Vickers Hot Springs is located near the rural Southern California town of Ojai, and local residents have long enjoyed soaking in the sulfuric pools. But as knowledge of the springs spread, the area saw increases in fights, traffic, burglaries, and drug use. In response, two residents purchased the land and committed to restore the property while allowing limited public access, subsequently generating a great deal of controversy within the community. Privatizing Vickers Hot Springs follows the archetypical lesson of Garrett Hardin's 1968 essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Hardin stated that the problem for common-pool resources was that a finite amount of services are demanded by a potentially infinite number of users, who have little to gain by sacrificing for the common good. But Hardin's theory does not always apply. Many communities have come together to manage resources, often without government oversight. Thus, the question is not whether or not Hardin's theory is accurate, but rather “under what conditions it is correct and when it makes the wrong predictions.” Case studies provide nuance to the broad brushstrokes of a theory, and whether Hardin's parable is applicable depends on the particularities of the common property resource conflict. Employing the frameworks established by Hardin, Dietz et al., and Ostrom, this paper examines the management of Vickers Hot Springs within its broader social, ecological, and political context, asking whether the particular circumstances of this resource use conflict made privatization the most predictable outcome.
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Article Case| December 31 2017
Vickers Hot Springs: Ecotopia or Tragedy of the Commons?
Case Studies in the Environment (2017) 1 (1): 1–6.
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Jennifer M. Bernstein; Vickers Hot Springs: Ecotopia or Tragedy of the Commons?. Case Studies in the Environment 31 December 2017; 1 (1): 1–6. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/cse.2017.sc.368314
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