Another Tragedy of the Commons

New Jersey’s largest lake is now its largest environmental mess

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source: NY Times
  1. Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions: The ‘goods’ here is the lake, and the ‘use’ includes the lake serving as a sewer because the communities in the watershed have not made necessary investments to protect the lake. The rules should be geared to the sustainable use of the common goods.
  2. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules: Form a governing group — The Lake Hopatcong Commons Association — that involves those affected by rules, and have all participate in a proportional way.
  3. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities: this, in particular, means not allowing the State of New Jersy to ‘solve’ the problem by fiat.
  4. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior: again, the Commons Association should be self-monitoring.
  5. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators: The Association should be self-policing.
  6. Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution: Again, managed by the Association, and based on the established rules.
  7. Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system: This might better be the first point, since it shapes everything else.

Work ecologist. Founder, Work Futures. The ecology of work and the anthropology of the future.

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