The Garrett Hardin Society

Updated 9 June, 2003

Garrett Hardin Oral History Project

Tape 10

RUSSELL: This is tape number ten in the Professor Garrett Hardin interview. The date is the 6th of July, 1983. The time is 3:00 p.m. The location of the interview is Professor Garrett Hardin's residence. I have a few questions about your archives. It kind of took me awhile to get the proper conference papers together with the letters, which were fascinating. Just a few questions I have, Professor Hardin, on Exploring New Ethics for Survival: The Voyage of the Spaceship Beagle. I found it very fascinating, but again, as we set out when we started, we didn't want to just go through each book, because they are there for people to read. But I thought that taking Hardin's law of five years, if you could go back and refit the Spaceship Beagle for today, how would you alter it's composition, if you could?

HARDIN: Well, I haven't thought about that, frankly, and, at the moment, I can't think of any way. No doubt, if I sat down and went over it line by line, say revising it, then in a trivial sense, probably I'd discover important things that I'd want to change. I don't know what they are. Of course, I ducked the key question--namely, what did the people on the Spaceship Eagle find when they got back to earth--because that was too difficult. That's another book, so to speak. And I've never really wrestled with that, partly for this reason: I would be unwilling to write, you might say, a dreamer's utopia, because experience has shown that there's nothing duller than utopia. In fact, you end up describing a world you wouldn't want to live in yourself.

RUSSELL: Plato's Republic.

HARDIN: Yes, that's right. But, on the other hand, if you don't describe that, then that means you have to be pretty prescient in figuring out, now, where are the conflicts likely to be, and that is a very hard thing to do. And I've never wrestled with it.

RUSSELL: Maybe a source for another book.

HARDIN: Yes. If I get stimulated right, say, waving a check in front of my eyes.

RUSSELL: The next question just follows right from that one: how do you think the book has weathered the test of time? It's been almost a decade now.

HARDIN: Oh, I think in terms of its content, I think it's done very well. One or two places, I committed a boo-boo. For example--now this is real stupid--I shouldn't have, in talking about dangers of pollution, I cited this remarkable case of a German submarine that sank off the coast of Florida, that had I've forgotten how many tons of mercury in it, which were designed as ballast. And I sort of painted that as a pollution time bomb. Well, it isn't, for a very simple reason--that the ocean waters are alkaline and mercury is simply not soluble in alkaline waters. It takes acid water to mobilize them. So that's just an embarrassing boo-boo again. The rest of it, I think, holds up very well.

RUSSELL: This is probably, you know, asking someone when they stopped beating their wife, or something like that, but it's there. I wondered if you had any insights into this idea of why we refuse to accept Einstein's closed system--the idea of a conservation law. Why are we so resistant? I mean, you point out in the book that we'll do it with bookkeeping; we'll do it with these other things; but when it comes to the environment, we just turn our backs on it.

HARDIN: Well, I think this is really a very deep question you've raised, and I happen to be wrestling with it right now, in terms of the writing I'm doing now. No, I think this is key. The nineteenth century saw two developments in science. One was the development of the idea of, you might say, balanced bookkeeping--the idea of impotence laws. And the other was, as I mentioned before, the whole technological adventure that we can do anything we want to. Of those two ideas, the second sells very well because it meets the needs of so many people: not only commercial people who want to make money out of things, but people who just want the world to be better than it is, if they can escape from their present troubles. Whereas they don't want to be told that there are limits to things.

It certainly doesn't fit in with the commercial view of things, and commercial hopes. So nobody's pushing this one half, you might say, of scientific advance--the belief in impotence principals. They just aren't. And as a biologist, I could make another case for this situation, and that is, if you think of people in times of uncertainty, which certainly the last two hundred years have been--uncertainty with respect to what the future's going to hold--the ones who have unreasonable expectations of the future may do better than the ones whose expectations are reasonable, because some of these things do come to pass.

So, by putting your money on the hopeful thing, you have a better chance of winning. There's also the business that history is written by the survivors, and the ones who win in this way then write the history, and, of course, paint a very dim view of Luddites, and so forth and so on, because they're writing the history. So, it's sort of like Pascal's wager about God--do you know that one?


HARDIN: Yes. Well, this is kind of that way, too. You don't know whether the future is going to be rosy or not, but it, in general, will probably pay you to bet that it will. At least, that has been so until, say, just to take a single date, the explosion of the atomic bomb. I think that was really a sort of a watershed at which things started going a little bit the other way.

RUSSELL: How harmful do you think it was? I know, in reading the literature and going back over those years, '72, '73, I can remember myself, waiting in gas lines, and it seemed that anybody who believed in conservation, that here finally, maybe we'll have something to make the American people really think. And now we're constantly inundated with the oil off the coast, oil here--we're bathed in oil. Prices going down. It seems to be a double whammy almost, doesn't it?

