Protecting the Commons

Protecting the Commons

A Framework For Resource Management In The Americas

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Edited by Joanna Burger, Elinor Ostrom, Richard Norgaard, David Policansky, and B. D. Goldstein

328 pages | 6 x 9

Commons -- lands, waters, and resources that are not legally owned and controlled by a single private entity, such as ocean and coastal areas, the atmosphere, public lands, freshwater aquifers, and migratory species -- are an increasingly contentious issue in resource management and international affairs.

Protecting the Commons provides an important analytical framework for understanding commons issues and for designing policies to deal with them. The product of a symposium convened by the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) to mark the 30th anniversary of Garrett Hardin's seminal essay “The Tragedy of the Commons” the book brings together leading scholars and researchers on commons issues to offer both conceptual background and analysis of the evolving scientific understanding on commons resources. The book:

  • gives a concise update on commons use and scholarship
  • offers eleven case studies of commons, examined through the lens provided by leading commons theorist Elinor Ostrom
  • provides a review of tools such as Geographic Information Systems that are useful for decision-making
  • examines environmental justice issues relevant to commons


Contributors include Alpina Begossi, William Blomquist, Joanna Burger, Tim Clark, Clark Gibson, Michael Gelobter, Michael Gochfeld, Bonnie McCay, Pamela Matson, Richard Norgaard, Elinor Ostrom, David Policansky, Jeffrey Richey, Jose Sarukhan, and Edella Schlager.

Protecting the Commons represents a landmark study of commons issues that offers analysis and background from economic, legal, social, political, geological, and biological perspectives. It will be essential reading for anyone concerned with commons and commons resources, including students and scholars of environmental policy and economics, public health, international affairs, and related fields.



Introduction \ Joanna Burger, Christopher Field, Richard B. Norgaard, Elinor Ostrom, and David Policansky

Chapter l. Reformulating the Commons \ Elinor Ostrom


Part I. Local Commons

Chapter 2. When the Commons Become Less Tragic: Land Tenure, Social Organization, and Fair Trade in Mexico \ Jose Sarukhan and Jorge Larson

Chapter 3. Forest Resources: Institutions for Local Governance in Guatemala \ Clark C. Gibson

Chapter 4. Wildlife Resources: The Elk of Jackson Hole, Wyoming \ Tim W. Clark

Chapter 5. Cooperative and Territorial Resources: Brazilian Artisanal Fisheries \ Alpina Begossi


Part II. Regional and Cross-Boundary Commons

Chapter 6. Water Resources: The Southwestern United States \ Edella Schlager and William Blomquist

Chapter 7. Recreational and Commercial Fisheries \ David Policansky

Chapter 8. Community-based and Cooperative Fisheries: Solutions to Fishermen's Problems \ Bonnie J. McCay

Chapter 9. Multiuse Coastal Commons: Personal Watercraft, Conflicts, and Resolutions \ Joanna Burger


Part III. Global Commons

Chapter 10. The Atmospheric Commons \ John Harrison and Pamela Matson

Chapter 11. Arctic Contaminants and Human Health \ John P. Middaugh

Chapter 12. Medical Care as a Commons \ Michael Gochfeld, Joanna Burger, and Bernard D. Goldstein


Part IV. Decision-making Tools

Chapter 13. Spatial Techniques for Understanding Commons Issues \ Jeffrey E. Richey

Chapter 14. Integrating Scale and Social Justice in the Commons \ Michel Gelobter

Conclusion \ Joanna Burger, Richard B. Norgaard, and Elinor Ostrom


About the Contributors


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328 pages | 6 x 9
publication year: 
2 001