What is the tragedy of the commons? It occurs when each person makes a decision about what is best for him or her but the overall effects are bad.
When does this happen in Juneau? It happens when each business owner in the tourist industry makes a completely rational decision about their business but the effects on the community as a whole are bad.
The traffic on our one street through downtown, the trauma to whales from many boat excursions, the congestion on our sidewalks, air pollution and water pollution are part of the tragedy that results from individual rational decisions. Certain parts of Juneau do well, but the overall effect on our community is not good.
We need to consider limits.
There are limits to the number of children in a classroom. School administrators decide.
There are limits to the number of pieces of birthday cake to satisfy. Parents and caregivers decide.
There are limits to the number of dogs needed to keep warm at night. The aboriginals in Australia have decided three are enough.
Today, there are no limits to the number of cruise ships that Juneau can support. When will the community decide on the limits?
The Visitor Industry Task Force, formed in 2019, was tasked with addressing “the concept of a ‘cap’ on the number of visitors.”
Their recent report, which covers the years thorough 2023 mentions research, plan and analysis of tourism impacts but does not address the “cap” (limit.)
We have had study groups, plans and best practices but have not addressed the capacity in our city of 32,000 residents.
It is time for all of us to make decisions for the good of our entire community. We need to plan limits for a good future in Juneau and to end this tragedy.
• Sara (Sally) Willson has lived in downtown Juneau for over 25 years.