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Reviewing the Tragedy of the Commons: Environmental Management Systems and Informal Communication Networks

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Espinosa, Angela; Knowles, Kathryn
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18, 2008
Date: 2008
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/1950
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Information & Knowledge
Subject(s): sustainability
environmental policy
informal economy
tragedy of the commons
Abstract: "The Tragedy of the Commons can be likened to the now popular term 'Sustainable Development', as both of them refer to the need to appropriately and cooperatively manage shared resources, in order to maintain a balance between different generations of people inhabiting a particular niche within an urban or rural ecosystem. Even if many businesses are now moving towards more 'sustainable' practices, the generic impact of these efforts still seem precarious; most private businesses are still more concerned with ensuring continual growth in productivity than improved sustainability. Our hypothesis is that most methodologies and practices for environmental management are still not holistic enough and that significant problems in implementation come from inadequate structures and communication channels in place for dealing with the required changes. In particular we consider that most organisations are currently stifled with management hierarchies that prevent informal/social networking, which may be one of the most powerful natural forms for self-organisation to improve effectiveness when developing a change process. It is proposed here that a new way to address the problem of the Tragedy of the Commons is by having more efficient communication channels in place that foster self-organisation and self-regulation as a method for more effective change towards sustainability. In this paper, we explain the reasons why meta-systemic principles of self-organisation and distributed network management, coming from cybernetics, complexity and systems theories, offer clear criteria to design an environmental management system that operates on the basis of self-controlled networks of more environmentally responsible individuals. We summarise current PhD research on the topic at Scarborough Campus, Hull University."

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