Sustainable Development as a 'Collective-Choice' Problem: Theoretical and Practical Implications of Success in Locally Managed Irrigation

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"This report examines the implications of recent comparative work on successful farmer-managed irrigation systems in various parts of the world for policy efforts to encourage sustainable consumption in the United Kingdom. Collective-choice theory is central to the analysis, but it is improved upon here by bringing recent work on 'bounded rationality' and the theory of 'schemas' or 'cultural models' into the framework. The irrigation studies are then used to identify a set of principles that are shown to be of great relevance to the problem of getting people to cut back on their consumption of goods and services of all kinds, especially of petroleum. This is unsurprising, since the local irrigation systems are situations where community members have managed to agree upon a set of rules and principles for mutually restraining their consumption of a resource (i.e. water) that is both scarce and vital to the life and livelihood of each individual member. The surprising thing is that the institutions underlying success in water management turn out to be highly similar if not exactly the same in each case, regardless of the size of the irrigation system, a finding that reveals obvious possibilities for 'scaling-up' those institutions."
sustainability, consumption, common pool resources, collective choice--theory, irrigation, water resources, rationality, rules, institutions