The Tragedy of the Commons Invading Our Environmental Rights Case Study: Coral Reefs

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10/27/04
Research in the Disciplines
First Paper Final Draft

Tragedy of the commons invading our environmental rights:
Case study Coral Reefs

In our world there are many resources, all of which people do not have a choice in sharing such as our air and our oceans. These resources are looked at as infinite, although this is not actually the case. Each time one person does something to pollute or use these types of resources, it affects the whole of society. This is the idea of the tragedy of the commons. This tragedy is the phenomena in which a resource may be used to such an extent that it is ruined for all. An example of this tragedy is given in the following scenario: given an open pasture as a commons to which all the herdsmen have a stake; each one will try and keep as many animals on the commons as possible. By adding one more animal to his herd, an individual gains a positive to himself but the negative effect of over grazing is felt throughout the commons. The effect, of overgrazing by one additional animal appears minimal so the other rational herdsmen conclude to add an additional animal to their own herd. Since all the herdsmen are thought to be rational this conclusion is reached by each of them. The effect of, overgrazing will become detrimental to the pasture and all the animals will die. There in is the tragedy because of peoples' greed to use and or need of a limited resource the over use or degradation of it leads to its destruction. The destruction of these resources leads into another topic discussed by Shari Collins-Chobanian as well as others; this is the idea of "environmental rights" (Collins Chobanian). This idea entails that all people have certain natural rights to their environment that should be unalienable "…[the] most basic rights are the right to subsistence and include unpolluted air, unpolluted water, adequate food, adequate clothing, adequate shelter, and minimal preventative healthcare" (Collins-Chobanian 17). Basically she is stating the fact that each person has the right to live in a clean world, be able to obtain the necessities which are needed to live, and make a living in which they can lead a healthy lifestyle. It is through the theories of the tragedy of the commons and environmental rights that we realize that all of society is invading one another's environmental rights through the tragedy of the commons. This is done very inconspicuously in some cases such as that of the Coral Reefs. The Coral Reefs are limestone formations that are produced by living organisms. They are found in shallow tropical waters. The predominate organisms that make them up are stony corals, which are colonial cnidarians that secrete calcium carbonate (limestone) as an exoskeleton. Calcium carbonate is also deposited by other types of marine organisms such as tube-building annelid worms but any reef formed by a biological community is called a coral reef. These skeletons accumulate due to the tides and create a formation that supports the living coral as well as the highest species diversity of all explored marine habitats. Reefs are found between the latitudes of 30°N to 30°S of the equator. Corals will not grow at depths greater then 100 ft because the water temperature falls below 72° F which is deadly to them. (I may discuss the different types of reef formations here but I am not sure how related to the rest of the paper that will be) There are many environmental pressures that are damaging reefs. These include, water pollution, tourism, increased coastal development, change in water temperature, runoff containing agricultural chemicals, and abrasions by ships. As well coral reefs are also destroyed during fishing when poison or dynamite is used to catch the fish and coral is harvested for jewelry. Recently, many unknown diseases began attacking the reefs worldwide causing rapid damage. As you can see, many of the threats to the coral reefs...
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