EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Dynamics of collective action to conserve a large common-pool resource

Andrew Ringsmuth1,2,3, David Andersson4,5, Sigrid Bratsberg5, and Astrid de Wijn4,5
Andrew Ringsmuth et al.
  • 1Wegener Center for Climate and Global Change, University of Graz, Graz, Austria (
  • 2Complexity Science Hub Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  • 3Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 4Department of Physics, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 5Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

A pressing challenge in the Anthropocene is sustainable and just management of large-scale common-pool resources (CPRs) including the atmosphere, biodiversity and public services. This poses a difficult collective action problem because such resources may not show signs that usage restraint is needed until tragedy is almost inevitable. To solve this problem, a sufficient level of cooperation with a pro-conservation behavioural norm must be achieved, within the prevailing sociopolitical environment, in time for the action taken to be effective. In this work, we investigate the transient, nonequilibrium dynamics of behavioural change in an agent-based model on structured networks that are also exposed to a global external influence. Our model combines elements of rational choice theory with psychology-based opinion dynamics to reflect that individuals who promote collective action to conserve a large CPR are rationally motivated and also face psychosocial constraints. We find that social polarisation emerges naturally, even without assuming bounded confidence, but that for rationally motivated agents, it is temporary. The speed of convergence to a final consensus is controlled by the rate at which the polarised clusters are dissolved. This depends strongly on the combination of external influences and the network topology. Both high connectivity and a favourable environment are needed to rapidly obtain final consensus. Our findings expand the evidence that designing systems to encourage constructive engagement between disagreeing groups could be a powerful promoter of large-scale collective action.

How to cite: Ringsmuth, A., Andersson, D., Bratsberg, S., and de Wijn, A.: Dynamics of collective action to conserve a large common-pool resource, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15823,, 2021.


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