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15 November, 2020 07:14:50 PM

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Garrett Hardin on addressing the resource scarcity

In a world where resources are limited, every man is trapped into a system that forces him to lift his herd beyond limit. Ruin is the endpoint to which all men hurry, each seeking his own best interest in a society that believes in the liberty of the common people
Muhammad Estiak Hussain
Garrett Hardin on addressing the resource scarcity
Garrett Hardin

Garrett Hardin is an American ecologist who is famous for his essay “The Tragedy of Commons”, where he gives us an alarm about the danger of overpopulation and scarcity of resources. He points out a circumstance in a common resource system where individuals acting on behalf of their self-interest which is contrary to common goods of all others.

And through their selfish actions, they spoil the resources which is limited. And that is tragedy of the commons.

Hardin begins with arguing that there is no technical solution to problem of population, but it requires a fundamental shift in morality of the individuals. He wants us to understand that there is no technical solution to this problem, like there is no technical solution to the problem of arms race or future nuclear war. This overpopulation will definitely impact on natural resources. As Malthus said, it is natural that populations seem to expand geometrically. But resources are not growing this way. This implies that in a finite world, the per capita share of the world 's per capita would decrease gradually. The acquisition of resources is the main problem here. Consider a pasture is accessible to all. Each herdsman, as a rational being, will try to extract benefit as much as possible from the commons by keeping as many cattle as possible. They will definitely try to add one more animal to his herd to maximize benefit and so on. The tragedy lies therein.

In a world where resources are limited, every man is trapped into a system that forces him to lift his herd beyond limit. Ruin is the endpoint to which all men hurry, each seeking his own best interest in a society that believes in the liberty of the common people. Freedom in a common begets destruction to all. The National Parks, like this, provide another illustration of the functioning of the tragedy of the commons. Without any limitation, they are open to everybody. The parks themselves are limited in extent. There is one Yosemite Valley, but there seems to be hardly any limit to population growth. In the parks, the morals that visitors embrace are gradually diminished. Hardin propose several options to protect these commons. We could sell them as private property, for instance, or we could preserve them as public property, but allocate the freedom to access them.

The tragedy of common resurfaces regarding the challenges of pollution. It is not a matter of getting anything out of the commons, but of adding something into it such as garbage, chemical, nuclear, airborne noxious and hazardous fumes. The rational man learns that his share of the cost of the wastes he discharges into the common is smaller than the cost of purifying his wastes prior to disposing them. We are trapped into a system of "fouling our own nest," because this is valid for everyone, as long as we act only as autonomous being and driven by self-interests. Hardin finds the freedom of individuals is problematic as everyone intended to maximize his or her gain by sacrificing others. He prefers mutual coercion mutually agreed upon by the majority. For example we accept obligatory taxes because we acknowledge that voluntary taxes would favor the unconscious. He as well believes that private property institutions with legal inheritance are unjust.

In the end, he describes freedom as the recognition of necessity. We cannot be rescued from the vulnerability of overpopulation by any technical solution. Thus, he appeals for the abandonment of the commons in the gathering of food, the enclosure of fields, the restriction of pastures and hunting, and waste disposal. In addition, the government needs to ensure proper distribution of wealth among its citizens to reduce the pressure on commons and take necessary measures to discourage people from taking selfish actions which hurt the interests of the majority.

The writer is a student, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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