PODCASTEnvironmentally Speaking EP 30: Tragedy Of The Commons

April 7, 20220


This week we start the show of on something positive and share in the news of a company buying back old used furniture that you may have bought from them in the past. This bit of news is short-lived as we get into a serious topic this week the “Tragedy of Commons”. Ever heard of it? The tragedy of the Commons is an old theory where the resources of the planet are shared by everyone and once you recognize that everyone shares the same natural resources, we then understand that we need to be taking care of those resources. Take a listen as we give examples of certain resources we all share and how YOU can make a difference.

Transcript: Tragedy Of The Commons

CLARICE:  All right.  Good morning, everybody.  Thank you for joining us on Environmentally Speaking.

MARISA:  Good morning.  Clarice, I feel like we should switch up the intro here and you should tell everyone who you are first.

CLARICE:  Oh, all right.  Well, as you’ve given away the big plot, my name is Clarice.  I come in with everybody’s questions and comments and apparently today I’m going to be the bringer of good news and Marisa as always.

MARISA:  I’m negative and I’m an attorney, so those two things together are pretty awful.  And that’s who I am.

CLARICE:  But also very common.  Not a lot of people go, oh, my attorney, what a hoot.

MARISA:  Yeah.  That’s true.  That’s true.  With environmental law it’s a lot of pessimistic stuff.  You end up with a negative outlook on how the laws and regulations actually work.  Well, what’s the good news, please?

CLARICE:  So, given that today’s topic is nothing but bad news once again – and, no, Zack, we are not doing Superfund sites again.  I’m sorry.  I wanted to find some small, tiny shred of good news and the small, tiny shred of good news that I could find was Ikea is doing a buyback program to help reduce waste and recycle some of their furniture products.  So this is a new pilot program that they’re doing.  So far they’re not yet doing this in the States.  They’re doing this in their European stores.

But if you have an item on their Ikea app, you can scan the item or type in the information – I’m not sure how it works – and figure out how much Ikea will buy it back for.  Bring it to them and my understanding is they will either have it for sale for folks who are of a lower income, they have a steep reduced rate, or they will be donated.  So instead of having your [inaudible] and your whatever kind of bookshelf just go to the dump right away, they can have a new life.  They can go to a second home and a third home.  So we’re going to hold onto that good news, guys.  Just hold on with both hands.

MARISA:  Clarice, do you know if the buyback program includes refurbishment of the furniture, or are they just buying it back and then selling it at a lower cost?

CLARICE:  I’m not sure yet.  They haven’t put out that much information.  I’m sure there would be more information attached to the stores that are actually doing this program.  So as no stores in the States have done it, I don’t fully know what the process is.

[0:03:01] MARISA:  And I wonder why they’re not offering that program in the States.

CLARICE:  I’m wondering if because it’s a new rollout they’re going to test it in a couple stores, see if it actually does well and then expand, or who knows.  But hopefully they bring it over to the States because I have a lot of pieces that I’ve bought and I’m just not in love with anymore.

MARISA:  Is Ikea pretty big in Europe –


MARISA:  — in other countries?  Okay.


MARISA:  I didn’t know that.  Is Ikea that really big store where you walk in and –

CLARICE:  Oh, and you get lost instantly?

MARISA:  — you get lost and they have different rooms staged?

CLARICE:  Yeah.  Yeah.  It kind of feels like when you first get past the ticket gate at an airport and you see that daunting security line and suddenly everybody is taking off their shoes and it’s dividing into four different sublines and everyone’s really overwhelms.  That’s Ikea.

MARISA:  Perfect.

CLARICE:  But with the addition that –

MARISA:  That’s exactly where I want to go.

CLARICE:  — you can’t read any of the signs.  Yeah.  I love Ikea.  I hate to say it.  It’s confusing.  It feels like airport security, but then they have these little modular rooms and I just love them.

MARISA:  You have some furniture that you would be interested in returning to them?


MARISA:  It’s still in good condition?

CLARICE:  It’s in good condition.  It just doesn’t look like when I bought it.  There’s a big trend on the internet where people buy Ikea furniture because it is so affordable and they do all of these design hacks and modifications to make it look more upscale, so some of the items I have don’t look like those items anymore because I’ve taken artistic liberty to them.

MARISA:  Okay.  But Ikea would potentially buy those back –

CLARICE:  I don’t know.

MARISA:  — even though you’ve modified them?

CLARICE:  I don’t know.

MARISA:  That is so interesting.

CLARICE:  So we have lots of questions for Ikea.

MARISA:  Well, that is good news.  That is good news.  A lot of corporate environmental pollution contributes to the overall and cumulative negative impact that we have on the planet, so that’s really good to hear.  Nice job.

CLARICE:  All right, guys.  Now that we’ve got that little bit of joy, what are we talking about today?

MARISA:  Let me ruin it.  We had previously met and come up with a few different episode ideas.  All of the suggestions on that list of ideas that we came up with that I suggested were not joyful and the one that is the easiest to talk about because of my background and working knowledge is something called the – a theory called the tragedy of the commons.  Have you ever heard of that?

[0:06:10] CLARICE:  No.  It sounds like an old timey play.  Like you’ve got the tempest, King Richard, the tragedy of the commons.  It just all rolls together.