HARDIN: Well, we notice the favorable news, and not the other. As a matter of fact, for the last six or eight weeks, the price of gasoline has been going up. It's up to a dollar fifty a gallon now for prime gasoline, so.... But people, having been shocked.... Well, there's this business that Wall Street is aware of: any news is only discounted once. We've already had the bad news on the oil shortage and, until it gets very much worse, people won't pay attention to further increases in price. They've already heard that. This is a curious human phenomenon.

RUSSELL: Well, that's all I wanted to basically go over in reference to the book, unless there would be something else that you would like to add or another point...?

HARDIN: No, I can't think of anything.

RUSSELL: The next aspect that I wanted to entitle was, Professor Garrett Hardin as Apologist for the Cause, and to go through those two year periods, '73, along with '74, up through '75, and talk about some of the things that seem to be coming across constantly. And I hope I've taken them in the proper chronological order. I know we talked about this briefly, but it seems to appear quite a bit in the literature, beginning in 1973: your concept of a non-baby bonus plan, which came out with figures and how much would be paid each couple for not having a baby. Rather than reiterating the plan, if we could talk about the genesis of it--how it came about--and why you think that no one has really to date seriously advocated it, as far as government is concerned.

HARDIN: Well, certainly, the plan was not original with me. It really comes from two people, the first of whom is Ray Cowles, who was a UCLA professor who retired here and who proposed some such plan before the Sierra Club back about 1955, and got no place with it. Then, a few years later--this I don't remember, but I could find it, I guess--Kenneth Boulding, the economist, laid out in some detail the plan of a non-baby bonus, or in his case, it was a rationing plan where you got so many ration stamps, which could then be traded in the market like any other rights that are sold on Wall Street, and so forth and so on. And, of course, this I think was a very fine plan from a technical point of view because he was showing that we already have in place the economic mechanism to deal with this problem. And that was a very fine thing to do. And it could be dealt with in a non-punitive way. See, both Cowles' and Boulding's are non-punitive things. They are systems for rewarding people or making them choose, but not punishing them, except in the sense they may punish themselves by foregoing possible benefits. So, they're both very fine that way. As Boulding has complained humorously, nobody will take him seriously. Of course, this is partly his own fault, because Boulding is a very humorous guy and when he presents these things, he gets the maximum amount of laugh out of them. But what people don't realize is that he is serious. It's just that he figures we might as well have fun while we're doing it.

RUSSELL: Has anybody ever looked at that from the standpoint of how much it costs society economically to have an unwanted child, as far as welfare payments are concerned, versus what it would be in rewarding people?

HARDIN: Not exactly. They've looked at half of it. There have been a number of studies of what a child costs. One of them was done by a man whose name I forget for the moment, who is an economist at Tempo here in Santa Barbara. And his figures were presented to--he was fortunate to be able to get them to the ear of President Johnson--and Johnson used them in one of his major addresses for pushing for not having unwanted babies. Then there have been a number of people, sort of an ongoing project with several organizations in Washington, year by year, to figure out the cost of a child. Now they figure out only to the parents; a child born into a middle-class family, and so on. And, of course, it keeps going up with inflation. And, at the present time, the cost of raising a child from conception to eighteen years of age, with no college education, is now over a hundred thousand dollars in a middle-class family. That does not include any costs such as welfare, and so on. I don't know of a careful study of that; mostly, people shy away from doing this. Nobody wants to make that study for fear of being called--I don't know what--a fascist or something because he's trying to get rid of the welfare state. I don't know of a careful study of that. It's one of those sort of forbidden areas of research.

RUSSELL: It seems it would make sense, though, wouldn't it, to lay it out?

HARDIN: Of course it would make sense, but it's hard to get anybody to do it. Now, there are some organizations that conceivably could do it, but if they did--I mean, could finance this--but if they did, the evidence would be regarded as tainted. I mean, the Heritage Foundation--you see, the ones that are known to be conservatives. But people would then just dismiss it because they had paid for it, which is too bad.

RUSSELL: It needs to be done at a university. The next thing is--and again, I don't know if this is in proper chronological order--but I thought we might be able to talk about it: the concept of having the Garrett Hardin Symposium on campus. I listened to the tapes, the papers that were delivered when you were there. How did you react to this honor that, really, your peers at this point were giving to you?

HARDIN: Well, I can only say I was very pleased and also very pleased with the fact that so many showed up from on campus and off campus. No, I was quite pleased, even though some of them took to me task--but that's all right.

RUSSELL: Well, I'm going to get to one of those in a minute. I thought maybe we could talk a little bit about John Baden's results--I don't remember if the book ever came out--The Managing of the Commons--but I was reading the correspondence going to and fro.

