Sisyphus and Climate Change: Educating in the Context of Tragedies of the Commons

Philosophies 6 (1):4 (2021)
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The tragedy of the commons is a primary contributing factor in ensuring that humanity makes no serious inroads in averting climate change. As a recent Canadian politician pointed out, we could shut down the Canadian economy tomorrow, and it would make no measurable difference in global greenhouse gas emissions. When coordinated effort is required, it would seem that doing the “right thing” alone is irrational: it will harm oneself with no positive consequences as a result. Such is the tragedy. And that is the challenge that we take up here. Though Garrett Hardin suggests that the solution is a governmental process that rules over all contenders, since a world government seems unlikely before the planet hits the tippy point, we suggest an educational initiative instead: one that holds a mirror up to the behaviour of individuals, rather than to the behaviour of individuals in groups. Such an educational initiative would be focused on priming individuals to keep constant track of what they do as individuals as opposed to focusing on the behaviour of humanity in general. Such an educational initiative would focus on tackling the “problem solvers” rather than just “the problem”.

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Susan Gardner
Capilano University


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