The reasoning: Individuals see no point in making a sacrifice if others continue to use a common asset. Even if everyone is aware of the risk of abuse, the mix of selfishness, competitiveness and unregulated exploitation eventually makes the land unusable for all.
Swap the common land for Earth's atmosphere and overgrazing for greenhouse gases and you have the greatest environmental challenge of the early 21st century: how to tackle climate change.
Only a small number of countries are being asked to make real sacrifices for the global good. The other countries, in effect, get a free ride.
The pact commits industrialized countries to make targeted curbs in emissions of six greenhouse gases by 2008-2012. This carries a cost because their economies will have to improve fuel efficiency and convert to cleaner energy.
But the deal does not include fast-growing populous countries like China, already the world's second biggest CO2 polluter, and India.
Nor does it include the United States, which is responsible for a third of all global CO2 emissions and says meeting its Kyoto targets would cost too much.
Even if Kyoto is enacted in full, industrialized signatories will at best reduce their emissions by a couple of percent over 1990: not even a dent on global emissions.
The other article I want to share is about the response of an organization of which I'm a member to some proposed legislation. The article is entitled, "Ocean Conservancy Applauds Marine Debris Legislation: Newly Introduced Bill Will Help Reduce Widespread Environmental Threat".
WASHINGTON -- February 11 -- The Ocean Conservancy thanks Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and co-sponsor Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) for introducing The Marine Debris Research and Reduction Act (S.362), an important and timely piece of legislation to help stem the tide of marine debris. Every year thousands of marine animals including seals, dolphins, and sea birds die needlessly because of entanglement in, or ingestion of, debris and trash that finds its way to the oceans.
"Marine debris such as discarded fishing line and nets are responsible for killing or injuring thousands of marine mammals, fish and birds every year," said Seba Sheavly, Director of The Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup. "This bill is a great step forward in addressing some of these major sources of dangerous marine debris. It will expand the existing body of science, contribute to our understanding of its sources, and lead to more effective prevention."
Please write to members of Congress - both your own senators and congressmen and others - and urge them to support this bill. You can send an email automatically to your senator by going here. I also would like to recommend The Ocean Conservancy as one of your charitable concerns. Explore their website and, if you feel so moved, please donate.