29 pages 58 minutes read

Garrett James Hardin

The Tragedy of the Commons

Nonfiction | Essay / Speech | Adult | Published in 1968

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Garrett James Hardin

Ecologist Garrett Hardin was born in 1915, and by 1941 he’d earned a Bachelor of Arts in zoology from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in microbiology from Stanford. From 1946 to 1978, Hardin taught ecology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He also had a long career as a science writer, publishing more than a dozen books on ecology and the ethical dilemmas of overpopulation. His most famous output was the essay “The Tragedy of the Commons,” which made an important contribution to the rapidly growing environmental movement of the late 1960s. Hardin’s main points were, first, that slow, continuous growth in human numbers eventually leads to a huge population and environmental disaster; and second, humanity’s exploitation of natural resources causes ripple effects that lead to unexpected, and often negative, outcomes.

Some of Hardin’s solutions to the population problem were controversial. Early on, he supported liberalized abortion laws, which offended conservatives, and he also advocated restrictions in immigration, which annoyed liberals. His support for the book The Bell Curve, which argued that intelligence testing shows IQ differences between various population groups, combined with his beliefs in support of eugenics and against immigration, led to the widespread suspicion that Hardin was a white nationalist.