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September 20, 2003

Garrett Hardin dead

Ecologist Garrett Hardin is dead (double suicide with his wife). He wrote many books and popularized the term "Tragedy of the Commons." Hardin was a peculiar figure today, somewhat out of place, a Republican who supported Planned Parenthood, and an environmentalist who was also a race realist. If I had to compare him to anyone of more note, it would be Margaret Sanger, whose eugenicist views have been papered over for several generations by Planned Parenthood but which she is always flogged for by pro-life activists. In a similar manner environmentalists are sometimes attacked for being racists, often in connection to the ideas that were popularized by Hardin relating to immigration restriction.

Posted by razib at 02:34 PM




Was I hallucinating or was there a second hardin post by Jason. Also, any clue on the reason for the suicide?

Posted by: scott at September 20, 2003 02:53 PM


scott-seems like jason deleted it-we posted within 10 minutes of each other, he should have just posted an update on my post....

hardin & his wife were in poor health-he had heart problems & she had ALS.

Posted by: razib at September 20, 2003 02:54 PM


Oops. Let's see how long it takes for the FP to realize I deleted my obit.

Posted by: Jason Malloy at September 20, 2003 02:55 PM


i was thinking exactly the same thing, godless. cruel, aren't we?

Posted by: Jason Soon at September 20, 2003 05:28 PM


Note that the two 'population realists' were survived by 4 children. Now correct me if I am wrong, but isn't that supposed to be a BAD THING among the ZPGers...

Seems like the rules are for us lower types, not those of the enlightened...

Posted by: Scott at September 22, 2003 08:05 AM


Similarly Ted Turner, who supports zero population growth initiatives, has five children. He apparently claims to have been converted to the ZPG school of thought after already having had the kids.

Posted by: bbartlog at September 22, 2003 10:34 AM


I thought that too, Scott, but he was pretty old, it's possible that he had them before he found his ...uh, ecological enlightenment. But yeah...

Posted by: Jason Malloy at September 22, 2003 10:36 AM


Jason: You may be right, but he and his wife only 'get' two for replacements...this means that he (and his wife) have two others (that means two other potential parents) to account for...

Even so, this is a fellow who advocates the rest of us making sacrifices for 'the greater good'...perhaps he should have considered this when planning (he did plan, didn't he?) his children...

As bbartlog points out (in the case of Ted Turner), it seems like so many of these professional scolds only seem to determine the correct course of action to take once it becomes clear that this path won't cost THEM anything.

I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson (America's first limousine liberal) who decided to mamuit his slaves AFTER his death.

Posted by: Scott at September 22, 2003 11:55 AM


carl sagan had a bunch of children (i think 6) from his various marriages. i always held that against him since he preached sustainability....

Posted by: razib at September 22, 2003 12:00 PM


I read his "Nature and Man's Fate" decades ago, and more recently "Filters for Folly". He was recognizably unique from the beginning; neither book fit into a category.
The story I liked from the later book was about an environmental conference attended by economists and ecologists (scientific not political kind). Problems arose when it turned out that 5 years was long-term for the economists, and 100 years was short-term for the ecologists.

Posted by: zizka at September 22, 2003 07:29 PM


Hardin may have been right or wrong about sustainability. However, it wasn't "nonsense". For any crop, given a certain level of technology, you can calculate the sustainable yield from any specific geographical unit. Technological advances can increase the yield, but it's irrational to assume that that increases can be infinite. Calculations of this type are routinely done by agronomists, geographers, ecologists, oceanographers, etc. (These are not soft sciences, though they're not deterministic.)

This is just as true for a crop like humans, or middle-class humans, as it is for a crop like wheat. (If the Japanese ate less fish the ocean fisheries would be in better shape, but the Japanese would be short again).

Calculating the earth's human-carrying-capacity is a fiendishly tough job, given questions about standard of living (meat-eating, quality of life, etc.) and technological advances, but that does not justify simply ignoring the question. So it may be that Hardin was off by a factor of ten or even more on this or that, but that does not justify saying that the question is impossible to answer and should be ignored.

Lomborg actually calls himself a cornucopian, promising infinite economic progress indefinitely into the future and asserting that there are no earthly limits to growth. I really don't think he's credible.

Posted by: zizka at September 22, 2003 10:00 PM