HARDIN: Well, that book has had only modest success. It continues to sell about, I think, six or eight thousand copies a year. It's used in courses, which is what it's designed for. Whether it's going to have any effect on the mainstream of economics and political science, which is the aim, I don't know, because it's not a textbook. The best chance of affecting future education is to write a textbook and then, yourself, teach it in a very large course and train a generation of teaching assistants who, after they get their Ph.D.'s, go out and carry the word to others.

RUSSELL: Kind of like Turner in history.

HARDIN: Yes. That's a pattern that works. And this, I think, is not being used that way. It's just being used as incidental reading in courses. So I don't know how much effect it's having. As I say, the sales are modest. I should say that, at the moment, there's some work under way to prepare a revised edition, to throw out some of the readings and put in some others.

RUSSELL: Do you think it's time to throw the ball in the court of the economist and the political scientist?

HARDIN: Well, I don't know how to do that, you see. Well, I do sort of know a way to do it, and that is to write a number of papers for professional economics journals. Now that would mean, first of all--say, if I were going to do this--that I would have to be sufficiently adept with the economic language so that I could write papers that would be accepted. That would be the first thing. And that's a lot of work--I mean, you don't take off into another field into the really professional journals lightly, because it means, aside from the work that you think is really worthwhile, you have to do a lot of other work preparing yourself so that you've closed all the holes, many of which are not important, but the people think they are. So you have to close all those holes just because they think they are. And it means you put in an awful lot of time, and I'm too lazy or something to take off on that task.

RUSSELL: That would be very difficult.

HARDIN: It's very difficult. Now, my essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons," has--in spite of the fact it wasn't presented in an economics journal--has been favorably received and reprinted in a number of economics anthologies, and there is one of the publishing houses that publishes separates that are called, The Classics in Economics, and it's included in the Classics now. So that's a good sign. It's accepted favorably.

RUSSELL: The next person, I guess, as far as criticism would be--although he wasn't there--would be Paul Ehrlich at Stanford University. And I wonder if you could just give us--before we go on to the criticism, because I'm going to be referring to a letter that you answered quite extensively...

HARDIN: I've probably forgotten about it entirely.

RUSSELL: Well, I've got the points right here that you made. But, if you could respond to his work.

HARDIN: Well, first of all, Ehrlich has done very good work in professional biology in the study of animal populations--principally in butterflies--and in developing and selling the idea of coevolution. He was one of the two who coined the term, which turns out to be a very useful term, pointing out something which everybody knew before, but merely having the name for it made it more obvious. And that was good. And he continues to work in this field with honor, you know. Then this other field--the one of pushing population and environmental matters--he was extremely successful and extremely important in the early days.

A little book of his, The Population Bomb, has a number of things going for it. One, it was written at the right time, at the very beginning, which is the time to do this. And starting people off, before there are too many books in the field. The other was, it was produced, I think, in about the same length of time that Voltaire's Candide was. I think both of them were written in one month. Now, if you can do it, marvelous things.... You know, real impact for brevity, for hard-hitting, and so on, and it really has it. It's a great job of journalism. I say that not to detract from it, because good journalism is hard to do. And this is.

So that had a tremendous effect, resulted in the formation of the Zero Population Growth, Incorporated--ZPG. He was the first Honorary President, and is still Honorary President of it--never active in running it. He is a very charismatic figure--extremely good lecturer. He has the charisma of this guy Sagan, you know--they're very similar in many respects. I regard Ehrlich as much more bearable than Sagan. Sagan I find unbearable. But they both have that same charisma that turns young audiences on. That's been great. And he had so many requests for lecturing, which he filled for a year or two. Incidentally, he did something I thought was very noble of him. He exacted a good fee from them--I think back ten years ago, he was asking fifteen hundred dollars and traveling expenses--and they were to make the fifteen hundred dollar check out to a fund at Stanford, which he used to support graduate students. And then the only check he took was the check to reimburse him for his traveling expenses.

So, it could not be said that he was making a good thing financially out of all this lecturing. But after a while, he realized that he was a professor at Stanford; he really should be on campus now and then. So he sort of called a halt to it, and it's hard to get him to speak elsewhere now. But I think that was a very admirable thing that he did. And, incidentally, many of the lectures I gave in the early years, I was under no illusions. I was giving them as second-best to him. They tried to get him--they couldn't get him, so then they asked me. So I lived off of his leavings, you might say.

RUSSELL: The letter I'm speaking to is a letter that he wrote to you, and it's your response to him. And apparently, he listed a whole series of critical comments about your work. I'll briefly start off with the first basic concept that he said, and that is, we cannot survive on an island of affluence in an ocean of misery. And I wonder if, using Garrett's law, if you would look at that one. And then there are three major points that I picked up that I think you probably might want to comment. The rest, I think...

