Tragedy of the commons


Garrett Hardin was a professor of biology and human ecology at the University of Santa Barbara. This selection is a part of his most famous writings The Tragedy of the Commons.

Hardin starts off by saying there is no technical solution to problems. In this case, he is making reference to the over-populated world we live in, as being the problem and how there is no technical solution. He gives an example of a problem which a herdsman has encountered, which is: Is it worth it to add another animal to his herd? Hardin comes up with one  pro and one con to the solution to the problem. The positive outcome is the animal will be a utility to graze the crops, and he will receive all the proceeds from his sale once he is ready to sell it. The negative outcome is overgrazing. It is called the Tragedy of the Commons because all the herdsmen will end up adding one animal to their herd, making the commons overpopulated and therefore there will be overgrazing happening, which is the tragic part of this whole situation. Hardin presents another story to show how to work out the tragedy of the commons. In National Parks, he suggest many things, such as being a first-come first-served basis to enter the parks. The author then talks about how pollution is getting worse and worse with the population rising. After talking about pollution, he explains how people are not welcome to have as many children as possible because there would be not enough resources for their generations to come. Years back, it was encouraged to have as many children as possible to keep their family name going, and having many descendents. Nowadays, it is very hard to have many children, not only because there will be not enough resources, but because it is economically and financially expensive to have many children. To finish the excerpt, Hardin talks about how we have to realize what is happening to our population, and our environment due to its size in human population. “Every new enclosure of the commons involves the infringement of somebody’s personal liberty.” (p.28). This citation is expressing how everything that is done these days will be hurtful for someone in the population, because they will find a way to express how it is a violation of their freedom, for something that is not controllable, such as human population.



  1. Why should people not have as many children as possible?

People should not have as many children as possible, because if we live in a world that is overpopulated already; if everyone in the commons were having as many children as possible, there would be not enough resources for everyone on earth. Garrett Hardin makes an interesting statement involving humans and birds. He says if humans were like birds, we would have to have as many children as possible because some of the chicks die, depending on harsh weather, or starvation, or simply getting eaten by another animal. If human babies could die in those ways, the parents would want to reproduce as much as they can to have at least one successful birth. We live in a world where with this many people causes big problems to the Earth, such as polluting an enormous amount, and depleting our Earth’s resources to satisfy the human population.

Resources :

Hardin, G. (2012). The tragedy of the commons. In T. A. Easton (Ed.), Classic Edition Sources: Environmental studies (4th ed., pp. 24-28). New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill
Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed. In In T. A. Easton (Ed.), Classic Edition Sources: Environmental studies (4th ed., pp. 184-189). New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill

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