Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

Management of open resources or common resources has been

Management of open resources or
common resources has been an issue of debate for the past decades to present
day. ‘Commons’ are any resource that can be used or that is owned by the
community as a whole. These are resources difficult to enclose. In other words,
the ‘commons’ are the land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole of
a community for instance, nature in all its forms fisheries, oil fields,
climate systems is seen as commons (Robbins,P., Hintz, J., Moore, S. A., 2014, p. 54). “Tragedy of the
commons” is a concept by Garrett Hardin in the 1960s which parabolically
explains the idea of the ‘commons’ through a pasture.  He uses an illustration of famers using a
pasture which is an open to all resource. Assuming that as rational beings,
each farmer will seek to increase their own utility by increasing his herd, and
by pursuing their own self-satisfaction, it is expected that each farmer will
try to keep as many animals as possible on the pasture (Hardin, 1968).
Eventually overgrazing or over exploitation of a resource. This is the tragedy.
In a world with finite resources, freedom in a ‘commons’ brings ruin to all,
and it can take just one selfish person to break the equilibrium (Hardin,
1968).

In present day, the article by
Hardin is used to understand the relations between society and the environment.
It is in the vain of two critical aspects that Hardin puts forward which helps
to understand political ecology around resource conflict issues. These two
critical elements are the management of open resources through the state or
privatization of these resources. These conflicts can be around such issues of
sustainable use of natural resources which are difficult to enclose. Hardin
believes in what he said to be mutual coercion mutually agreed upon (Robbins,P., Hintz, J., Moore, S. A., 2014), which is a form of
a social arrangement or a type of an enforcement mechanism that’s creates
responsibility of some sort through coercion in order to gain control over the
overexploitation of resources.

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State management and privatization
of natural resources are theoretical approaches that Hardin believed that they
can facilitate gain of control over the use of resources as he asserted that conscience
and goodwill were useless, there was some need of a form of coercion to gain
control. However, Harding believed in privatization more than state management
as he said they may also fail, viewing privatization as the best solution
available. To avoid the tragedy of the commons, ‘commons’ must be made
non-common through the power of law and property (Robbins,P., Hintz, J., Moore, S. A., 2014). The underlying
assumption behind these two proposed solutions is central to incentives received
by the care takers of the environment though internalizing externalities so
that cost of poor decision making around resource use is felt internally by the
state or private owners to eliminate free riders.

However, at the time when
Hardin’s concept was gaining popularity, a parallel open resource management system
emerged from Ostrom. This was management of open access of natural resources by
collective action (Robbins,P., Hintz, J., Moore, S. A., 2014). The underlying
discovery that was made by Ostrom was that instead of property rights or the
state managing resources there was a form of institutions that controlled
resource user’s behavior to be sustainable when using the resource.
Institutions are defined rules and norms governing collective action and these
can be formal or informal for instance how a human behave in a society maybe
constrained by cultural norms and beliefs. Hence, her argument was that some
resources around the world could be managed by applying logic instead of
tyrannical repressing laws.

 

Ostrom preferred institutions in
managing common resources as she argued that privatization would allow
intensive use of resources as property owner would seek to maximize their
profits or gains. Though this would lead to economic growth it would lead to
the unhygienic socio-ecological spheres of life and this can be best be
exemplified though primitive accumulation. Which is the seizure of natural
resources by the capitalist, a natural resource which was a common resource (Robbins,P., Hintz, J., Moore, S. A., 2014). This has a negative
impact to the society and to the environment at it created huge inequality gaps
and overexploitation of resources which was a time bomb. Thus, for Ostrom
believed in the management of common resources through local or communal
institutions. Hence Though both Hardin and Ostrom agree that some form of management/control
is necessary for the sustainability of an open resource. They both agree that a
monitoring system is required, though Ostrom favors bottom-up approaches rather
than state management which is more authoritarian.

Moreover, she argues that the
outcome of the tragedy of the commons can be different if the users of a common
resource cooperate and be open to each other. She assumes that for effective management
of commons there should be a conflict resolution mechanism between users (Robbins,P., Hintz, J., Moore, S. A., 2014). This social
mechanism is effective in the sense that there are possibilities of same
complains in between users so if cooperation is allowed it will be a low cost
of solving grievances rather that inviting higher order governing bodies. Thus,
this self-governance mechanism is effective and efficient as it is local based,
and it is the users that knows best about the resources, also it will be collective
and democratic.

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