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
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.