What is the tragedy of the commons? – Nicholas Amendolare

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Is it possible that overfishing, super germs, and global warming are all caused by the same thing? In 1968, a man named Garrett Hardin sat down to write an essay about overpopulation. Within it, he discovered a pattern of human behavior that explains some of historyโ€™s biggest problems. Nicholas Amendolare describes the tragedy of the commons.
Lesson by Nicholas Amendolare, directed by TED-Ed.
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Imagine as a thought experiment. that you live in a small village. and depend on . the local fish pond for food. you share the pond . with three other villagers. the pond starts off with a dozen fish,. and the fish reproduce. for every two fish, there will be . one baby added each night. so, in order to maximize . your supply of food,. how many fish should you catch each day . take a moment to think about it. assume baby fish grow . to full size immediately. and that the pond begins at full capacity,. and ignore factors . like the sex of the fish you catch. the answer one, and it's not just you. the best way to maximize . every villager's food supply. is for each fisherman to take . just one fish each day. here's how the math works. if each villager takes one fish,. there will be eight fish left over night. each pair of fish produces one baby,. and the next day, the pond . will be fully restocked with twelve fish. if anyone takes more than one,. the number of reproductive pairs drops,. and the population . won't be able to bounce back. eventually, the fish in the lake . will be gone,. leaving all four villagers to starve. this fish pond is just one example. of a classic problem. called the tragedy of the commons. the phenomenon was first described . in a pamphlet. by economist . william forster lloyd in . in a discussion of . the overgrazing of cattle. on village common areas. more than 100 years later, ecologist. garrett hardin revived the concept. to describe what happens . when many individuals. all share a limited resource,. like grazing land,. fishing areas,. living space,. even clean air. hardin argued that these situations. pit short-term self-interest. against the common good,. and they end badly for everyone,. resulting in overgrazing,. overfishing,. overpopulation,. pollution,. and other social . and environmental problems. the key feature of . a tragedy of the commons. is that it provides an opportunity for. an individual to benefit him or herself. while spreading out any negative effects . across the larger population. to see what that means,. let's revisit our fish pond. each individual fisherman is motivated. to take as many fish . as he can for himself. meanwhile, any decline . in fish reproduction. is shared by the entire village. anxious to avoid . losing out to his neighbors,. a fisherman will conclude that it's in his. best interest to take an extra fish,. or two,. or three. unfortunately, this is the same conclusion. reached by the other fisherman,. and that's the tragedy. optimizing for the self in the short term. isn't optimal for anyone in the long term. that's a simplified example,. but the tragedy of the commons. plays out in the more complex systems. of real life, too. the overuse of antibiotics has led to. short-term gains in livestock production. and in treating common illnesses,. but it's also resulted in the evolution. of antibiotic-resistant bacteria,. which threaten the entire population. a coal-fired power plant produces. cheap electricity for its customers. and profits for its owners. these local benefits are helpful. in the short term,. but pollution from mining and burning coal. is spread across the entire atmosphere. and sticks around for thousands of years. there are other examples, too. littering,. water shortages,. deforestation,. traffic jams,. even the purchase of bottled water. but human civilization has proven it's. capable of doing something remarkable. we form social contracts,. we make communal agreements,. we elect governments,. and we pass laws. all this to save our collective selves. from our own individual impulses. it isn't easy, and we certainly . don't get it right nearly all of the time. but humans at our best have shown. that we can solve these problems. and we can continue to do so. if we remember hardin's lesson. when the tragedy of the commons applies,. what's good for all of us . is good for each of us. .
Tags:  antibiotics  coal  fish  overgrazing  sustainability  ted  ted-ed  what  is  the  tragedy  of  the  commons?  -  nicholas  amendolare 

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