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Unit 2: Physical Geography
A. Read the following selections from the Margin Notes by clicking on each link.
Watch these presentations. When you click on one of the links below, a new screen will pop up. Use the scrollbar on the side of the
new screen to navigate.
You need Adobe Reader to view PDF files.
C. (Optional) Read the following chapters from the
Chapters 01 - 03, 08 - 09
D. The following Optional
Links will help you do better in your course but they are not required.
Currently Under Construction!
E. Activity #1: Tragedy
of the Commons (10 points)
"Geography is the study of earth as the home of people" -- Yi-Fu Tuan, 1991
Knowing about the physical geography of the planet is important for every serious student because the natural processes of the earth (which is what the study of physical geography encompasses) affect the distribution of resources, the conditions of human settlement and have resulted in a plethora of varied impacts to human populations throughout the millennia. Since the earth is our only home, by studying our planet we can be better informed to help take care of it… something we haven't always done well.
Immigrants to New England in the 17th century formed villages in which they had privately owned homesteads and gardens, but they also set aside community-owned pastures, called commons, where all villagers' livestock could graze. Settlers had an incentive to avoid overusing their own private land, so it would remain productive in the future. However, this self-interested stewardship of private land did not extend to the commons. As a result, the commons were overgrazed and degenerated to the point that they were no longer able to support villagers' livestock. This failure of private incentives to provide adequate maintenance of public resources is known to scholars as "the tragedy of the commons" (TOC).
The tragedy of the commons is one of the most important topics in the human-earth relationship. Many resources – clean air, biodiversity, fresh water – are available to many people, and when resources are shared and limited (though potentially renewable), those resources are often exploited. This is because the
benefit to one person of using more of the resource outweighs the cost to that one person of the resource's overuse. Each person looks out for his own interests and succumbs to the logic that "If I don't use the resource, then someone else will. I might as well get the benefit."
Contemporary society has a number of current examples of TOC: the depletion of fish stocks in international waters, congestion on urban highways and the rise of resistant diseases due to careless use of antibiotics.
Learning to overcome our natural tendency to overuse common resources is one of the most significant challenges we face in working to improve our physical environment. In Activity #1 – to help you understand the concept of and recognize situations that lead to TOC – you will play
Fishbanks.. Fishbanks is a multiplayer web-based simulation in which
participants play the role of fishers and seek to maximize their net worth
as they compete against other players and deal with variations in fish
stocks and their catch. Participants buy, sell, and build ships; decide
where to fish; and negotiate with one another. The goal of the game is to help you understand why companies that profit from shared resources nearly always overexploit them and which management strategies might help sustain them while still providing a long-term profit. (This is not a rant against the fishing industry but rather one example of what can lead to a TOC situation.)
Play as individual ***(at bottom left HELP link)
instructional video will provide you an overview of how to go about
playing this simulation. You can also download the Introduction
document (2 pages) on the right for more information
Play as part of a class
Set up a new class
Register as an administrator
Administer an existing class
The Fishing Game Model
[I've given you some basic instructions below. They won't make much sense until you start the game but you'll catch on quickly.]
You must have the shockwave plugin to play the game. If you don't have it, you can get it
Skim through the Garrett Hardin article,
Tragedy of the Commons, in which the concept was first used. If Hardin's article is a little deep for you, try Ryan Somma's article,
Tragedy of the Commons Explained with Smurfs.
Watch the 7-minute Fishing Game
video tutorial .
All instructions are available during the game itself but if you prefer to have a copy before you play the game, you can download the
instructions as a PDF document.
When you're ready to start the game, go to the
Fishing Game Login Screen.
At the login screen, use the
Sign in for a Class button and the following access code.
You must play the game
four times. At the beginning of each, you will choose one of four available scenarios. I suggest you start with the first scenario and play all four in order. However, the order in which you play them is your choice as long as you play them all.
Follow the screen instructions to set the game's
For all scenarios except the first, use the game's
Planning/Theory tool to determine the best parameters.
After you finish each scenario, you
must click the Finish Game button to access your results. If you do not, you won't get credit for the game unless you replay that scenario.
Planning/Theory tool to find out the optimum number of
ships to build and send fishing, in order to make the most money. The number of
ships that you enter is the total number of ships sent fishing by all 3 fishing
companies. You don't have control over how many ships your competitors build and
send fishing, though.
The game takes about an hour to complete. If you want to stop playing and finish up later, you can save the game status at the end of any scenario. When you log in later, with the same email address and access code, you can continue a game in progress or start a new one.
Once you have completed all four scenarios, write a summary of what you learned that includes the
4 points below. Your summary should be thorough, specific, include relevant
concepts from the course material and be free of spelling and grammar errors.
[NOTE: As I've done below, I almost always list the things you need
to include in your assignment so you won't miss anything. However, you
should never write an assignment as a list unless the instructions
specifically tell you to do so. Lists encourage short, quick responses,
and they don't usually require much thought or much attention to spelling
and grammar. They also won't earn you many points! Instead, write your
assignment in complete sentences and paragraphs, using the list only to be
certain you cover everything. Do your best to make your writing thorough,
thoughtful and organized. Don't try to be concise ,,, Try to be complete.]
What is the basic idea of the Tragedy of the Commons?
Beyond commercial or corporate interests, what shared resources compete and/or conflict with long-term human goals, such as economic growth? Discuss some examples.
When we overuse shared resources, are there broader consequences for the population as a whole? Explain.
Make specific and detailed connections to the course content. Demonstrate that you understand the assigned material and are able to apply it.
Always include course concepts in your work. If you're reading your margin notes and watching the presentations, you'll have plenty of material from which to choose on every activity.
Important: I award some of the
Activity #1 points for the summary you send. I award some
based on your completion of all four scenarios in the game. Remember to
click the Finish Game
button after each scenario. If
you do not, you won't get credit for the game unless you replay any missing
Activity Submission Instructions
By the deadline shown in the
Course Schedule on the main page of the syllabus:
Finish all four scenarios of the game and send your summary containing the 4 items requested in the body of a new email to
Put only your name and
at the beginning of your email.
(If you read your syllabus, you know that I tend to delete assignments without a name.)
Be careful to use the correct subject line. If you are not positive you know the correct subject line, go back and read your syllabus carefully. Emails with incorrect subject lines will not reach me. At best, you'll correct your mistake later and your assignment will be late. At worst, your assignment will never reach me and you'll receive no points for it.
Late summaries / game completions lose one point per day late, including weekends and holidays.