Tragedy of the Common: The Economic and Ethical Use of Natural Resources

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The issue of whether the environment should be protected for economic rather than ethical reasons has been widely debated in our community recently. It is an important issue because it concerns fundamental moral and economic questions about the way we ensure sustainability of the natural environment. A variety of different arguments have been put forward about this issue. This essay will consider arguments for environmental protection and point to some of the problems with these views. There are a number of reasons why the environment has improved over decades. The introduction of new technology have since made it easier to test pollution levels, determine accurately their sources and reduce pollution. When serious cost of pollution increased, economic pressures immerged to address this issue. The government also intervened to find ways of protecting the environment. Protection of the environment has been a major public issue. Yes, despite progress, the environment still remains with a very serious threat to humanity. It is time to seek for an alternative solution to the issue at hand by going back to the long historical traditions of religion. This essay will therefore discuss how it is important to protect the environment for ethical reason.

Ensuring the soundness and protection of the natural environments comprises one of the major lessons in the history of religion. . The devoted believe that just before creation the Lord commanded people not to practice any corruption and ruin to the earth for which he had forsaken the Heaven. Man was sworn not to double-cross this trust, that is, a pure earth. He was forewarned against the desperate action of not upholding the lord’s command. However, the truth of the matter is that human carelessness to this issue and the guileful catastrophe that has happened to be the reason of the current issue. The modern crises of natural environment are one of the main issues that affect the cotemporary humanity. The intense and cruel methods towards nature in recent centuries that originated from expansionist motives has prompted strong misuse of raw materials, sea pollution by oil slicks, wilderness cutting and burning, exhaustion of the ozone layer, global warming. Extinction of wild animals and forests has opened the eyes and ears of individuals so much that many are committing themselves to environmental protection. It has moved man's hard heart and caused him to think about answers for the outcome of this illogical way of living. Man at last was trapped in the difficult curse resulting because of his own wrong doings; the horrific perversion that he incited himself had made his life more miserable

One of the major efforts applied by environment activists is simply on economic benefits and engineering rather than solving the issue at hand, some people claim that if we could totally change our means of transportation and eliminate fossil fuel as our energy source, the issue would be completely solved. Another proponent expresses that there are portions of the earth that are as yet immaculate and man must abandon the contaminated areas and move into virgin regions in order for all of us to be free from pollution and corruption. Yes, we appreciate the efforts placed towards better consideration of the occupied earth by utilizing more rational means of transportation and production and while we recognize that there should be constant drive toward achieving increasingly suitable forms of technology. But this alone does not guarantee the key to final solution of our problem.

The fact is that the root cause of the crisis in the modern world should be looked for in man’s view and interpretation of nature. In my opinion the only option at this point is for man to return to the perception of religion. More than in the past today man is ready to accept teachings of religion. Particularly that their intelligence has grown. This is especially because man has gone through the bitter outcome of atheistic believe and ignorance of spirituality from his natural environment. Nowadays man has become repentant of sin and penitent before the lord and asked for forgiveness for their past mistakes. This is the opportunity for religions to spread the word on humanity of mankind to march of time. It’s clear that if man would start to look at the world from the religious belief perspective no such ravage would take place.

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Taking instances from the old testaments, in the book of Joshua, there is a written vow of the lord to maintain peace with animals and plants. We see Noah being commanded to preserve all animals whether hallowed or not regardless of how human beings benefit from them. In the same manner the bare nature is seen as a place of trial and punishment or even a reflection of paradise.

