Tag Archives: Tragedy of the Commons

Is leasing your oil rights a personal or community decision?

By Kevin Smyth

This piece that was originally published in the Athens News Reader’s Forum of Jan. 23, 2012

One of the more troubling things about the fracking controversy is the notion that the decision to frack is a private decision and not a community decision. If it’s going to affect community air, water, roads and quality of life, then it is a community issue, isn’t it? So what is going on here?

Ecologist Garrett Hardin’s famous 1968 article, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” describes a situation where a number of shepherds are sharing a large pasture. One of the shepherds reflects thusly: “this pasture is huge. I could put out a few more sheep, and no one would even notice. It wouldn’t make any difference at all. And I could sure use the income.” And so he adds a few sheep to the pasture. Continue reading