Garrett Hardin

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Continuity is at the heart of conservatism : ecology serves that heart.

Garrett James Hardin (21 April 191514 September 2003) was a leading and controversial ecologist from Dallas, Texas who was most known for his 1968 paper, The Tragedy of the Commons. He is also known for Hardin's First Law of Ecology, which states "You cannot do only one thing".


Tragedy of the Commons (1968)[edit]

  • The class of "No technical solution problems" has members. My thesis is that the "population problem," as conventionally conceived, is a member of this class.
  • A finite world can support only a finite population; therefore, population growth must eventually equal zero.
    • Tragedy of the Commons, 1968.
  • Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit -- in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.
    • Tragedy of the Commons, 1968.

Naked Emperors : Essays of a Taboo-Stalker (1982)[edit]

Garrett Hardin. Naked Emperors : Essays of a Taboo-Stalker (1982)

  • Even at the religious level the creationist view is a biased one. The only creation story they mention is the one in Genesis (in which there are actually two stories — the version in the first chapter being so different from that in the second chapter that biblical scholars believe they were written hundreds of years apart). Why do they not mention the belief of the Hindus that the world began with the creation of the cosmic egg? What about the Babylonians' belief that there was not a single creationist god but two cosmic parents?
  • But it is no good using the tongs of reason to pull the Fundamentalists' chestnuts out of the fire of contradiction. Their real troubles lie elsewhere ... Fundamentalists are panicked by the apparent disintegration of the family, the disappearance of certainty and the decay of morality. Fear leads them to ask, if we cannot trust the Bible, what can we trust? The truth or falsity of evolution is a secondary matter. Rationalists must listen to the complaints of the Fundamentalists with a psychiatrist's "third ear", and respond to the more subtle messages.
  • Our desire to conserve wildlife for our children and our children's children forces us to bring out into the open conservation's secret question : Does God give a prize for the maximum number of human beings? Put another way, which shall we bequeath to our grandchildren : human life with nature, or human life without nature?
  • Why are ecologists and environmentalists so feared and hated? This is because in part what they have to say is new to the general public, and the new is always alarming. Moreover, the practical recommendations deduced from ecological principles threaten the vested interests of commerce; it is hardly surprising that the financial and political power created by these investments should be used sometimes to suppress environmental impact studies. However, I think the major opposition to ecology has deeper roots than mere economics; ecology threatens widely held values so fundamental that they must be called religious. An attack on values is inevitably seen as an act of subversion.

Filters Against Folly (1985)[edit]

Garrett Hardin. Filters Against Folly (1985)

  • The overall system of a sizeable community struggling to survive in a crowded world may be either socialism or privatism. Either system may work, more or less. But, except in non-critical areas of distribution, commonism cannot possibly work for very long.
  • Many of the environmentalists who moved into the environmental movement after Silent Spring ... detested pollution and craved purity. Absolute purity. They wanted to enforce zero tolerance on all environmental pollutants, not just on carcinogens. With friends like these the environment needs no enemies.
  • A coldly rationalist individualist can deny that he has any obligation to make sacrifices for the future. By contrast, those who, for whatever reason, regard the resources at their disposal as an inheritance from the past that they feel obliged to pass on to their descendants, have a better chance of producing future generations prosperous enough to be able to continue to wrestle with the problems of increasing the quality of life.
  • At this late date in the post-Christian Era, it might be questioned whether the Bible should even be brought into an ethical discussion. I argue that it should. Many people who do not explicitly call on the Bible for backing are nevertheless influenced by what they believe the Bible says. (Everyone knows about the Good Samaritan, even though they may not be able to remember what Samaritans in general were.) It is considered good form to speak politely of Scripture: revere it, but don't bother reading it seems to be the rule. Above all, don't read it thoughtfully.
  • Continuity is at the heart of conservatism : ecology serves that heart.

The Immigration Dilemma (1995)[edit]

  • It is a mistake to think that we can control the breeding of mankind in the long run by an appeal to conscience.
  • ... if a pasture is run as a commons open to all, the right of each to use it is not matched by an operational responsibility to take care of it.

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