TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS

We all have a moral compass. It is apparent to most of us that human-fueled climate change is ethically irresponsible due to lasting effects on future generations, environmental devastation, and mass extinctions. So, why is it not globally viewed as a moral catastrophe, which needs to be stopped at all costs? It may be too complicated a moral problem for our societies because of its complex characteristics: spanning multiple generations, requiring global collaboration, the need for large, long term solutions, etc. 

 

To address this problem, we need to be operating together as a global society with agreed-upon definitions of international climate justice, our responsibility and moral obligation to future generations we will never meet, and our responsibility to protect non-human life.

 

“Tragedy of the commons” is a term used to describe the destruction of shared resources due to the individual acting in their self-interest, even though it is detrimental to the health of the group. Climate Crisis is much like this, but the world's most vulnerable populations unfairly suffer the greatest consequences. 


Repeatedly pictured in this work is an image of the island Kiribati (pronounced kiri-BASS), to me a perfect example of this phenomenon. Kiribati is expected to be the first nation to lose 100% of its land to Climate Crisis as ocean levels rise and tropical cyclones increase in frequency. In 2013, then-president Anote Tong began urging the citizens of Kiribati to migrate away from their islands, and advocating politically for climate justice for his own and other island nations.

Perhaps if we can encourage a moral and ethical component to our discussions about climate change, we may shift into action before it’s too late. This body of work is a collection of ruminations on these facets of our human capacity for morality and the tragedy of the commons we are acting out in real time: Climate Crisis.

Forest, 2020.
Paper collage & acrylic paint. 

Tides, 2020.
Paper collage & acrylic paint. 

Humid, 2021.
Paper collage & acrylic paint. 

Struggle, 2020.

Paper collage & acrylic paint.

Nagging Feeling, 2021.
Paper follage & acrylic paint. 

Cities and How They Grew, 2020.
Paper collage. 

© Leah Swenson 2021