HARDIN: Yes. Well, that very point I'm in the process of writing about now in this new book because I think his statement there is simply false. I think you have to look at one issue after another to see the extent to which we're bound together into one world. When you're talking about something like pollution of the atmosphere, plainly, we are all tied together in one world. But, as for the basic thing that he said, "You can't live on an island of affluence in an ocean of misery," I think human beings have been living in this way since Hector was a pup. Now, there's a certain amount of instability in it. Every now and then there's a revolution; and somebody invents a guillotine and a lot of heads roll, and so on. And then a new island of affluence develops, living in an ocean of misery, and life goes on. This is the way human life is; so, it may be that you don't like this or don't think it should be true, but, in fact, it is true. And as far as the survival of civilization is concerned, I think now that we have essentially licked the diseases that before took care of the excess numbers of people, we should want to make it possible for this to happen, because it's the only possibility for keeping civilization going.

Because these various things one labels as civilization--you know, the art and the music, and so on--these are the children of affluence and can be maintained only by affluence. The people in the slums of Calcutta are not maintaining any of it, and won't, and shouldn't, and can't. Any verb you want to use. Just can't be done. So, you can feel as bad as you want to about the fact that you're comfortable and somebody else is uncomfortable, but I think it's very foolish to try to eliminate that aspect of life--that is, the unequal distribution of things. If you're going to eliminate unequal distribution, you should work at the other end by reducing the number of people who are living in a miserable life, which means reducing the number of people who are alive in the next generation. That's the thing to work on. And don't have a bad conscience about your prosperity now.

RUSSELL: He goes into three areas, and you responded to them. Two of them, I think, we touched briefly upon, but I'll reiterate them here. The problem of the health hazard, as most members...

HARDIN: Yes. The health hazard--there's no final answer to that, but I think, as far as the facts are concerned that we can see right now, the health hazard is not great. There was a time when it was--say, particularly, in a country or in a city like London, when, literally, the health of the wealthy was tied up with the lack of health of the poor. Prince Albert died of typhoid. That was a sign of the general miserable conditions in London. But now that we understand about all that--see, that was about 1855 or something of that sort--just a few years later, we knew the story on typhoid and we know how to stop it. And you can have one part of a city with the people dying like flies from typhoid and another part where none of them do. Maybe here and there, one or two, but no runaway process. We understand that. So that danger of the poor and unhealthy infecting the rich and healthy is, as far as we can see now, not serious. We may be wrong. After all, there might be a new disease. Maybe every thousand years there is a new disease. Smallpox must have been a new disease at one time. But, we have no ability to predict new diseases. Just no ability at all. So, that's an unknown.

RUSSELL: Okay. The second one is his concept of the poor countries increasing atmospheric pollution by the burning of the grasslands.

HARDIN: Yes. They do. There's no doubt of that. I mean, they, like the rich countries, are contributing to the alteration of the atmosphere--through different means, but with the same end effect. We have steel mills that do that and they burn their grasslands, which does that--and about the same effect. Some day, if the facts point in that direction, we may realize we've got to control this. But, when that day comes, we're going to be faced with a problem for which we have never found a solution. And it will be fantastically difficult as a political problem--how do you control the entire world, when there are many states, and we have no ability to create a single state?

RUSSELL: Acid rain going into Canada...?

HARDIN: Yes. Some of the acid rain can be solved, perhaps, by bilateral agreements. For example, we might eventually end up with an agreement between Canada and the United States where in order to--that is, if Canada has enough muscle, say, something we want, such as some of her ore, gold and so on--they might be able to twist our arm and make us control our factories better. On a bilateral basis. And the same way, Sweden might be able to control England, because England produces the stuff that blows over Sweden. Worldwide agreement--it's the same problem. We don't have a possibility, but bilateral may be the first step.

RUSSELL: The United Nations is rather anemic in...

HARDIN: Yes. But the United Nations is just a sounding board for the have-not countries, and I think at this point we had better give up hope--or at least, I have--and I don't think it's realistic to expect anything of it.

RUSSELL: The third one, and that is the damage of the poor countries losing out and looking to us as a threat; and, therefore, this idea of nuclear warfare, or biological warfare, as a revenge factor, I guess you could call it.

HARDIN: There might be some that would be dangerous. You'd have to look over them country by country. Most of them don't have the know-how, the technical ability, to do that. Certainly, not to produce nuclear bombs, though a few more are getting it. But, you see, those are pretty advanced countries that have got the bomb. As for the biological warfare, this conceivably could be very serious, but again, it requires a high degree of technological know-how, particularly because of the problems of the delivery under circumstances that would make the weapons effective. I don't see them getting that; I hope they don't. Because, of course, if they did, they'd have a fantastic weapon. So, at the moment at any rate, I don't see it to have much in the way of possibilities. The worst, most dangerous possibilities are one country using another country as a deputy--that is, Russia using Syria as a deputy, say, to do something of this sort. And that's a real danger, because that's what's happened now. We use Israel as our deputy; Russia uses Syria as theirs; and poor old Lebanon is caught in the middle, destroyed by these deputies.

