How to act upon a dilemma?

The tragedy of the commons is a social dilemma when collective interests conflict with private interests. Even if it is clear that overfishing and exhausting the ocean is not in anyone's long-term interest, multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource like fish. Is it possible to maximize our fish catch and profits while keeping the oceans alive? When confronted with the dilemma and have to act like we were last Thursday, we do not behave differently than other people do, although assuming that we’re very well informed about its consequences. I’ve played the Harvest or Fish game several times, but was latently expecting that sustainability engineers would behave different. So, I was a little bit disappointed and at the same time proud at the ones who at least tried to manage.

Nevertheless, biking home after a long day of work, the question was raised again how to deal with such dilemma: Should we fight the system or be the change we wish to see? Do we push for transformation within existing institutions … or … should we design our own lives from different attitude, action, discourse and relationship that might someday form the basis of a new society? Sometimes I opt for the first and at other moments for the latter, experiencing that it’s a true dilemma with no best option. It is know that people use different strategies to manage dilemma’s and uncertainty like enlisting experts; using make-believe; creating confusion or even imposing rules. Without solving the dilemma they outsource or postpone issues to be addressed, apparently reduce problems, bypass the dilemma, or increase its effects sooner or later. And that still palls on me as an engineer, trained to solve real life problems. 

Bertien Broekhans

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