Sustainable Resource Management in Pre-industrial Societies
Some pre-industrial economic systems have been based on the management and use of resources held in common. If properly regulated, such systems can be sustainable, but the lesson of history generally is not encouraging. The interests
Yield per unit of resource input. Productivity
The degradation and depletion of common resources have been called the 'tragedy of the commons'. Because appealing to morals or environmental ethics has little impact on individual behaviour, one of four approaches must be considered (Johnston 1994). First, the description and replication of good practice from around the world, with a view to sponsoring low-tech, labour-intensive rather than resource-intensive agricultural and industrial techniques. Second, collective agreements may be entered into by all current resource users in order to establish a set of management rules and to limit the number of newcomers. Third, the common resources may be privatized, because owners are thought to protect their own property assiduously. Fourth, an outside body, such as an organ of the state, may regulate by the use of legal sanctions. The examples we will describe here come from the first two approaches.