IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

The Commons, Game Theory, and Aspects of Human Nature that May Allow Conservation of Global Resources

Listed author(s):
  • Walter K. Dodds
Registered author(s):

    Fundamental aspects of human use of the environment can be explained by game theory. Game theory explains aggregate behaviour of the human species driven by perceived costs and benefits. In the 'game' of global environmental protection and conservation, the stakes are the living conditions of all species including the human race, and the playing field is our planet. The question is can we control humanity's hitherto endless appetite for resources before we irreparably harm the global ecosystem and cause extinction of even more species? The central problem is that some proportion of the individuals or groups will behave selfishly. The inducement for using more than a fair share, or 'cheating', increases as that resource becomes rarer, thus the benefits of cheating increase. In addition, the total number of people is increasing, so the proportion of cheaters must decrease to even keep total resource use constant. Cost benefit analysis of the effect of regulation and incentives on potential cheaters may provide a rational approach to controlling environmental problems. While it is debatable that environmental values are constant across cultures, communal use of resources seems to follow global rules. Cooperative use and punishment of those who use more than their share appear to be ubiquitous in human societies. Schemes for controlling human impact on the global environment must take into consideration basic behaviours including development of social norms and the positive feedback created because resources become more valuable with increasing rarity leading to more incentive for consumption.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: downloads of articles require payment or registration of paid subscription

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by White Horse Press in its journal Environmental Values.

    Volume (Year): 14 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 4 (November)
    Pages: 411-425

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev13:ev1422
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev13:ev1422. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Andrew Johnson)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.