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natural resource, environmental economic. - Accurate Essays

natural resource, environmental economic.

Natural Resource, Environmental Economics

Tragedy of commons is an environmental problem experienced in the utilization of public goods. Public goods include properties that have no private owner and can be used by any person at their own discretion. A good illustration of this is one of a common grazing ground for farmers. It is most likely that everyone will work towards gaining the most out of the pasture with little care of its existence in future. There is also a high probability that this pasture might bring about conflicts in the society. Other examples of commons or public goods are public fishing grounds, unprotected forests among others. These goods are depleted over time with a low chance of being renewed. In this case, the individual is out to maximize his utility regardless of the damage that accrues to the community. Hardin refers to this as the case whereby a person benefits personally from his ability to contradict the truth despite the fact that his whole society is suffering from the consequences of his actions. His allegation that commons are doomed to extinction is a practical one since these goods are only depleted and most of the time left for nature to renew them without human intervention (Hardin 76). To support this allegation, we will consider the Common Property regime, Open – Access and the Private Property regime resources.

The tragedy of the commons is mainly caused by the common property rights. This refers to the scenario in which every member of the society has the right of access to the property without seclusion or restriction. In order to understand this, an analysis of the Open – Access, the Private property and the model in between is done. The Open – Access fishery model provides a good explanation for the tragedy of commons. This model is give by a function of net growth function with harvest,

∆ X harvest = ∆X no harvest – H = rX [1-X/K] – EX.

From this model, it is clear that if the fish population increases and the number of harvests increase proportionately, then the fish population in the sea will remain at a constant level. Again, if the number of harvest increases more proportionately to the fish population, then the population will reduce gradually. Finally, an increase in the number of harvest less proportionately to the increase in the fish population will lead to an increase in the fish population (Hardin 78). The second scenario is the most practical one where the number of harvest increases more proportionately to the number of fish population. It is has been observed that man is naturally inclined to overexploiting the resources around him especially when it is a common good. From the above equation, an increase in harvesting over time will direct the net growth function towards zero, the point at which there will be no more fish to be harvested. It is impossible to achieve economic efficiency in a scenario like the one illustrated by the Open – Access fishery model (Hardin 79).

The tragedy of the commons can be further justified by the comparison between the Open – Access and the Private Property fisheries. First, consider the net growth without harvest given by,

∆ X = rX [1-X/K], where r is the inherent rate of growth and K the carrying capacity of the environment. The next thing to consider is the Maximum Sustainable Yield (the maximum net growth in biomass arrived at when the biomass is considered to be half the normal capacity.) given by the following equations.

XMSY = K/2 while MSY = rK/2{1 – (K/2)/K} = rK/4;

Finally, we have the fishery with harvest given by,

∆ X harvest = ∆X no harvest – H = rX [1-X/K] – EX. Where the harvest is considered an increasing function of biomass, X.

In private property rights, there is the earning of maximum rent whereby the Marginal Revenue is equal to the Marginal cost. The private property fishing is therefore considered more biological, economical and efficient compared to the Open – Access fishing. In the private property fishing, it is possible to control the fishing activity and allow the fish population to be restored (Hardin 79). This is further illustrated by the divergence between Private and collective marginal product of effort. In a community with a population of N where N>1 the stock of resources limited to that community excludes any individual from outside from use (Hardin 76). Such a scenario lies in between the extreme cases of Open –Access and Private ownership. In such a case, it is possible to obtain an equilibrium position given by,


E = ei + Σei

j≠ i =1

The tragedy of the commons can also be experienced in such a case, though with very little effect as compared to the Open – Access scenario.

I agree with Hardin’s model of the tragedy of the commons since it clearly illustrates the problem in mathematically. Through this model, one is able to understand why the situation is referred to as a tragedy. This is because overuse of resources with no incentive of replacing them will eventually lead to distress. It the trend continues, all the resources will be depleted in the long run.


Works Cited:

Hardin, Garrett. “Essays on Science and Society: Extensions of “The Tragedy of the Commons’”. Essays on Science and Society 1 May 1998: 682-683. Print.

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