An Introduction to the Tragedy of the Commons

This section is based in large part on  a 1968 paper by an environmental scientist Garret Hardin. It was Hardin who first coined the term ‘tragedy of the commons’ to reflect the issues that often arise when humans deal with a piece of common property. In Alberta, Hardin’s form of common property doesn’t really exist but this theory is very important to think about when dealing with property law and when considering how best to regulate our global environment. 

This is a more general topic helping students to think about legal concepts and particularly about property. It may be particularly helpful before diving into some of other topics like climate change and the law. Start with the links on the left hand side, and as you complete each sub-topic, you will follow the links at the bottom of each page (or the links on the left hand sides) to the next topic in order.


  • Lesson plans are designed to be used in conjunction (and often after) spending time on the website content itself. They are adaptable and can be used in their entirety or parts of each can be drawn on to create content appropriate for your grade level and curriculum.
  • We suggest pairing this section with the Tragedy of the Commons lesson plan which will help students understand this complicated topic.


  • The Tragedy of the Commons lesson plan is a great way to review your readings on this topic and help move you through the rest of the website.
  • The website content and lesson plans can be completed in groups or on your own to expand your thinking. Make sure to check back with the website content if you have any questions or aren’t sure how to finish.

Additional Resources

  • Don’t forget that you can always look to our Resources page for some other websites and sources of information both to help with the lesson plans and to expand your knowledge even further!


The Tragedy of the Commons: The Environment & Property Rights >>





The Tragedy of the Commons: The Environment & Property Rights

Lesson Plan: Fundamentals of Environmental Law
Lesson Plan: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Lesson Plan: Tragedy of the Commons
Lesson Plan: Climate Litigation

Curriculum Connections


Join our new AlbertaEnviroLaws Facebook group to ask questions, participate in discussions and other online engagement. Please share this widely so that the high school teachers and students in your circles hear about this great new resource for supplemental online learning. AlbertaEnviroLaws Facebook Group