The Tragedy of the Commons is a worldwide issue that concerns the abusing of common resources.

Although land depletion is only a part of this Tragedy of the Commons, I believe it is the biggest issue. For example, in Costa Rica, farmers have cut down more and more of the rain forest for their own use. What they don’t realize is that they’re not just cutting down trees, they’re also destroying communities of wildlife and resources.

The sad thing is, people everywhere didn’t begin to come to grips with this issue until some first graders in Sweden started raising money to protect the rain forest. I find it startling that no one started to take action to protect the rain forest until some children in Sweden started drawing attention to the Tragedy of the Commons.

When we abuse our resources, it takes thousands if not millions of years for the earth to heal. We have seen what happens to our ecosystem when even a single species dies off. For example, in Yellowstone  National Park, when wolves were eradicated, it completely changed not only the ecosystem but the rivers.

However, there is still time for us to turn this tragedy around.

As Raymond De Young puts it, “We can start by correctly defining the problem being faced: a central issue here is whether human nature leads inexorably to unsustainable outcomes. The answer is a straightforward no. Although we are certainly capable of and do have a history filled with mal-adaptive behavior (e.g., tragedy of the commons, resource over-consumption, ecological overshoot), such behavior is not our default operating condition and it is not inevitable.”

When we abuse land we are harming it so badly that it takes thousands of years for it to heal. Think about that. Do we really want to leave that legacy? No. But that’s where we are headed if we don’t start to be ecologically aware of our actions.

— Courtney Degen, Harwood Union High School, Moretown, Vermont