Elinor Ostrom dies at 78

Elinor Ostrom, the first and only woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics (in 2009, no less) died of cancer earlier this week.  She has been a hero to me since I first heard her name in 2010, and I am sad that I’ll never be able to hear her speak in person or learn from her as a student. 

Her work focused on the use of common-pool resources in harvesting communities - she found many instances where the so-called “tragedy of the commons” did not appear, perhaps most famously in the Maine lobster fishery which has been sustainably harvested by a collective of fishers for decades.

A brief eulogy in the Indy Star: http://www.indystar.com/article/20120615/OPINION08/206150362/Her-important-work-will-go-on?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CIndyStar.com%7Cs

Here’s an article in Forbes, from a more mainstream perspective, that underscores her genius in describing economic phenomena: http://www.forbes.com/sites/victorhwang/2012/06/13/how-nobel-laureate-elinor-ostrum-explained-silicon-valley-and-didnt-even-realize-it/

I found out about her passing this morning in an email from the Grassroots Economic Organizing collective, that called for donations and participation in her honor.  At first I was appalled, and then I realized that not only was this call appropriate to Ostrom’s pattern throughout her life of working through any hardships, including her own cancer, but also a great way that an organization run primarily by and for people of color can use the legacy of a well-known white person to further their awesome research and goals. (Talk about a stereotypical role reversal)

For more information about GEO, visit their site here: http://www.geo.coop/

I highly recommend the work of Jessica Gordon Nembhard.

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