It is becoming increasingly common knowledge that our world is on the brink of an unprecedented environmental crisis. However slow the reaction has been, it is beginning to take tangible form and, from petroleum to water, the need to preserve and reduce is becoming a mainstay of the global conservation. One of the essential—and painfully under-acknowledged—factors in this discussion is the question of just how collective societies deal with a scarcity of resources. As the work of Big Think’s recent guest Elinor Ostrom, the 2009 Nobel laureate for economics, demonstrates, our understanding of this question appears to have been woefully misguided.
The common assumption in the field is that humans, when faced with a dwindling resource, will continue to act out of a sort of Hobbesian self-interest and consume it until depletion—all eventually having to suffer the dire consequences. Dr. Ostrom, whose research incorporates political theory, economics and field work in a variety of resource-starved regions, believes this theory, commonly known as the “tragedy of the commons”, to be fallacious, arguing instead that humans can carve peaceful solutions to effectively manage shared assets.
Not only is the theory erroneous, its totalizing approach to ecological problems is also deeply flawed. As Dr. Ostrom explains, there is no universal way to understand or cope with shared resources, as the dynamics underpinning a culture's interaction with its resources varies greatly between realms and societies.
- Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.
- Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
- Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research. However, recent innovations might make this practice obsolete.
- Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000.
- This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community.
- Today, however, new innovations have resulted in a synthetic substitute that may end the practice of farming horseshoe crabs for their blood.
The distance between the American dream and reality is expressed best through literature.
- Literature expands our ability to feel empathy and inspires compassion.
- These 10 novels tackle some facet of the American experience.
- The list includes a fictional retelling of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard, and hiding out in inner-city Newark.
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