Background to “Tragedy of the Commons”

Tragedy of the Commons was a phrase coined by Garrett Hardin in 1968. It referred primarily to the tension between population growth and the (in)ability of the earth and its ecosystems to support an ever-growing human population.

Hardin had some insightful things to say, some which resonate with me:

Mere facts minus theory – or worse, facts flying in the face of theory – are the stock in trade of the professional obfuscator.

Of every well-meant proposal, ecologists ask a standard question: ‘And then what?’.

Calling a ubiquitous problem a ‘world problem’ is only useful if there is a plausible worldwide solution.

Which pairs nicely with:

Never globalise a problem if it can possibly be dealt with locally

And finally:

From now on, we must accept responsibility for all unintended consequences while doing our best to predict them in advance.

There are also some statements of record which indicate a dated and/or harsh realist regard for multiculturalism, immigration and population control. Some are based on a kind of economist’s-eye-view on humanity as a model construct. Others appear more to reflect a feeling of immigration and multiculturalism as a personally threatening concept.

For a selective list of Hardin’s quotes see the Garrett Hardin Society page. Many of Hardin’s insights apply equally well to today’s dilemmas on balancing environment, renewable energy and humanity – reflecting keen insight. Perhaps the quotes that challenge me personally are those that are also topical today, just more morally loaded.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *