What is the Tragedy of the Commons?
I love XKCD, most of the time just for the humor, but sometimes the guy mentions concepts that I've never heard of but look up and find interesting or applicable to life.
In one of his more recent comics he mentioned the tragedy of the commons. Which despite having a degree in philosophy I had never heard of (mind you as a philosopher I know that no one person can know anything and I'm always happy to learn something new).
So what is the tragedy of the commons? Well it's the concept that a group of people acting independently and in their own self interest would use up a common resource available to them. The example given in the original paper was cattle and grazing land, but the concept is fairly far reaching. I would dare say that the tragedy of the commons is sadly more far reaching than should be comfortable.
It's probably more common for people to say that I need this resource than to ask themselves if other people are also using up this resource. The obvious example that applies to our current lives is oil, as everyone uses it but it's not in infinite supply and will eventually be used up because everyone uses it. But for that matter it could also apply to cake. Everyone eats a piece of the cake and then eventually there is no cake for any one.
I would say though that conservation would be the best use of this idea. Like logging, we need lumber to build things and make paper, but everyone building things and using paper could eventually lead to a lack of wood for building things and paper. But if we reuse and find other sources of building and paper materials then we don't use that but we might over use the other resource. It's a balancing act to basically keep all of man kind from screwing it up for all of mankind.
I am however not saying be alarmed about using resources, I'm just saying this is something to think about. It's a perspective on resource use that is worth considering before we go buying random things.