A Tragedy of the Commons

May 12, 2016-Plug n Drive

Wikipedia: Tragedy of the Commons – “An economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users act independently and rationally according to their own self-interests and behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting the resource.”

I want to give a nod to an article I read in CleanTechnica describing a social behaviour known as the “tragedy of the commons”. This term was being used to describe Tesla owners who abused their ability to charge for free at Tesla Superchargers that are close to home.

The idea of the Superchargers is, of course, to enable long distance travel, not to provide free local charging that could be done at home or the workplace. Just because a Tesla owner can use a local Supercharger, it doesn’t mean they should. This behaviour is “contrary to the common good of all users” which, in this case, is limited parking spaces at the Superchargers, not to mention the extra electricity being paid for by Tesla. Tesla knows who the abusers are and sent out politely worded letters asking these owners to charge at home.

Letter to Tesla Owner

As I read this article, another example of behaving contrary to the common good came to mind.

This past March the auto industry had it’s best sales month EVER! And what led sales? Pick-up trucks. Specifically, the Ford F150.

Now, I’m not knocking Ford. They’re building what consumers demand, but step back for a second and ask yourself, do people really “need” these trucks? Are there that many contractors and farmers hauling tools and materials on a daily basis? Of course not.

For as long as anyone can remember, the automotive marketing machine has moulded our aspirations to believe that bigger = better. More horsepower, bigger wheels, a real truck’s towing capacity, the biggest and loudest engine, etc. If you have more, “you’ve made it”. When you drive your truck down the road everyone knows that you can afford the biggest and baddest vehicle on the planet.

Let’s slow down here.. just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should. Seven passenger minivans for four person families…  two ton all-wheel drive sports utilities that never go off road… pristine pick-up trucks that never work a day in their life… The list goes on.

The carbon footprint created by these massive vehicles is off the charts.  The raw materials, energy and time needed to build them is astronomical. The impact they make on climate change and air pollution is crushing. All so that one person can get around the planet in “style”.

Those people who buy these vehicles without a legitimate reason to own them should not be cast as successful and ambitious social climbers, but as a greedy sociopaths who refuse to acknowledge or take ownership for the damage they cause .

It used to be cool to smoke cigarettes. Not anymore. It used to be cool to drive home drunk. Not any more. It used to be cool to drive a pick-up truck. Well, I hate to be a killjoy, but not any more.