RUSSELL: Now I'm going to go through a series of things that did happen. One I wasn't able to refine too much, although I guess I could have gone through the newspapers and try to find it. Apparently, Paul Saltman down at U.C. San Diego--you got together with him and there is a series of newspaper articles that you published at that time. Do you remember anything about...?

HARDIN: That's right, yes. Well, see, I wasn't responsible for this. Saltman was the principal academic person who was responsible. And it was done from U.C. San Diego. They went, to my knowledge, in two successive years. I was in the first year, and then the second year they got an entirely new roster of people. I can't tell you what the feedback was. The idea was a rather good one--you know, it's this old adult education thing, a new way to get at it. And I just don't know, quantitatively, what it amounted to.

RUSSELL: Was that course by newspaper where you offer a series of lectures...?

HARDIN: Yes. So that could be used as a basis, say, by a local city college. See, that was the hope--that local colleges would use this.

RUSSELL: I see. Kind of an outreach into the community. Saltman. I've heard him speak several times and I'm very fascinated with his work.

HARDIN: Oh, yes. Well, Saltman is, again, a charismatic person like Ehrlich. Very similar. I mean, the physical build of these three people--Sagan, Ehrlich, and Saltman--is very similar. The whole drive. You know, they do well on the stage, and they're stand-up comics, and so on--all three of them. Very good.

RUSSELL: I was looking through your itinerary, and I don't think I could do it. The trips that you did, and everything like that. You did have a vacation in Italy, I guess, in '73. Do you want to mention anything about that?

HARDIN: Let's see. We've been to Italy twice--I can't remember that year, but that may be the year that we took a rental car at Venice and traveled the entire length of Italy, and then the length of Sicily, in a leisurely way. Perfectly enjoyable. It was just wonderful seeing the countryside. Oh, it's an education for an environmentalist because you see all sorts of lessons in front of your eyes. It's really very fine. And ran into some puzzles. One puzzle that I haven't been able to get an explanation of to this day; and I've probed many people, and none of them can explain it to me. And that is, there is a catacombs in Palermo. These catacombs are different from the Roman ones in many respects. One is, physically, they are almost above ground. That is, they come up to ground level, and there's sort of clerestory windows that let light into them. So they just depress slightly. And I made a count at the time, and I've forgotten how many hundreds or several thousands, I guess, skeletons in various stages, and put together in various ways, that I saw there. Put together in very amusing ways. There's this one hall that's the hall of the advocates, the lawyers; another hall, the hall of the doctors...

Another hall--though there was no label--all the people in the hall had a rope around their neck, so I suppose these were the criminals, you see. Well, this kind of thing is just plain funny. And almost all of the skeletons, almost all of the remains, are from the nineteenth century. Now this is what puzzled me, you see. And, unfortunately, my Italian is only suitable for ordering a meal and arguing about the price. There was a Capucin caretaker there, but I couldn't talk to him about this. He didn't talk English, so I couldn't find out from him what this was. And so I've been trying to picture, what did this mean? Did this mean that a family in Palermo, on a nice Sunday when they didn't know what else to do, said, "Let's go to the catacombs and see Uncle Joe"? Did they do that? I don't know, really. What role did this play in their life? The nineteenth century. A few of them into the twentieth century; a few before the nineteenth. But ninety-five per cent are from the nineteenth century. I don't know what role it played in their life. I've looked in all the encyclopedias in English that I could find--couldn't find the answer. There is a big Italian encyclopedia. I can't read Italian to do it. Well, as I say, I found no answer. I would love to.

RUSSELL: But it was enjoyable.

HARDIN: Oh, it was enjoyable, yes.

RUSSELL: Now, getting back to work... This was the one that must have been very arduous for you, and that was the massive lecture tour that you did with Ed Duckworth, I guess. Starting up in Portland and then coming on down, and ending up in Hawaii, I guess.

HARDIN: Yes. That was really intensive. It was the most beautifully organized lecture tour I have ever seen. It was an absolute model of how to do this, because they did it--I mean, it was like a military organization. They thought of everything. They had a very special projector for the slides, with a specially strong beam on it. And there were about three people who went along with me. I had my wife go along with me, because I thought I'll need some support. It turns out, I didn't, because this staff that went along supported, and who carried the projector along--their own projector--from place to place and spare bulbs and everything. Nothing was going to... And they had a complete spare set of slides, so that if one of them was lost, they had another one. And they had another set of slides that they could get in a day by air mail from the base, and so on. Just beautifully organized. I wouldn't want to do that very often, because it's giving exactly the same lecture every day of the week, you see, and then the next week, every day.

