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Reaction to the Bay Game: The Dilemma of the Waterman 10/26/2010

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As a waterman in the Bay Game, I had only two decisions each round: dredge the bay or pot the bay. After each round, however, I could scrutinize an abundance of useless spreadsheets on my income, my investments, and my “catch” (there was little data on Bay health). Additionally, I could evaluate my experienced on three “life metrics” (more metrics than possible actions!). Ultimately, there was far more effect than cause in the Bay Game, with no real way for a waterman to intervene.

Moreover, my two actions were largely determined by the water regulator, who was responsible for limiting the percentage of the season I was able to dredge/pot, thus determining my income. Additionally, there was no reward—or punishment—to incentivize a reduction in consumption. The only system in place to evaluate overconsumption was the economy. Yet, since my actions were straight-jacketed by regulation, it was difficult to comprehend how my individual actions influenced the bay economy and health.

Perhaps this feeling of helplessness is a good way to interpret our current condition: people’s actions are so limited by regulation and economy that recourse is unimaginable. This is the Dilemma of the Waterman.

The dilemma of the waterman illustrates two of Meadows’ main points: the tragedy of the commons, and that providing information can engender paradigm shifts. Since the Bay Game did not provide an estimate of the crab population, my approximation was driven by the revenue of my catch (the economy). Since I did not have a complete understanding of how crab prices effected the larger economy, my only response was to dredge/fish as much as possible by regulation with little regard for the “stock” of crab. I had plenty of information but it was the wrong information (useless information on my income). What I needed to perform as a thoughtful waterman was actual data on the crab population. The delay of the Bay Game only decreased my ability to understand cause and effect.


Written by csparkman

October 27, 2010 at 3:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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