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Living Within Limits Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos

ISBN-10: 0195093852
ISBN-13: 9780195093858
Edition: N/A
Authors: Garrett Hardin
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Description: "We fail to mandate economic sanity," writes Garrett Hardin, "because our brains are addled by...compassion." With such startling assertions, Hardin has cut a swathe through the field of ecology for decades, winning a reputation as a fearless and  More...

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Book details

Publisher: Oxford University Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 4/6/1995
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 352
Size: 6.25" wide x 9.25" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.100
Language: English

"We fail to mandate economic sanity," writes Garrett Hardin, "because our brains are addled by...compassion." With such startling assertions, Hardin has cut a swathe through the field of ecology for decades, winning a reputation as a fearless and original thinker. A prominent biologist, ecological philosopher, and keen student of human population control, Hardin now offers the finest summation of his work to date, with an eloquent argument for accepting the limits of the earth's resources--and the hard choices we must make to live within them. In Living Within Limits, Hardin focuses on the neglected problem of overpopulation, making a forceful case for dramatically changing the way we live in and manage our world. Our world itself, he writes, is in the dilemma of the lifeboat: it can only hold a certain number of people before it sinks--not everyone can be saved. The old idea of progress and limitless growth misses the point that the earth (and each part of it) has a limited carrying capacity; sentimentality should not cloud our ability to take necessary steps to limit population. But Hardin refutes the notion that goodwill and voluntary restraints will be enough. Instead, nations where population is growing must suffer the consequences alone. Too often, he writes, we operate on the faulty principle of shared costs matched with private profits. In Hardin's famous essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons," he showed how a village common pasture suffers from overgrazing because each villager puts as many cattle on it as possible--since the costs of grazing are shared by everyone, but the profits go to the individual. The metaphor applies to global ecology, he argues, making a powerful case for closed borders and an end to immigration from poor nations to rich ones. "The production of human beings is the result of very localized human actions; corrective action must be local....Globalizing the 'population problem' would only ensure that it would never be solved." Hardin does not shrink from the startling implications of his argument, as he criticizes the shipment of food to overpopulated regions and asserts that coercion in population control is inevitable. But he also proposes a free flow of information across boundaries, to allow each state to help itself. "The time-honored practice of pollute and move on is no longer acceptable," Hardin tells us. We now fill the globe, and we have no where else to go. In this powerful book, one of our leading ecological philosophers points out the hard choices we must make--and the solutions we have been afraid to consider.

Garrett Hardin, an American scientist and prominent human ecologist, was born in Dallas, Texas. A victim of polio as a child, Hardin and his family moved around to various cities in the midwest before finally settling in Chicago, where he attended the University of Chicago, receiving a degree in zoology in 1936. At Chicago, Hardin was greatly influenced by several prominent teachers, including geologist J. Harlan Bretz, ecologist W. C. Allee, and philosopher-educator Mortimer Adler. He was given a full professorship at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1957 and later was also appointed professor of human ecology. Shortly after going to Santa Barbara, Hardin revised the school's biology curriculum and wrote a popular college textbook, Biology:Its Human Implications (1949) (revised in 1966 as Biology: Its Principles and Implications). At the same time, his interest shifted increasingly to genetics and evolution. In 1960 Hardin began teaching a course in human ecology, which examined the problem of population pressures on the earth's environment. He directly confronted the ethical implications of the problem, openly advocating legalizing abortion---then, as now, a highly charged and controversial topic. He lectured widely in the 1960s urging this cause, a campaign that helped pave the way for the later Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973). In a widely publicized article in Science magazine in 1968, Hardin insisted that the control of population growth and pollution was essential to human survival and thus required worldwide limits on the individual's freedom to reproduce and to degrade the environment. He expounded these views in greater detail in a later work, Exploring New Ethics for Survival (1972).

Entangling Alliances
The challenge of limits
Overpopulation: Escape to the stars?
Uneasy litter-mates: Population and progress
Population theory: Academia's stepchild
Default status: Making sense of the world
The ambivalent triumph of optimism
Cowboy economics vs. spaceship ecology
Growth: Real and spurious
Exponential growth of populations
What Malthus missed
The demostat
Generating the future
Limits: A constrained view
From Jevons's coal to Hubbert's pimple
Looking for the Bluebird
Nuclear power: A non-solution
Trying to escape Malthus
The benign demographic transition
Biting the Bullet
Making room for human will
Major default positions of human biology
Carrying capacity
The global pillage: Consequences of unmanaged commons
Discriminating altruisms
The double C - Double P game
Birth control vs. population control
Population control: Natural vs. human
The necessity of immigration control
Recapitulation: And a look ahead
Notes and references
Index

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