James Hardin 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".
received a B.S. in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1936
and a PhD in microbiology from Stanford University in 1941. Moving
to the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1946, he served
there as Professor of Human Ecology from 1963 until his (nominal)
retirement in 1978.
major focus of his career, and one to which he returned repeatedly,
was the issue of human overpopulation. This led to writings on
controversial subjects such as abortion, which earned him criticism
from the right, and immigration and sociobiology, which earned
him criticism from the left. In his essays he also tackled subjects
such as conservation and creationism.
and his wife Jane were both members of the Hemlock Society (now
Compassion & Choices), and believed in individuals choosing
their own time to die. They committed suicide in their Santa Barbara
home in September 2003, shortly after their 62nd wedding anniversary.
He was 88 and she was 81.
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."
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.
any 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."
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."
takes five years for a willing person's mind to change. Have patience
with yourself and others when treading in an area protected by
morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at
the time it is performed."
started being an activist for legalized abortion in 1963. I spent
most of my external time on that issue until the Supreme Court
reached the famous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. I thought the fight
was all over. Well, I was wrong. At the time, my wife and I were
active in Planned Parenthood. She was on the local board of directors.
The question came up in Planned Parenthood as to what our position
should be on abortion. Some wanted to stay clear of it entirely
because they realized there would he a lot of opposition. Fortunately,
Planned Parenthood decided that it was a question of women's rights.
Abortion is above all other things a method of birth control.
To put it another way, it's a backstop for any system of birth
control when the rest of the system fails. That decision to support
the woman's right to abortion put Planned Parenthood in a dangerous
position. As opposition developed, the opponents then went on
to say that everything Planned Parenthood was doing was just window-dressing
for their principal interest -- killing babies. No president could
now accept such a position."
"In the specific
case of abortion, the matter is particularly easy in that no woman
wants a late abortion. Once abortion was made legal, the age of
the aborted fetus went down. The slope slipped in the other direction.
If we legalize RU-486 and other similar new drugs, the age will
fall to one week or less and start approaching zero. The slippery
slope will slide in the other direction. The only reason we have
late abortions is because we make early abortion difficult."