The sink begins to fill with piles of crusty plates, and soaking pots swim with blooms of mold. Stacks of crusted cups and mountains of silverware line the counters. Housemates pass in and out of the kitchen with shaking heads or blind eyes; this place is a mess.
But no one admits that they contributed to the mess, the communal mess. “It wasn’t me;” “If anything is mine, it’s like only a spoon or two;” “That is totally Katie’s dish–I’m not cleaning that;” “Dude, my hand is not going anywhere near that water.”
With ten people living in a house together, it’s easy to brush off responsibility for a nasty looking mess. There are nine other people, nine other chances, for it to get cleaned up.
This is sort of like the idea of the tragedy of the commons.
A commons greater than my kitchen in Albion is the Earth. We all live here, all of us billions of humans (and animals).
Now things get interesting. There are endless amounts of people that could do something about climate change, so I’m safe. Everyone else is burning fossil fuels, so I might as well too. Those guys over there don’t believe that humans caused climate change, and I don’t either.
Basically, if everyone is yelling that it’s not our fault, then we’re not going to do anything about the changing climate. And those dishes won’t ever get done either.
But, if I do say so myself, I like a clean kitchen.