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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
The study was supported by Grant No. BCS-9906253 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation and a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to Indiana University. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The drama of the commons / Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change ; Elinor Ostrom ... [et al.], editors.
ISBN 0-309-08250-1 (Hard cover)
1. Commons. 2. Natural resources—Management. 3. Sustainable development. I. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change. II. Ostrom, Elinor.
HD1286 .D7 2001
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Copyright 2002 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Suggested citation: National Research Council (2002) The Drama of the Commons. Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change. E. Ostrom, T. Dietz, N. Dolšak, P.C. Stern, S. Stovich, and E.U. Weber, Eds. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
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COMMITTEE ON THE HUMAN DIMENSIONS OF GLOBAL CHANGE
THOMAS DIETZ (Chair),
Department of Environmental Science and Policy, and Department of Sociology and Anthropology, George Mason University
Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina
Department of History, University of Texas at Austin
Department of Political Science, University of Oregon, and Institute for International Studies, Stanford University
Department of Anthropology, Indiana University
M. GRANGER MORGAN,
Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Environment and Natural Resources Program, Harvard University
Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, Ohio State University
PETER J. RICHERSON,
Division of Environmental Studies, University of California, Davis
Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania
STEPHEN H. SCHNEIDER,
Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University
Department of Anthropology Environmental Studies Program, University of California, Santa Barbara
ELKE U. WEBER,
Department of Psychology, Columbia University
THOMAS J. WILBANKS,
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN
CHARLES KENNEL (Ex Officio),
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego
ORAN R. YOUNG (Ex Officio),
Institute of Arctic Studies, Dartmouth College
PAUL C. STERN, Study Director
DEBORAH M. JOHNSON, Senior Project Assistant
“The commons” has long been a pivotal idea in environmental studies, and the resources and institutions described by that term have long been recognized as central to many environmental problems, especially problems of global environmental change. Since its birth in 1989, the Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change of the National Research Council has recognized the importance of commons and commons research (Global Environmental Change: Understanding the Human Dimensions, National Academy Press, 1992). Not only is the topic important in its own right, the commons is also a central theme in studies of international cooperation, environmental decision making, and the design of resource management institutions. Its importance is highlighted in the International Human Dimensions Programme’s science plans on Land Use and Land Cover Change (www.uni-bonn.de/ihdp/lucc) and Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (www.dartmouth.edu/~idgec) . So the commons is at the center of the international research agenda on the human dimensions of global change.
The importance of the topic is one reason the National Research Council has undertaken a review of knowledge about the commons at this time. Another reason is that it has been 15 years since the Council completed the work of its Panel on the Study of Common Property Resource Management. That work, as discussed in Chapter 1, marked a turning point in the history of research on commons—it marked the emergence of a self-conscious interdisciplinary and international research community focused on understanding commons. After 15 productive years of research since that early synthetic effort, we felt it appropriate to reexamine and reintegrate what had been learned.
The committee is very pleased to have received support from the U.S. National Science Foundation to conduct this study. We began by commissioning a series of papers that were presented at the 8th Meeting of the International Association for the Study of Common Property in June 2000 at Indiana University. That meeting provided an excellent venue for discussing the work in progress with an international, interdisciplinary group of experts on the commons. Support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund allowed us to hold a follow-up meeting of the authors and editors at the Pocantico Center in Tarrytown, New York in September 2000.
We believe the result of our project is a rich series of papers that review what we know about the commons, integrate what in the past have been somewhat disparate literatures, and point directions for the future. We hope this volume achieves several goals. First, for those not familiar with the rich literature since Hardin’s seminal 1968 paper, we hope it provides a sound grounding in what we have learned and shows how and where knowledge has advanced since Hardin proposed his model. Second, for researchers already working in the field, we hope it provides a broad state-of-the-art review and shows connections and gaps in knowledge that may not have been obvious in the past. Third, for researchers and those funding research, we believe it conveys a sense of pride in what has been accomplished with relatively modest funding and indicates priorities for future work. Finally, although not a management handbook, we hope it provides some guidance to those who design and manage institutions dealing with the commons and makes it easier for them to base their decisions on the best available science.
On behalf of the committee, I wish to thank the National Science Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund for their support of this project and the staff and students of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, who hosted the project participants in Indiana and have provided assistance at various stages in the project. The committee’s gratitude goes to Brian Tobachnick, who managed the logistics of the project during its early stages and to Deborah Johnson, who carried it the rest of the way. We also owe a debt to Laura Penny, who did the copy editing, and to Yvonne Wise, who managed the review and editorial processes.
I wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of the papers in this volume: James Acheson, Indiana University; Robert Axelrod, University of Michigan; Susan Buck, University of North Carolina, Greensboro; Susan Hanna, Oregon State University; Peter Haas, University of Massachusetts; Kai Lee, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts; Gary Libecap, University of Arizona; Margaret McKean, Duke University; Ruth Meinzen-Dick, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC; Ronald Mitchell, Stanford University; Emilio Moran, Indiana University; Granger Morgan, Carnegie Mellon University; Edward Parson, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Pauline Peters, Harvard University; Charles Plott, Cali-
fornia Technical Institute; Lore Ruttan, Indiana University; Edella Schlager, University of Arizona; Robert Stavins, Harvard University; Mark Van Vugt, University of Southhampton, England; James Walker, Indiana University; and Rick Wilson, Rice University.
Although the individuals listed provided constructive comments and suggestions, it must be emphasized that the final responsibility for the content of this book rests with the authors and editors.
Thomas Dietz, Chair
Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change
The Drama of the Commons
Unequal Irrigators: Heterogeneity and Commons Management in Large-Scale Multivariate Research
Factors Influencing Cooperation in Commons Dilemmas: A Review of Experimental Psychological Research
Appropriating the Commons: A Theoretical Explanation
An Evolutionary Theory of Commons Management
Knowledge and Questions After 15 Years of Research