When Garrett Hardin wrote his famous essay The Tragedy of the Commons in 1968, he used the example of herdsman grazing their animals in a common pasture to exemplify the “tragedy” that results when multiple actors, acting independently and “rationally” (in the economic self-interest sense), will deplete a shared finite resource, even when it is in no one’s long-term
tragedy of the commons
This week, the international community launched another attempt at world governance around climate change. But in the lead-up to what has been called our last chance to mitigate the most severe consequences of human-induced climate change, a sputtering world economy, political anxiety, and legislative lethargy may have derailed the entire process before it even began. The goal now: hammer out the foundation for a later agreement. With the clock ticking, can we afford to wait?
What space junk teaches us is that we get down to the business of debating solutions only after the cause of the problem has had sufficient time to germinate and evolve into something far more insidious. Before climate change events reach a tipping point, however, we owe it to ourselves to revisit the enabling circumstances that precipitated it in the first place so that we can begin to enact smarter policies aimed at systemic change. Copenhagen must be that opportunity.