RUSSELL: Was the topic population control?

HARDIN: Yes. For me, yes. I've forgotten the overall topic. It was sort of a looking into the future type of thing, with a number of different people who spoke on it.

RUSSELL: I believe you were given estimates, like in San Diego on the Fourth of July, it was something like two thousand people that would be there in attendance. Were these aimed at the general audience within the various cities?

HARDIN: Yes, yes, that's right. And they apparently had good publicity and had good turnouts. In San Francisco, it was less than ideal the way they had to arrange it there, because they couldn't find a hall big enough. So I had to give the lecture twice there. They didn't make me, but I said, "I'll do it." So I gave the same lecture twice; you know, once at seven and again at nine o'clock. You know, you're a performing seal under these circumstances. But I was amused. There was a fellow whose name I can't remember now. He's an architect whose--well, he's sort of designing cities. He's an Englishman, who after he retired from the English Army at about age forty-five, took up this new career. And he's at the University of Pennsylvania. I'm sorry I don't remember his name, but he's quite eminent in this area. Made a great reputation. And I had seen him lecture before, and his method of lecturing is one where he just gets wound up as tight as a drum, you know--extremely explosive. And I thought, "He cannot possibly give this lecture twice." And when we got to San Francisco, he refused. He was not going to give it twice, because once and he's worn out for the day. His whole approach is too energetic, too emotional.

RUSSELL: He hasn't learned to pace himself. Throughout the literature at the time, particularly in this two-year period, there seemed to be a growing problem within the various committees that you belonged to with the idea that the Population Reference Bureau kept creating boondoggles and getting the wrong population figures.

HARDIN: Yes. This was the old problem of financial independence. They were the recipient of so many grants from U.S. Aid for their studies that they had lost their intellectual independence, which was really very sad because it started out as a completely independent organization. But now they're suffering from prosperity, from one source. Finally, they failed one year to publish their population figures, which they usually did every year, and that was when the Environmental Fund stepped into the breach and said, "Well, we'll do it." And so we started in doing it, which we did from, I think, about 1974 to--what was the last one?--'80 or '81. Now, we've stopped it because we finally realized--since PRB has come back into this and is publishing and doing a better job than ever, and is being remarkably independent of U.S. Aid, partly because they're getting a much smaller proportion of their funds from them--so there is no point in our doing it any more. But for quite a while, both organizations were publishing, which was a waste; but we weren't sure they'd keep going, you see. And our figures differed. And we could see many of the reasons for the difference--that they were under pressure to accept certain official figures and we were under no such pressure. And we put down the figures that we thought were correct.

RUSSELL: I bet that was really a problem, wasn't it?


RUSSELL: There was a whole group of organizations that were flourishing at that time, and one that there was quite a bit of literature on in particular, letter writing between the various members of your organization, and that was the Club of Rome and the New Threshold--that meeting that they had. How did you view their conclusions concerning the elimination of poverty?

HARDIN: Well, I think the Club of Rome--the first study they brought out, "The Limits to Growth," I think was very good because this was done when Aurelia Peccei was impressed with the work of Forrester at M.I.T., and simply contracted to have some of his students do that, which they did, and they did a fine job, in my opinion. But then, after that, the trouble is the Club of Rome.... Well, Peccei himself--I have to admire him for what he is. I mean, he really went through some rough times in the Second World War. He was in the underground. I think he was imprisoned and tortured, and so on. Came out of that and made a fortune in Italian industry, and so on, and decided to devote himself to trying to serve the cause of peace in the world. Splendid. But, there's a whole group of people that Peccei is on the fringe of that I regard as not realistic. I think they're politically rather unrealistic. You know, on the spur of the moment, as usual, I can't think of their names. One of them is also a retired industrialist from Canada, who is one of the leaders in this group. I.I.A.S.A. is another organization that's infected with them. I.I.A.S.A.--International Institute.... Dear me, I forget what the rest of it is. But they're the kind of people who take in each other's washing, you see. Through praising each other, they give the impression that this is a majority opinion, and it is among a certain group, but I think it's very unrealistic. It's rather dewy-eyed, so I don't think it's so good. So the subsequent studies of the Club of Rome, after that first one, I think were not so good because they were infected with this, "We're going to save the world; we're going to take an optimistic viewpoint; and if only everybody will be nice, it'll all solve itself."

RUSSELL: But that's not the case. We know that, right? Now the
following are committees that I know some of them you were very much involved with, but there are three that I couldn't really, you know, place you in, and I wondered if you would like to say something about them--what role you played, if any. One was the Atlantic Union Committee.