MARISA:  Yeah.  Well, it’s a pretty old theory.  I don’t know if it matches up with Shakespeare, but the concept is that the resources of the planet are shared by everyone and sometimes we look at natural resources and think that they’re infinite, for example, clean air, clean water.  And the tragedy of the commons concept might not apply to us individually right now, so it might be more of an abstract idea at this point, but certainly in other countries folks are feeling the effect of bad stewardship under this tragedy of the commons concept.  So the concept is that once you recognize that everyone shares natural resources, it’s easy to then figure out that we have to be stewards of those natural resources as a collective because otherwise everyone is taking advantage of the resource and not taking care of it.  So that’s the concept.

CLARICE:  I have a sudden pit in my stomach because I’m just waiting for you to say, we’re all sharing these resources that are finite and we’re just going to eat them all.


CLARICE:  Oh, God.  That hurts.

MARISA:  That’s the theory that unless a majority at least of individuals sharing in this natural resource pool recognizes that we all can only take a certain amount, you know, otherwise we’ll exhaust the resource, that’s the tragedy, that everyone enjoys this clean air, clean water and we don’t necessarily try to preserve it or conserve it.  And that makes sense that if you’re not trying to preserve or conserve you’re going to use all of it.  You’re going to pollute all of it eventually and that’s the thought that you’ve got this wonderful commonality, but the tragedy is that we don’t appreciate it.  We don’t treat it well.

[0:09:03] CLARICE:  And there’s something to be said that abundance can reduce the – I mean, it’s a basic market principal that abundance reduces the value of it.

MARISA:  Yeah.  Right.

CLARICE:  The more of something you have the less special it is.  The less prized it is.  The less you want to take care of it.

MARISA:  Yeah.

CLARICE:  Look at your dinner napkins versus your grandma’s china.  You can always get a ton more dinner napkins, but, I don’t know, nana’s Baroque plates are – that’s it.

MARISA:  Yeah.

CLARICE:  Oh, yeah.  It’s kind of giving me a stomachache the idea that water and clean air and space are going from dinner napkins to something prized and sacred.  Maybe they always should have been that way, but, oh, that hurts.

MARISA:  Yeah.

CLARICE:  Oh, that was a dark turn.

MARISA:  Yeah.  So, I mean, that’s kind of it.  I mean, the theory carries out with respect to environmental protection in every venue like I mentioned, clean air, clean water, forested habitat, freshwater wetlands.  Any natural resource that we have is affected or can be affected by people overusing.  In my defense, this is not a concept that I came up with.  I just learned about it.  Through the course of my education I learned about it and it definitely comes up in everyday practice.

CLARICE:  I think this might even be a sadder question.  Is there really hope that the little guy can affect change?

MARISA:  Of course.

CLARICE:  I like how fast you said that.  That was the only small bit of comfort we have other than knowing I can go to Ikea.

MARISA:  Well, and it’s got to be that idea about the commons is that as a collective we all share [inaudible].  So your question about can the little guy, can an individual impact in a positive way the way we treat our planet and, yes, of course.  I talk about Greta Thunberg all the time.  She’s very vocal.  She’s a pro environmentalist and she’s had a great deal of impact.  The problem is that everyone needs to think about conservation.  Maybe not in such an intense way that advocates go about it but even being cognizant of the fact that you’re breathing clean air and clean water can change your mindset and grow an appreciation for what we’re surrounded by.

[0:12:19] CLARICE:  All right.  Trying to uplift.  There are small things that everybody can do.  I’m determined to bring this back.  And some of that might be looking at – it might be as simple as looking at the lightbulbs in your house.  Are they energy efficient lightbulbs.  If not, the energy efficient ones are a little bit pricier, but in the long run your electric bill will go down.  You’ll feel better about turning on the lights.  Look at energy-saving alliances if that’s something that you have – you have the unfortunate event where your washing machine goes out.  Look at something that’s going to conserve on water.  Maybe check out a thrift store before you go and shop new.

I said it before at the top, Goodwill also does furniture and it’s a big trend right now to take pieces and to restore them and to make them modern.  And that kind of recycling is really trendy right now and very in style, so if you’re handy, if you’re, you know, a DIY weekend warrior do something like that.  If will be cheaper for you.  It will be one less particle board-filled hutch that’s out into the world.  I don’t know if people are still buying hutches.  Don’t throw the thing out.  Recycle it.  The bins are usually right next to each other.  Throw it in the blue bin.  That’s the recycling bin unless in your state the green bin is the recycling bin, however that works.  There are small things that we can do.

MARISA:  Small changes like that can change your mindset, change your attitude, change your outlook.

CLARICE:  And I think, like you said, just being aware that, you know, we have these gifts, we have these comforts.  Clean water is literally a tap away.  It’s in all of our houses.  You know, some of us are still wearing masks for COVID reasons, but we’re not wearing masks because we live right next to a factory, so be a little bit grateful for things like that.  And really those things are now turning into grandma’s fine china.  This was dark.  I think I’m going to go eat some cake.  This was dark.  I want sugar now.

MARISA:  Well, thanks, everyone.  Tragedy of the commons, a simple Google search will tell you more about it than I have, but hopefully folks have learned a little bit about what the pro environmental perspective is and some of the history that it’s based on.

[0:14:58] CLARICE:  Uh-huh.  If anybody has any happy topics, please reach out.

MARISA:  Don’t bother.  Don’t bother.

CLARICE:  We have none.  Oh, e-mail me.  I’ll read them.  I pick the topics.  I’ll read them.

MARISA:  Thanks, Clarice.

CLARICE:  E-mail us at Help@DesautelESQ.com.  Hit us up on Instagram.  We are also on Twitter and Facebook.  Thank you guys for listening.  And who knew there is something darker than Superfund sites.  Have a good one, everybody.


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