During yesterday’s discussion on the uses of GIS the author, Bolstad, emphasized that GIS can be used when there are conflicts in the use of natural resources. Or where there is competition for resources. This got me thinking about the tragedy of the commons. This was the title of an article written by Garrett Hardin back in 1968. He describes a scenario where a natural resouce, such as a common field used for grazing will almost always be degraded since no single user has the authority or incentive to ration use of the common field. I’m sure you can think of other situations that result in the same unhappy situation.
One solution to the commons problem that has been suggested is turning the common resource into privately owned resources, such as partitioning the field for individual owners. Another is to create strictly enforced rules that ration the use of the commons so that they can be used sustainably by all. Both of these solutions have their own advantages and problems.
GIS can be used to analyze the resource, determine where the conflicts occur, illustrate possible solutions, and document results over time. GIS let’s us run what-if scenarios and document how things turn out.