HARDIN: Oh, I had no definite role there; I know some of the people who did. And I can't even give you the history very well. I'll tell you what I think the history is: that this was started many years ago in the belief that saving the world would have to be done piecemeal, and the most we could hope to do would be save a small part of it; and that England and the United States and Canada have a tremendous amount in common, and all border on the same body of water, so why don't we bring these people together and, if possible, France and other people bordering on the Atlantic and try to save this small fraction of the world, rather than everything. So I think they're, in some respects, rather more realistic than many people, but this type of limited world view is no longer popular. I know that the Atlantic Union no longer has much to say to people.

RUSSELL: Kind of an extension of Cecil Rhodes and his concepts...

HARDIN: Yes, that's right. Not too different. Yes, that's right. Certainly, most of the people in it regard this form of civilization as pretty damned fine; they'd like to continue it, you know, the way Cecil Rhodes did.

RUSSELL: The other one is the Population Crisis Committee and Lawrence R. Keegan, I guess.

HARDIN: Yes. Well, my connections there are not close, though just recently Keegan got me to agree to give a lecture in Arizona next year, which I said I would do. The Population Crisis Committee has been, well, I think you'd say one of the most effective groups. Their goals have been limited, but they've been effective within those goals. It was started by a general whose name I've forgotten now. He was from Wall Street and he was a general in the Army, and very active in Planned Parenthood. And this was started as an auxiliary, so to speak--an auxiliary for getting money and influencing Congress, was the original thing. General Draper, William Draper.

And it happens that he's just one of these people who can get things done. He's been used to getting things done all of his life, you know. He moves into the room and they happen. I mean, money and ability of that sort really moves things. So, it was Draper's baby, and though it was set up as a 501(c)(3) organization, which means that it's a public organization--it does not lobby--in fact, one of his friends said, "Bill Draper just lobbies like hell, all the time." And he got away with it because he had such stature that nobody thought to challenge him; and the Internal Revenue Service never challenged him. He was just lobbying Congressmen all the time. Very successful. Draper's dead now. The organization has changed somewhat in it's direction. It's a broader view of population matters now, and I think it's doing a pretty good job, though I can't tell you exactly. But, it's a well-heeled and effective organization.

RUSSELL: The next one, before we move to one I know you're very familiar with, and that's the Ecology Fund. It came out, I guess, 1973-74, when the five million dollars was supposedly set up, but I....

HARDIN: Oh, dear. You know, I draw a blank on this now. I can't remember what happened to that. Ecology Fund?

RUSSELL: Yes. It was a group of people that--one person had died--I forget his name right now--but I think it was in Chicago, or something like that--donated this money to supposedly set up an Ecology Fun.... There was quite a bit of correspondence and worrying about which way it would go...

HARDIN: Yes. Isn't that funny? I've forgotten it. Gosh, isn't that curious. No, I can't help you.

RUSSELL: Blackwelder was the individual that was writing and quite concerned about what was going on. Well, we can skip that one. There's a meeting--and I don't know if it's in connection with the Environmental Fund--but there were quite a few interesting ideas that were expressed at it. It was a meeting of February the 10th and 11th, 1973, and it was entitled, "The Meeting of Population Experts." The people that were there were Paddock, Watt, the two ______, Singer, yourself. And I thought I would just go through and express some of the ideas that were there, and maybe you could more or less talk about what you thought about them. Watt's concept of the ghetto argument, population control, genocide, and code to the Third World, as far as he was concerned.

HARDIN: You know, I can't remember it. Ken Watt is a strange person. He certainly is brilliant; he's just full of ideas--the vast majority of them just don't pan out. But he is sure bright. And he rides one hobby horse after another; but whatever hobby horse he's riding now, you know that six months from now, it'll be gone. He may be on the other side, as a matter of fact. And I can't remember what happened. But he tends to dominate an organization, just because of his brilliance. I mean, dominate a meeting. It's hard to get in a word edgewise or anything, because he is brilliant and fascinating.

RUSSELL: Was this meeting set up...? Was this an ad hoc committee that got together, or was it...?

HARDIN: Well, this, I think, was one that was set up by the Environmental Fund. Yes. And just to get these people together and talk freely for a couple of days, which we did. And I think it was worthwhile in this sort of vague way that these things are worthwhile.

RUSSELL: Singer brought up the concept of the low fertility rates, and he was arguing, within the papers or in his comments, anyway, the concept that the women's lib movement would become an ally, as far as reducing the fertility rate. And I was wondering, with the mini-population explosion that we're seeing now, is this a backlash, would you say basically, to what you were looking for?

