By Hudson Kingston
Last June the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, Elinor Ostrom, died. She had won her award and made her career by expanding on the concept of the commons, as in “the tragedy of the commons”—a fundamental concept to environmental law. Essentially the idea (when it is simplified for lawyers) amounts to stopping private parties from squandering a resource by making private/public rights to exclude people from overusing/overpolluting/overfishing as none of us can be trusted to steward such resources. She brought new interpretations to the table, arguing that people could figure out ways to manage their commons to make resilient systems and communities. She made it clear that there is not just one way to preserve the resources that we all rely on. Systems, she found, did not all have to be top-down command and control, and they should treat complex problems with complex, particularized problem solving.
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