MathBench > Environmental Science

Tragedy of the Commons

The tragedy in action

Let’s watch how this works in action. In the animation below, we're assuming that the initial cost of a goat is $10, and the profit to be made from a goat grazing on good land is $100. Put yourself in the position of the guy on the left: would you have done the same?


That didn't turn out so well for the guy on the left. Maybe he had the wrong strategy. After all, its not that hard to see into the future, or to the next village, and figure out that the village green is heading to land degradation in a handbasket.

Perhaps our guy on the left tries to stop the vicious cycle by restraining his goat-acquiring tendencies. Let's see how that goes:


Not so well, I guess. The key point here is that the guy on the left is in a no-win situation. Even if he behaves "responsibly" and keeps his grazing to a minimum, the effect will be drowned out by the actions of others in the village. He is only hurting himself, and helping no one.