November 5, 2014

Ecodevelopment - The Zero Sum Game Theory

Consider a scenario- Two people sitting on either side of an invisible fence, a fence so deep rooted - nobody would like cross the barrier. A river with a gorge so deep that nobody can muster the courage to swim across. The forests we live in today are the playground for so many of these similar scenarios. Two parties diametrically opposite to one another, not willing to reconcile, not willing to see things from a common perspective and in the process contributing in the loss of one of the most precious resources that humankind has. The forest…….

The history of conflict between the forest dwellers and the forest managers is as old as the forest department itself. But the situation that prevails now was not so common in the days before Brandis. The forest was an integral part of the humankind, we were not the masters of the forest, but merely one among the many dwellers and resources users which subsisted from the great giver. This story has been told and retold many a times but the tragedy remains in our attitude. Inspite of many a story, even today most of us consider forests as just one resource, waiting to be plundered, to be declothed. But as I said previously, it was not so previously and the fact that one can say with so much authority about past relations is because we sometimes still see the fragments of the past in some communities which live in the world today. Some communities who still hold the forest to be their guardian angel, the source of their sustenance, their beloved.

The prisoner’s dilemma is an interesting scenario in Game theory, which is a branch of mathematics that explores the strategies people adopt in dealing with each other.

In the dilemma, we imagine two prisoners, locked together in a prisoner cell for 7 years. They have two options before them--- one, trusting each other and cooperating in digging a tunnel through to freedom, or mistrust and resign to a condemnation seven years imprisonment. There is good reason not to trust each other, because if one of them betrays the other while the digging is in progress, he will earn his freedom and a reward besides, the other prisoner will have to face life imprisonment.


The prisoner’s theory mimics the quandary that we find ourselves in with respect to management of our natural resources. Noone trusts the other and in the end nobody uses the resources prudently with the result that everybody loses.

So, forests continue to be plundered while we debate about climate change.