MathBench > Environmental Science

Tragedy of the Commons

The "common" part

The most important feature that all of these situations share is common ownership – that is, some important resource is owned by a community, or a country, or indeed by the entire population of the world. Sometimes thinking about “ownership” is a little odd – for example, we don’t normally think of the ocean being owned by anyone in particular. So it may be more understandable to say a right to common use.


In a commons situation, who has the right to use the grazing land?


or the right to use the fish in the ocean?

kids in fountain

or the right to use unpolluted water?


On the other hand, many things in our daily life are NOT commons:

macdonalds McDonald's -- like most other companies out there -- charge you for their products
gas nozzle That includes gasoline -- we may or may not be running out of it, and it certainly does cause a lot of environmental damage, but the gasoline itself is not free, you gotta pay at the pump.