Environment and Society in a Changing World



About Module 4

In Module 3, we learned some basic ethical principles related to what actions we should take with respect to the environment. In this module, we’ll learn some fundamentals of actually achieving successful (or unsuccessful) actions.

There are two main types of action: individual action and collective action. This module discusses both. In addition, through the Written Assignment associated with this module, we’ll address an imaginary situation where collective action is needed to avoid the depletion of natural resources.

Note that a lot of what we’ll learn in this module is applicable to a broad range of actions, not just actions related to the environment. How can you get your roommates to keep your apartment clean? How can societies get everyone to contribute to public services? These topics and many others are informed by the content in Module 4.

What will we learn in Module 4?

By the end of Module 4, you should be able to:

  • explain the difference between individual action and collective action;
  • define collective action problems, as well as a specific type of collective action problem, "the tragedy of the commons";
  • explain the three types of solutions to collective action problems: government regulation, private ownership, and community self-organization;
  • explain the relationship between collective action and social norms, as well as the influence of social norms on individual actions.

What is due for Module 4?

There are several required activities in this module. The chart below provides an overview of the activities for Module 4. For assignment details, refer to the location noted.

Module 4: Lesson Assignments
Requirement Location Submitting Your Work

Reading Assignment: The Tragedy of the Commons, Revisited

Solving collective action problems No submission
Reading Assignment: The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative Solving collective action problems No submission
Written Assignment 2: Carbon Footprints Individual vs. Collective Action Written Assignments Submit in Canvas


If you have any questions, please post them to our Course Q & A discussion forum in Canvas. I will check that discussion forum often to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help out a classmate. If you have a more specific concern, please send me a message through Inbox in Canvas.