The keynote paper by Garrett Hardin 44 years ago introduced the term 'tragedy of the commons' into our language (Hardin, 1968); this term is now used widely, but it is neither universally accepted nor fully understood. Irrespective, the 'tragedy of the commons' is an increasing reality for more than 500 million people that rely on the biodiversity resources and services of tropical coral reefs, mangrove forests, seagrass beds and associated fisheries. These natural resources continue to decline despite major advances in our scientific understanding of how ecosystems and human populations interact, and the application of considerable conservation and management efforts at scales from local user communities to oceans. Greater effort will be required to avert increasing damage from over-exploitation, pollution and global climate change; all deriving from increasing exploitation driven by poverty and progress i.e. continuing to expand development indefinitely and extraction of resources at industrial scales. However, the 'tragedy' concept has been widely criticized as a simple metaphor for a much larger set of problems and solutions. We argue that the 'tragedy' is essentially real and will continue to threaten the lives of millions of people unless there are some major moral and policy shifts to reverse increasing damage to coastal habitats and resources. We agree with the conclusion by Hardin that the solution to the tragedy will not be through the application of natural sciences, but via implementing exceedingly difficult and controversial moral decisions. An extreme example of a moral and controversial direction suggested by Hardin was in re-examining the 'freedom to breed' as an inherent human value. The need for 'moral decisions' is even greater in 2012. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
- MARINE PROTECTED AREAS
- FISHERIES MANAGEMENT
[Wilkinson, Clive] Reef & Rainforest Res Ctr, Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, Townsville, Qld 4810, Australia; [Salvat, Bernard] Univ Perpignan, CRIOBE Polynesie Francaise, USR CNRS EPHE 3278, F-66860 Perpignan, France; Univ Perpignan, F-66860 Perpignan, France
Wilkinson, C (reprint author), Reef & Rainforest Res Ctr, Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, POB 772, Townsville, Qld 4810, Australia.