Cost-Benefit Analyses No Longer Work for Natural Capital

We are not able in our current economic system to take in long term risk and value, this is the reason why cost-benefit analyses no longer work for natural capital. . We may, as of now when transgressing 2C, trigger the irreversible melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Over centuries from now this would subject future generations to a rise in sea levels of at least 7 meters. This is clear indicator of unacceptable future. Still the economy is not able to put any value to long-term existence of global risk. [image: ]

Yes global risks are too high and the benefits of moving to sustainable are not recognized. We are failing to come up with the right approaches on the market. Unsustainability behavior still returns high risks therefore I believe the environment should be protected in the name of serving future generations’ welfare. This can be achieved if we take the principal concern of ethics. Morality normally implies choice, awareness, obligations and value significance. Therefore if we say a person is morally responsible, then he knows of this requirement, can be able to perform it, freely choose whether to do it or not and the performance thereof can affect the welfare of other things. Since one’s respond to these requirements reflects upon his value as a moral person particularly trait of humanity, we can conclude that this has a moral significance and therefore environment ethics is about the concern of responsible personal conduct subject to natural landscape, species and resources. Conduct by individuals is one of the direct concern of moral philosophy. Nowadays human’s relationship with nature has changed from harmony to hostility to human attempt to redesign nature’s order and formation. Back when humans lived with their environment, all was regarded as good when they changed to manipulating nature, the relationship turned sour. I recommend new ethics that are based on accountability and commitments by individuals to be revitalized so that everyone can preserve life and the natural beauty of the environment to be restored. First it should present a holistic view driven by such ethical issue as respect for nature rather than the economics driven numbers approach that the government take to insure sustainable development. This holistic view is the one that buildup democratic institutions. Transparency and accountability of the government entangled from environmental protection and economic justice. Taking instance from Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic” demands that we stop treating the land as a mere object or resource.  In short sustainability focus to encourage harmony between humanity and nature. In conclusion the aim of environmental ethics is to behave in a manner that is consistent with sustainability in order to balance humanity’s symbolic relationship with the natural ecology thus should be preserved for the future generations to live.

Tragedy of the Commons

Despite its recognition by many economists in the past, the economy is still locked up in the tragedy of the commons. As the economy grows, environmental costs and crisis continuous to rise at an alarming rate. The economy is not able to internalize the real earth cost. Currently the most dominating threat to humanity is our failure to value nature.

By valuing nature there is a need to leave out the realm of economics and enter into the realm of ethics. The question is what a person should do in the tragedy of the commons. From the moral point view, how should a person behave? The standard answer that is largely acceptable is that one should reduce his or her use of the commons to sustainable levels. We should do what we believe other people should do and do so whether or not we believe other people will would actually do it. It is not right after all to follow a mob to do evil and deeply established social practices can be morally wrong. Take slavery for instance. It is the duty of all individuals to stand up to the common wisdom and material temptations and take the right stand whenever costly it may be. So in tragedy of the commons too we should do the right things by encouraging one to reduce their usage level that all could adopt while persevering tragedy of the commons. If this answer is right then we should not drive SUVs or cars at all unless the commons in this case, the biosphere can indeed sustain them for everyone, which is doubtful.


It is time for everyone who is concerned with human condition to seek for a better alternative solution to this issue. Once again let us go back to the roots of historical traditions of religions. It is important to teach the study of nature using religious context and make it clear that it can only be possible if we revive spiritually, conceptualize and recognize that humanity can neutralize this crises of nature caused by economic application. I recommend that there should be an association of authorities and thinkers of different religions around the world be formed to fight for the protection of the environment. These associations should teach men that the only way to solve environmental crises is to follow rules and norms of men culture and religion.


  1. Attfield, Robin, The Ethics of Environmental Concern, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983).
  2. Naess, Arne, “The Deep Ecological Movement Some Philosophical Aspects”, Philosophical Inquiry 8, (1986): 1-2.
  3. Williams, George Huntston. Wilderness and Paradise in Christian Thought; the Biblical Experience of the Desert in the History of Christianity & the Paradise Theme in the Theological Idea of the University. [1st ed.] New York, Harper [1962]. Prologue, p. 10.
  4. Zimmerman, Michael E.; Callicott, J. Baird; Sessions, George; Warren, Karen J.; and Clark, John (eds.), Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology, (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2nd ed., 1998).
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