Urban Ecology

pp 611-622

The Struggle to Govern the Commons

  • Thomas DietzAffiliated withEnvironmental Science and Policy Program, Michigan State University
  • , Elinor Ostrom
  • , Paul C. Stern

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Human institutions—ways of organizing activities—affect the resilience of the environment. Locally evolved institutional arrangements governed by stable communities and buffered from outside forces have sustained resources successfully for centuries, although they often fail when rapid change occurs. Ideal conditions for governance are increasingly rare. Critical problems, such as transboundary pollution, tropical deforestation, and climate change, are at larger scales and involve nonlocal influences. Promising strategies for addressing these problems include dialogue among interested parties, officials, and scientists; complex, redundant, and layered institutions; a mix of institutional types; and designs that facilitate experimentation, learning, and change.


tragedy of commons government human institutions fisheries sustainability