Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy Of The Commons” And Norman Borlaug’s Population Warning Still Ignored By World Leaders!

By Donald A. Collins | 29 September 2022
Church and State


Fairfield Osborn’s 1948 book “Our Plundered Planet” brought initial attention to factors now intensely affecting our planet.

I had the pleasure of meeting Osborn for lunch in 1967 and after lunch he took me and two colleagues to the Long Island research headquarters of the New York Zoological Society, of which he was its board Chair, where its director, Ross Nigrelli, gave the three of us a tour. Nigrelli wrote about the Society’s long history of many scientific accomplishments, including support of William Beebe whose Bathysphere, located there, did pioneering deep ocean research dives.

Read the Beebe’s history here.

Another book, “The Road to Survival”, by William Vogt, written at about the same time gave a prescient warning about pending environmental and population pressures on Earth.

Then in 1968 Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb” was widely applauded and hotly disputed by many including Professor Julian Simon.

Simon’s attack on the Ehrlich position was chronicled by William Buckley, a prominent conservative Catholic and political pundit. The right wing of his church has been a full press opponent of women’s right to contraception and abortion choice.

Read that attack here.

So, by the time I had the privilege of the personal friendship of Garrett Hardin, I had met Osborn who died in 1969 and I was in full agreement with his and the Ehrlich’s population concerns.

Garrett’s best-known 1968 essay, The Tragedy of the Commons, was one of the several books he published on the limits of Earth to sustain habitability on Earth.

Read that famous essay here.

Read the list of his popular books here.

Hardin, then 82, and his wife Jane suffered debilitating health. Both members of The Hemlock Society, they committed suicide together at their home in Santa Barbara on September 14, 2003. Garrett and Jane Hardin died as they had lived as examples of their great consideration for the fragile world in which they had lived.

Norman Borlaug, who got the Nobel Prize in 1970, invented miracle wheat that saved a billion people from starvation but warned us that feeding the rapidly growing human numbers could not be sustained.

Read a brief biography here.

How long will world leaders continue to not mention too many humans as the primary driver of our global maladies?

Likely it’s too late to gently solve the human numbers problem by means now available at low cost, such as using increased education about matters of personal liberty. This delay due to opposition from many sources including religious and business leaders will doubtless make the impact on all flora and fauna unparalleled in human history.

Democracy as we now know it will not survive the disruptions noted above.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC, has spent over 50 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of “From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013”, “Trump Becoming Macbeth: Will our democracy survive?”, “We Humans Overwhelm Our Earth: 11 or 2 Billion by 2100?”, “What Can Be Done Now to Save Habitable Life on Planet Earth?”, “Vote” and “Can Homo Sapiens Survive?”.

Garrett Hardin on the Tragedy of the Commons

Dr. Norman Borlaug – 1980 Interview about aspects of life, population and food

Conference by Professor Paul R. Ehrlich. Population, environment, ethics:where we stand now

Interview with Dennis Meadows on “Limits to Growth”

Be sure to ‘like’ us on Facebook


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here