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Dynamics of collective action to conserve a large common-pool resource

A pressing challenge for coming decades is sustainable and just management of large-scale common-pool resources including the atmosphere, biodiversity and public services. This poses a difficult collective action problem because such resources may not show signs that usage restraint is needed until tragedy is almost inevitable.

To solve this problem, a sufficient level of cooperation with a pro-conservation behavioural norm must be achieved, within the prevailing sociopolitical environment, in time for the action taken to be effective.

Here we investigate the transient dynamics of behavioural change in an agent-based model on structured networks that are also exposed to a global external influence.

We find that polarisation emerges naturally, even without bounded confidence, but that for rationally motivated agents, it is temporary. The speed of convergence to a final consensus is controlled by the rate at which the polarised clusters are dissolved. This depends strongly on the combination of external influences and the network topology. Both high connectivity and a favourable environment are needed to rapidly obtain final consensus.


D. Andersson, S. Bratsberg, A.K. Ringsmuth, A. S. de Wijn, Dynamics of collective action to conserve a large common-pool resource, Scientific Reports 11 (2021) 9208.

Andrew Ringsmuth

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