The Garrett Hardin Society

Updated 12 November, 2003

CAPS Grieves Deaths of Ecologist and Author Garrett hardin and His Wife, Population Activist Jane Hardin

by Diana Hull

September 19, 2003

The population-reduction and environmental movement has lost two of its giants, Garrett James Hardin and wife Jane Hardin, this past Sunday, September 14.

Garrett Hardin, professor emeritus at UC Santa Barbara, was the author of 27 books and over 350 articles. He was originally trained as an ecologist and microbiologist and brought his original and meticulously reasoned ideas to the environmental and population movements. "The Tragedy of the Commons," a widely-regarded contribution to ecology, population theory, economics and political science, introduced the idea that human misery would increase greatly if we do not recognize that livable space on Earth is finite. Referring to natural resources, he believed we had a right to give away our own possessions, but not those of posterity.

Garrett was the bravest of men because he said many true but unpopular things. In a crowded world, he said, we need the ecological concept of "carrying capacity" if we are to minimize suffering in the long run. He thought Western man had pretty well locked himself into a suicidal course by clinging to a "time blind" ethical principle-the absolute sanctity of life. He also questioned "promiscuous" philanthropy believing that it often did more harm than good in the long term.

His most controversial books were "Living on a Lifeboat," and "The Limits of Altruism: An Ecologist's View of Survival." Garrett's interest in immigration developed from the idea that the "lifeboat" of the West is filled with the equivalent of family members-and that kinship altruism is the source of moral behavior. Both extend the idea that resources shared in common are exploited by some, whenever there is either crowding or conditions of scarcity.

Hardin pointed out how the sentimental path was often at odds with the ethical one. Questioning the wisdom of mass immigration more than 20 years ago, he called "distributive justice" a ruinous system and described why this was so important in a series of articles and books. The Hardins helped found CAPS (Californians for Population Stabilization) and remained close to the organization for the rest of their lives.

They were also dedicated to population stabilization through both family planning and reduced immigration. Garrett was a member of the board of directors, (later emeritus) of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. They were also longtime supporters of Planned Parenthood.

Garrett Hardin was 88, and Jane Hardin was 81. The couple is survived by their four children.

Some of Professor Hardin's other books include: "Mandatory Motherhood: The True Meaning of 'Right to Life,' " and "The Ostrich Response To Overpopulation," "Stalking the Wild Taboo," and "Creative Altruism: An Ecologist Questions Motives." Hardin has received many awards for his work, and the Garrett Hardin Society is an organization formed to preserve his ideals and teachings.

In a 2002 tribute by George M. Woodell, director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, he described Garrett as someone he had admired for virtually his entire career as a scientist. Garrett Hardin, he said "has framed the arguments on environment and government, human rights and ethics, for three generations."

Diana Hull is President of Californians for Population Stabilization
Reprinted with permission