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Drinking Away Our Cowboy Economy: An Introduction

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

According to the UN median projection, the world’s population will grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030. Collectively, that is 8.5 billion citizens of Earth, all of whom need food, water, and clean air to survive. Individually, those 8.5 billion people will comprise families, countries, and continents. From a bird’s-eye view, the population has cohesive demands, but on a personal level, these necessities for survival are just the minimum of our desires. The economic principle of social dilemma describes how when individuals act in their own interests and deplete a common resource, they diminish the payoffs of all. 

Over time, society has recognized blatant injustice disguised in the folds of social dilemmas, most notably in the case of Love Canal. When Hooker Chemical Company deposited tons of toxic chemicals into the water supply of a neighborhood located in Niagara Falls, New York, the company did not think about the long-term ramifications of its actions. Instead, the company took an “out-of-site, out-of-mind” approach which over time, caused these chemical deposits to travel through generations of Love Canal citizens, lodging into bloodstreams and taking the lives of innocent people. 

The individualist attitude that humankind has assumed since creation could be the demise of our species. If we continue to think only about ourselves, if we continue to leverage power and bargaining to achieve only our own desires, our exponential growth will be for naught. Humans derive life from the commons that come with the Earth; the lands, the waters, the air. Human beings have viewed land, water, and air as illimitable, with plenty and extra for ourselves and the generations born thereafter. Despite a rise in sea levels, forest fires, and eutrophication, human beings continue to spend Earth’s resources, accumulating centuries of environmental debt. For all of time, we have survived on the assumption of abundance, living recklessly in our cowboy economy.

By 2030, there will be 8.5 billion people who call Earth their home. That is 8.5 billion mouths to feed and stomachs to fill. As the population has increased, usable agricultural land has decreased due to overuse. To ensure we have the resources necessary to feed ourselves and our loved ones, we have to think holistically about the future of this planet. If everyone has the same basic needs, then collectively we can create a plan that will ensure our survival. To maximize yield without compromising quality, agricultural processes need to be made sustainable across these five following factors

  • Soil Management 
  • Crop Management 
  • Water Management 
  • Disease/Pest Management 
  • Waste Management 
Girl At Farm
Jocelyn Hsu / Spoon

Since the inception of humankind, we have invented and innovated to fulfill our needs. Just recently, our endeavor to create a vaccination to conquer the invisible enemy of COVID-19 has proven once again that we are a resilient, capable species. With our basic needs at risk, we have to challenge the tragedy of the commons by eliminating social dilemmas through collaboration in order to secure a future with maximum payoffs for all.

With 6.5 million people being affected by drought in Massachusetts and 2022 being the 25th driest year to date over the last 128 years, I am honing my research to focus on water, known to be already at risk. Stay tuned to learn more about how water is distributed in Massachusetts, the systems that shape water accessibility into a tragedy, and the initiatives that could be put into place to make water common for all.

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Fiana Herscovici

U Mass Amherst '24

Fiana is a Writer for the University of Massachusetts Amherst Chapter. She is a Sophomore majoring in Operations & Information Management in the Isenberg School of Business. When she's not writing articles (or reading YA novels, shopping for the same sweater in a different color, or daydreaming about being on the beach), Fiana is a Junior Analyst for the Isenberg Undergraduate Consulting Group and is the Co-Founder of StudioU, a growing headshot photography business at UMass. You can count on Fiana for articles about business, entrepreneurship, and current events!