Dietz et al Reading

(Ctools) Dietz, Ostrom, Stern, “The Struggle to Govern the Commons,” Science 302: 1907-1912

Notes 1

Thoughts: Great 4 pages, well worth reading. The principle is that we have found effective ways to manage the commons on regional and global scales. These are generally complex, adaptive, inclusive and redundant approaches. They seek to build consensus regarding the problems and solutions and combine a variety of strategies in order to construct the most accurate solutions.

Tackling the notion of the commons: Hardin (the original tragedy of the commons guy) was very influential but oversimplified things to the point of being wrong.
His crimes were 3:
1. only two state-established institutional arrangements— centralized government and private property— could sustain commons over the long run
2. presumed that resource users were trapped in a commons dilemma, unable to create solutions
3. He missed the point that many social groups, including the herders on the commons … have struggled successfully against threats of resource degradation by developing and maintaining self-governing institutions (3, 10–13).
a. Although these institutions have not always succeeded, neither have Hardin’s preferred alternatives of private or state ownership.

Article presets as an, example the differences in Maine fisheries between well-accepted lobster regulations that were successful and not well-accepted inshore fishery regulations that have done poorly.

Key quote: “Knowledge from an emerging science of human-environment interactions, sometimes called human ecology or the “second environmental science” (25, 26), is clarifying the characteristics of institutions that facilitate or undermine sustainable use of environmental resources under particular conditions”

Why is it a struggle:
Governance is hard because it must deal with uncertainty, complexity, differing human values and interests, and substantial biophysical constraits.
Think of effective governance as a coevolutionary race, where the governance has to evolve as quickly as humans and their extraction technology do.

Effective commons governance is easier to achieve when:
1. the resources and use of the resources by humans can be monitored, and the information can be verified and understood at relatively low cost
a. (e.g., trees are easier to monitor than fish, and lakes are easier to monitor than rivers)
2. rates of change in resources, resource-user populations, technology, and economic and social conditions are moderate
3. communities maintain frequent face-to-face communication and dense social networks—sometimes called social capital—that increase the potential for trust, allow people to express and see emotional reactions to distrust, and lower the cost of monitoring behavior and inducing rule compliance
4. outsiders can be excluded at relatively low cost from using the resource
a. (new entrants add to the harvesting pressure and typically lack understanding of the rules);
5. users support effective monitoring and rule enforcement.
Few settings in the world are characterized by all of these conditions.

Selective pressures:
Lots of examples of sustainable use in sustenance communities
As global trade grows, its more difficult to maintain because of the multitude of factors that place pressure on the environment
“Further, no single broad type of ownership— government, private, or community— uniformly succeeds or fails to halt major resource deterioration”

Requirements of Adaptive Governance in Complex Systems:

Information requirements for managing natural resources must be on scale with the ecosystem that’s being managed as well as “congruent in scale with environmental events and decisions”

“Information also must be congruent with decision makers’ needs in terms of timing, content, and form of presentation”

Good info is when it meets high scientific standards and does not overload the intended audience.

“Systems that adequately characterize environmental conditions or human activities with summary indicators such as prices for products or emission permits, or certification of good environmental performance can provide valuable signals as long as they are attentive to local as well as aggregate conditions.”

Decsion makers need info that includes the types and magnitudes of uncertainty inherent to eco-knowledge. They also must understand the level of disagreement in scientific communities surrounding the issues at hand.

“conflict resolution may be as important a motivation for designing resource institutions as is concern with the resources themselves”

Enforcement mechanisms must be effective and seen as legitimate by potential offenders. Penalties that increase with time are often used to build and develop buy-in.

Traditional eco-regulation is frequently a “command and conquer” approach which works when there is good information and enforcement, but are often economically inefficient.

TEA’s (tradable economic allowances) have seen success when the regulated industries are quite similar and the regulation is well enforced.

“TEAs and community-based systems appear to have opposite strengths and weaknesses (101), suggesting that institutions that combine aspects of both systems may work better than either approach alone.”

“Infrastructure, including technology determines:
• the degree to which a commons can be exploited
• the extent to which waste can be reduced in resource use
• the degree to which resource conditions and the behavior of humans users can be effectively monitored.
• Indeed, the ability to choose in- stitutional arrangements depends in part on infrastructure.

“Institutions must be designed to allow for adaptation because some current understanding is likely to be wrong, the required scale of organization can shift, and biophysical and social systems change.”

Strategies for Meeting the Requirements of Adaptive Governance:

Analytic deliberation: Well-structured dialogue between many different parties… provides improved information and trust
Nesting: Institutional arrangements must be complex, redundant, and nested in many layers.
Institutional variety. Governance should employ mixtures of institutional types (e.g., hierarchies, markets, and community self-governance) that employ a variety of decision rules to change incentives, increase information, monitor use, and induce compliance.

Notes 2

  • Ideal governance conditions are rare; increasing environmental problems
  • Need to understand large scale commons governance before we have large scale tragedies
  • To ease commons governance rules need to evolve with progress
    • Monitor consumption of resources
    • Rates of change are moderate
    • Face to face communication amongst society members
    • Exclusion of outsiders from use of resource
    • Users support effective monitoring and rule enforcement
  • Requirements of adaptive governance
    • Providing information
    • Dealing with conflict (groups, outsiders, self regulation)
    • Inducing rule compliance (financial, societal pressure)
    • Be prepared for change (new rules will need adjusting)
  • Strategies for meeting above requirements
    • Analytic deliberation (scientists, public, etc. builds social capital)
    • Nesting (integrate to all levels of government, society)
    • Institutional variety (cause more problems for innovative rule evaders)