the article is considered by many resource governance scholars as misleading and incomplete, it is one of the most assigned articles in environmental education. Here we present findings from a survey of instructors who teach undergraduate courses on sustainability within the USA on how Hardin's essay is used and what the understanding is of the instructors about the essay. The survey demonstrates that there is mixed understanding of the current state of knowledge about commons governance. In particular, instructors trained in the natural sciences have more misconceptions about commons governance than instructors trained in other disciplines.

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