Tragedy of the Commons, Business Growth and the Fundamental Sustainability Problem

Garrity, Edward J.
October 2012
Sustainability (2071-1050);Oct2012, Vol. 4 Issue 10, p2443
Academic Journal
This paper reviews the major issues involved in Hardin's [1] tragedy of the commons, written over 44 years ago, and examines whether these issues are still relevant today. We assert that this model still provides important insight to aid in the solution to our global problems. In particular, we maintain that the underlying issues of growth against limits and bounded rationality are still not adequately recognized and addressed; this underlies many of the reasons for our unsustainable world. Examples from fisheries management are used to examine potential solutions and reveal weaknesses in current approaches. We show how our current, restricted mental models promote social injustice and blind us to developing sustainable solutions. Both the neo-liberal economic view of business that directly seeks growth and the new sustainable development view that indirectly supports growth are leading our global economy in the wrong direction and away from prosperity and sustainability. Current thinking has not realized Hardin's message that sustainability is of the class of no technology solution problems. We conclude with recommendations to radically advance a new world view and business paradigm.


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