Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Avoiding National Collapse

Most of us would like to leave our homeland to our children the same as, or even better than we received it from our parents. But, there are many things that can go wrong along the way. In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond discusses the "tragedy of the commons." He explains: "Consider a situation in which many consumers are harvesting a communally owned resource, such as fishermen catching fish in an area of ocean, or herders grazing their sheep on a communal pasture. If everybody overharvests the resource, it will become depleted by overfishing or overgrazing and thus decline or even disappear, and all the consumers will suffer."

What Diamond is describing is happening all around us all the time. The oceans, forests, even our agricultural processes tend to use up the land so that in the long run we may not be able to depend on it for food. He points out that there are a couple of common ways we can look at the problem. One would be to say to ourselves, "If I don't force this crop, somebody else will and so I might as well." Another might be, "If I don't cut this land, somebody else will and so I might as well."

Diamond suggests, "The remaining solution to the tragedy of the commons is for the consumers to recognize their common interests and to design, obey and enforce prudent harvesting quotas themselves." None of that can happen without communication. A skill we must have and use if we hope to achieve success as individuals or as a nation. At least, we must be willing to talk (communicate) with others if we hope to successfully pass on to our children that which is best about the places we live.