We Pollute the Environment by Using Common Space

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A communal space in which many share and have their own desired use of the space is subject to tragedy. The tragedy of the commons is a concern that affects any space that a group can share. Historically, the tragedy of the commons is known for the public grazing land and cows. The herders were expected to contain their cattle so that the public land, which everyone used, would not become overgrazed.

The herders were aware of the various negative effects that overgrazing would cause. These negative effects include but are not limited to: unusable land, inability to produce grass for animals, potential loss of animal and/ or money, etc. However, the herders that contribute to the tragedy of the commons do not care about the communal impact but rather how the “small damage” they would cause by bringing the extra cow could boost the profits gained and the quality of their herd. This specific example can be used in a larger context for pollution specifically.

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The ideology of the tragedy of the commons was first introduced in 1833 by William Forster Lloyd but was brought into the public eye by an article published in a magazine by Garrett Hardin in 1968. This framework can be applied to help create ideas for diminishing modern issues within the environment. Pollution is currently a massive issue that the world faces.

A large concern with pollution is the fact that everyday people and companies contribute to it. Whether it be air, water, or land every living creature is adding to the amount of pollution that there is. Starting with the company’s contributions, numerous companies are claiming that it is too expensive to treat waste, introducing extremely harmful chemical gases, and other harmful wastes and toxins are released into the air, which will in time, find its way into the water. Once in the water, this could be introduced into the various communities in the area as well as a more widespread effect.

This causes many issues as it is the air the community breathes, and the water they drink, which is used day to day. Unfortunately, spending the money to treat the company’s waste which would significantly reduce these harmful effects is overlooked. This causes the public to suffer the consequences because of companies concerns with their own gains. While there are laws and groups taking action to bring this to light, ultimately in the company’s eyes, all that matters is the dollar amount at the end of the day and the color that the font it is in, green.

A middle man between the companies and the individual is the market, specifically supply and demand. In modern times, the grocery store or market is where the majority of people get their food, specifically their meat. While farmers aren’t necessarily using the common area for their meat farms, the waste that these genetically modified mega-animals are producing is rising. The hormones and toxins that is injected into the animals to produce more meat is then causing the animals to produce more potent feces as well as high levels of methane gas which is eating away at the ozone. The connection to the tragedy of the commons is that as these meat farmers are getting increasingly more money-driven, the more cows they are growing at faster rates to have more meat for the consumer which in turn causes more of the gas. These various levels of egocentrism that is driving more company’s and suppliers to harm the environment in order to turn more profit can be seen on an individual level.

Looking at how pollution occurs on an individual level is the fumes and land pollution that the human species causes. People have a desire to stay busy and travel from place to place. This unexplained desire requires modes of transportation and roads to get from the various destinations in a fast and efficient manner. Roads are often public and shared by various members in the community and those outside of it. Each person has his or her own interest in mind — typically, how to get to their job as easily and quickly as their vehicle can take them. For the individual, it is important to get to work on time in order to continue receiving their income.

However, during times like rush hour when everyone is trying to get to work, the roads become congested and slow down or even stop overall traffic movement, filling atmosphere with pollutants from idling cars. One more car may not seem like the end of the world in rush hour traffic, but the small amount of pollution it contributes adds to the overall detrimental effects in the atmosphere that affect air quality and the ozone layer. The fossil fuels being burned are depleting the ozone which causes an increase in air temperature on Earth’s surface. With an increasing population, this issue will only get worse and the potential for even further consequences is not a distant idea or “What if”.

Environmental enthusiasts can use the tragedy of the commons to talk about how the world, as the commons, is starting to become a tragedy. As more and more beings are adding their pollutants to the air, water, and land other solutions must arise to combat the summation of the negative small effects. Introducing ideas along the lines of “motor-less Monday” , “meat-less Monday” or other environmentally friendly ideas may give just enough of a plateau to break the rising trend of the environmental impacts that modern industrialized human every-day living has become.

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We Pollute the Environment by Using Common Space. (2023, Feb 16). Retrieved from


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