Give the commons back to the people!

At least, this is the conclusion of a study which found that common forests outperform government-controlled forests, and casts a shadow on a UN plan to empower governments to seize even more commons around the world.

One reason may be that locals protect forests best if they own them, because they have a long-term interest in ensuring the forests’ survival. While governments, whatever their intentions, usually license destructive logging, or preside over a free-for-all in which everyone grabs what they can because nobody believes the forest will last.

The authors suggest that locals would also make a better job of managing common pastures, coastal fisheries and water supplies. They argue that their findings contradict a long-standing environmental idea, called the “tragedy of the commons”, which says that natural resources left to communal control get trashed. In fact, says Agrawal, “communities are perfectly capable of managing their resources sustainably”.

2 thoughts on “Give the commons back to the people!

  1. James February 9, 2010 at 12:24

    Interestingly “One reason may be that locals protect forests best if they own them, because they have a long-term interest in ensuring the forests’ survival” is basically the tragedy of the commons argument. I guess whether this refutes the tragedy of the commons depends on what size “private ownership by a group” becomes “common ownership” but at any rate I imagine any other sort of ownership would work better than government ownership.

  2. […] Give the Commons Back to the People by Francois Tremblay […]

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