He was also involved with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a hate group that now cheers President Trump’s racist policies.Today, American neo-Nazis cite Hardin’s theories to justify racial violence. Hardin lobbied Congress against sending food aid to poor nations, because he believed their populations were threatening Earth’s “carrying capacity.” Of course, plenty of flawed people have left behind noble ideas. As Susan Cox pointed out, early pastures were well regulated by local institutions.Gradual climate policies could have slowly steered our economy towards gently declining carbon pollution levels.
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Hardin saw all humans as selfish herders: we worry that our neighbors’ cattle will graze the best grass.
The culprit is not our individual impulses to consume fossil fuels to the ruin of all.
And the solution is not to let small islands in Chesapeake Bay or whole countries in the Pacific sink into the past, without a seat on our planetary lifeboat.
Individuals don’t have the agency to steer our economic ship from the passenger deck.
As Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes reminds us, “[abolitionists] wore clothes made of cotton picked by slaves. it just meant that they were also part of the slave economy, and they knew it.Hardin practically calls for a fascist state to snuff out unwanted gene pools. Hardin was a virulent nativist whose ideas inspired some of today’s ugliest anti-immigrant sentiment.He believed that only racially homogenous societies could survive.His essay remains an academic blockbuster, with almost 40,000 citations.It still gets republished in prominent environmental anthologies.But let’s not credit Hardin for that common insight. Instead, he was using concerns about environmental scarcity to justify racial discrimination.We must reject his pernicious ideas on both scientific and moral grounds.That Hardin’s tragedy was advanced as part of a white nationalist project should not automatically condemn its merits. They were not free-for-all grazing sites where people took and took at the expense of everyone else.Many global commons have been similarly sustained through community institutions.To create a just and vibrant climate future, we need to instead cast Hardin and his flawed metaphor overboard.People who revisit Hardin’s original essay are in for a surprise. Subheadings proclaim that “freedom to breed is intolerable.” It opines at length about the benefits if “children of improvident parents starve to death.” A few paragraphs later Hardin writes: “If we love the truth we must openly deny the validity of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” And on and on.