Wednesday, 20 November 2013

It's amazing what we have in common; wanna live like common people?

Over at the warren, Eli makes mention of Gardiner's 'Perfect Moral Storm', a characterisation of the ethical complexities associated with climate change. Gardiner compares the moral dilemmas associated with climate change and the issues of mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and intergenerational equity to the 'triple storm' which forms the centrepiece of the original story by Junger.

One of the matters which arises during Gardiner's discussion, and in Peter Singer's 'response' paper of the same year (2006), is that of the 'Tragedy of the Commons'. This is Hardin's highly influential analysis going back to 1968 of the difficulties of dealing with ecological and environmental problems, particularly (in his case) to do with overpopulation.

When you look at the dialogues and arguments surrounding COP19 (and all other climate policy debates), it is easy to see the influence of Hardin (and perhaps Gardiner), in the underlying principles which are being discussed - who should take responsibility, who should pay, who should benefit, etc. Gardiner provides the basis for a moral framework which supports the notion that developed nations need to support developing nations to avoid a future destruction of the 'commons' of the global ecosystem. Singer goes beyond this to argue that, regardless of the moral basis chosen, the result (about who should take responsibility) always goes back to the same source, not just for ethical reasons, but also for practical ones.

It had been a few years since I first flirted with this material, during my brief period as a postgrad in Environmental Ethics, so I duly refreshed. Following this up with some further reading, I came across the work of the remarkable Elinor 'Lin' Ostrom, with whom I had not previously been acquainted.

And so, by a roundabout course, I came across some weekend reading for Eli to enjoy, which I am sure he will, since the very first example cited in the book refers to the maintenance and management of levees in the USA. I'm also recommending it to Roger Sr, since it relates to his team's work on (local) resource vulnerability and climate, and to Roger Jr, since it relates to the fundamentals of 'right policy making', which I know he is enthusiastic about, and has quite a lot about sports.

So, here is the (open access) 'Sustaining the Commons' by Anderies and Janssen. Grown ups and interested parties can revert, of course, to the original material by Ostrom et al., but this is about four hour's worth of undergrad level light weekend reading, and therefore suitable for busy bunnies. Why bother? Well, an awful lot of what has been going the rounds recently, for example in my chosen rag the Guardian, has been very depressing. There are times when one gets close to the 'we're f***@d' position. Reading this both cheered me up and gave me some more thoughts to work on in my search for a redefinition of our generational social dilemma.

Please, read and enjoy.