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The tragedy of the commons is under the Land🗻and Water🌊 Use unit in the APES CED. This is very fitting because this concept describes how people use resources that are public. The idea is that people will focus on their own interest🤑 rather than what is good for the rest of the people using the resources and the environment🌲.

An example of this is a public grazing field🐄. The resources in the field are for public use. People can put their cows on the field, and let them graze.

  • Stage 1: At first, there are plenty of resources🌾🌾🌾🌾. People are adding cows to the grazing field🐄🐄🐄. These people start gaining profit from the milk that their cows are producing🤑.
  • Stage 2: Then, people start to add more cows🐄🐄🐄, because they want more profit. As people begin to add more and more cows, they begin to reach the carrying capacity of the environment. Profits start to increase🤑, but the environment begins to decline.
  • Stage 3: Once the environmental resources begin to run out, the cows begin to die from starvation and poor conditions🚫🐄. However, this causes profits to go down🚫🤑, so people begin to add more cows in hopes that the profit will begin to go back up again. Unfortunately, this doesn't work and the cows continue to die. The environmental resources in that area are also ruined and depleted🚫🌾.

In this example, we see environmental degradation happen overtime as people take advantage of the environment and focus only on their own interest.

Environmental Application

This concept is important in the idea of sustainability. The tragedy of the commons reflects the opposite of sustainability which is using our resources for the maximum profit now, but thinking about sustaining them long term.

Overfishing🐟 is an example of this. Taking too much fish from the ocean and not allowing for reproduction will begin to cause fish populations to decrease🚫🐟.

Cutting down forests🌲 is an example too. When we cut down trees looking for profit, we are going to degrade forest environments🚫🌲.


There are many factors that can influence this tragedy, like privatization of resources and taxing💵resources. This allows for the resources to be managed and be used in a sustainable manner. Also, laws📜can set regulations on resource use. In the United States, we see the implementation of National Parks and Reserves which help protect the environment and resources there. All of these can help turn resource use from the tragedy of the commons😢to sustainability🌱.

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