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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Garrett Hardin, The Tragedy of the Commons and the Firth of Forth

T.C. Smout

Environment and History 17 (2011): 357-378. doi: 10.3197/096734011X13077054787109

Garrett Hardin's theory of the 'tragedy of the commons' is applied to the marine environment of the Firth of Forth, Scotland, where many biological resources were much more plentiful before 1800 than they are today. His ideas are tested against the history of herring fishing, oyster dredging and pollution in the area. In two cases, irreversible resource depletion is found and associated both with failure of self-regulation and external control, and notably with accelerated demand from outside; in the third case, river pollution, degradation occurs but is reversed. The reasons for this are discussed.

KEYWORDS: Garrett Hardin; marine commons; herring; oysters; pollution; Scotland

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