THE SOURCE: “What Tragedy? Whose Commons?” by Fred Pearce, in Conservation, Fall 2012.
The Anizzah, a Bedouin tribe in eastern Jordan, once had free range of a 600-mile-wide swath of desert stretching between the Jordan and Euphrates Rivers. As nomads, the self-sufficient Anizzah herded sheep and camels, periodically shifting them to fresh pastures. Today, however, the Anizzah are “stuck behind the national boundaries of Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Saudi Arabia,” notes author and environmental consultant Fred Pearce, and they’re getting rid of their camels, once a status marker. Still, many families manage to get their sheep to pasturage by selling them to fellow Anizzah in adjacent countries and buying the animals back at the end of the season.
Pastoralists number in the hundreds of millions worldwide; another billion people combine farming with herding on common pastures. Herders “occupy, along with forest dwellers, many of the planet’s surviving commons.” But pastoralists have gotten a bad rap, Pearce says, from environmentalists such as Garrett Hardin, who, in his 1968 article “The Tragedy of the Commons,” maintained that sharing pastures causes overgrazing and advocated private landownership.
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