Protecting the Commons: A Framework for Resource Management in the Americas

Joanna Burger & Elinor Ostrom & Richard Norgaard & David Policansky & Bernard D. Goldstein

Language: English

Publisher: Island Press

Published: Oct 30, 2013


Commons -- lands, waters, and resources that are not legally owned and controlled by a single private entity, such as ocean and coastal areas, the atmosphere, public lands, freshwater aquifers, and migratory species -- are an increasingly contentious issue in resource management and international affairs.Protecting the Commons provides an important analytical framework for understanding commons issues and for designing policies to deal with them. The product of a symposium convened by the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) to mark the 30th anniversary of Garrett Hardin's seminal essay “The Tragedy of the Commons” the book brings together leading scholars and researchers on commons issues to offer both conceptual background and analysis of the evolving scientific understanding on commons resources. The book: gives a concise update on commons use and scholarship offers eleven case studies of commons, examined through the lens provided by leading commons theorist Elinor Ostrom provides a review of tools such as Geographic Information Systems that are useful for decision-making examines environmental justice issues relevant to commons .Contributors include Alpina Begossi, William Blomquist, Joanna Burger, Tim Clark, Clark Gibson, Michael Gelobter, Michael Gochfeld, Bonnie McCay, Pamela Matson, Richard Norgaard, Elinor Ostrom, David Policansky, Jeffrey Richey, Jose Sarukhan, and Edella Schlager.Protecting the Commons represents a landmark study of commons issues that offers analysis and background from economic, legal, social, political, geological, and biological perspectives. It will be essential reading for anyone concerned with commons and commons resources, including students and scholars of environmental policy and economics, public health, international affairs, and related fields.


About the Author

As a political economist, Elinor Ostrom studied how institutions―conceptualized as sets of rules―affect the incentives of individuals interacting in repetitive and structured situations. Ostrom and her colleagues at the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University developed the Institutional Analysis and Development framework, which enables them to analyze diversely structured markets, hierarchies, common-property regimes and local public economies using a common set of universal components. Large-scale studies of urban public economies demonstrated that systems composed of a few large-scale producers of services, such as forensic laboratories and training academies, combined with a large number of autonomous direct service producers (such as crime and traffic patrol) perform more effectively at a metropolitan level than a few consolidated producers. More recent empirical studies in the field and in the experimental laboratory have challenged the presumption that individuals jointly using a common-pool resource would inexorably be led to overuse, if not destroy, the resource. The design principles characterizing robust self-governed resource systems have been identified. An initial theory of institutional change has been formulated and is being tested.
In 2009, Elinor Ostrom became the first woman to receive the prestigious Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Dr. Ostrom passed away on June 12, 2012.

David Policansky is associate director of the Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology at the National Research Council, where he directs studies on applied ecology and natural resource management. He is a member of the Ecological Society of America and its Sustainable Biosphere Initiative Steering Committee, and of the American Fisheries Society, and chairs the advisory councils to the University of Alaska's School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Centre. His interests include genetics, evolution, and ecology, and he is known to be the expert on these issues in the Bering Sea.
Policansky is very interested in the ways in which science is shaping law and policy. At the National Research Council he has directed more than twenty projects on natural resources and ecological risk assessment, including recent reports on the Endangered Species Act, salmon in the Pacific Northwest, wetlands delineation, enhancing water supplies in the Middle East, and ecosystem-based approaches to the management of marine fisheries.

Dr. Goldstein is emeritus professor of environmental and occupational health and former dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. He is a physician, board certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology and in Toxicology. Dr Goldstein is author of over 150 publications in the peer-reviewed literature, as well as numerous reviews related to environmental health. He is an elected member of the National Academies of Science Institute of Medicine (IOM) and of the American Society for Clinical Investigation.
His experience includes service as Assistant Administrator for Research and Development of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1983-1985. In 2001 he came to the University of Pittsburgh from New Jersey where he had been the founding director of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, a joint program of Rutgers University and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He has chaired more than a dozen National Research Council and IOM committees primarily related to environmental health issues. He has been president of the Society for Risk Analysis; and has chaired the NIH Toxicology Study Section, EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, the National Board of Public Health Examiners, and the Research Committee of the Health Effects Institute. He has also served as a member or chairperson of numerous national and international scientific advisory committees for government, industry and environmental groups.