HARDIN: Well, the problem with trying to deduce trends from human affairs is very difficult because there's so much sort of random motion from year to year and decade to decade. If I had to generalize, I would say that my impression is that Singer was fundamentally right--that in the United States and in many other advanced countries, it has been going that way, and that the women's lib thing is a positive force for diminishing fertility, because it emphasizes offering women other careers. So I'd say it's happened that way. Momentary rises, you know, in fertility--slight rises from time to time as we've been experiencing for several years now--may not be important in the long run. They may turn the other way shortly.

RUSSELL: Small bubbles on the scale? Let me come to your contributions. One of the things that you were arguing for was the idea of trying to introduce into the body politic this idea of a sense of tragedy.

HARDIN: Yes. Well, this is a thing I deeply believe in as something that could increase the sanity of what we're doing and that someday will probably come, but maybe only after a great deal more suffering of one sort or another. This comes back to the business of science, and particularly technology--that it has virtually eliminated the sense of tragedy from Western civilization. Other parts of the world, people still have this sense, but we don't.

Well, what is a sense of tragedy? One of the things is that certain unwanted outcomes are inherent in the situation. Now that's pretty vague, but given that you start off in a certain way, you're bound to have a certain amount of suffering. In the case of the Greek tragedy, they did this by having this as a decision of the gods, that Oedipus was going to marry his mother, and so forth and so on. That's one way to see the tragedy. I think that we, on the technical side, I think we are seeing the beginnings, you might say, of a rebirth of this in the technical contributions that are coming from various people, dealing with the technical matters, for instance, of strategy and of rationalism.

There have been a number of books lately with the approximate title, Paradoxes of Rationalism. Some of this goes back to a classic paper by an economist who's moved back and forth--he was at Harvard for a while; he's now at Stanford. I can't think of his name for the moment. I can fill it in by the time.... But, he wrote a classic paper showing that when choices have to be made, and you have a number of different individuals or different interested groups competing, there is no way that the best choice can be made by any form of negotiation that would be called democratic. Now this is a very shocking thing, particularly to Americans, because this is just clear-cut, this paradox is.

He's won the Nobel Prize, by the way, since then for his work. Well, this was a very shocking thing. And now we realize there are a lot of these paradoxes of rationality--that rationality just won't give you the rationally best answer. So, you see, this is the tragic idea coming in a different way. In other words, it's part of the nature of things that you can't get everything that you want. And, you see, that view is missing among the technological optimists. They think if we can't invent it today, we'll invent it tomorrow.

RUSSELL: There was a great deal of discussion about how to get across to people the tremendous problem. And you came up with the idea that possibly there might be a film project; and I know later on--which I didn't know until reading the papers--that the "Tragedy of the Commons," I guess, there was actually a film of it. Do you want to talk about your concept?

HARDIN: Well, this has been one of those dreams that has been not realized. It's really a shame. It turns out to be a very big problem. Now, the "Tragedy of the Commons" was made into a film by B.S.C.S. They had already a market, a method of doing it; they knew what they were going to do with it, what they wanted to do with it, what it was to be. And they did a very fine job. The reason I say that is because of all the films that they've produced, it has been the best selling film they've ever done. They did it in, I think, the year 1969 or '70, and it's still being used all over the country in high schools as a teaching thing. So, it's very successful, and it's not my doing--it's the group that did it. And they did it, as I recall, for eighty thousand dollars. Now that was back in 1970. But only eighty thousand dollars, which is not too bad. Later, at the Environmental Fund, we negotiated with the Cincinnati Public Broadcasting System station, trying the idea of putting out a series of things on the population and the environment, which we thought would probably run ten million dollars. This was back about 1975 or so. But first we had to get a pilot funded, and I was the principal on the, you might say, the intellectual side, and they were on the financial side--the technical TV side. We presented a request for this to National... What's it called? Let's see, there's P.B.S. and something else...

RUSSELL: National Endowment for the Humanities?

HARDIN: No. It's not that one. I think it's P.B.S. that we presented this to. We asked for seed money to produce a pilot film, which would run six-hundred-thousand dollars, and then we produced a certain number of outlines of other films which we'd then come back and ask for ten million. Well, we didn't get our seed money, so that was the end of that. And, what with one thing and another, we never made another presentation. Now this has been a dream in the Environmental Fund from the very beginning; and none of us knows how to get it off the ground because, you know, there's some talk of, say, trying to get one of the major networks to do it, but the experience that we've had is that once it goes into a major network, you lose all control of it, because they insist absolutely on absolute control at their end. And time after time, they've produced a thing on population which is just hogwash. And they'll produce another one, and we're not about to fund them to produce another hogwash film. And we can't control it to get anything else done. If we're going to do it ourselves, it means we'd have to find somebody who had the experience and could do it, and who understood what it is that we're talking about, which most people don't. And we simply haven't been able to find.... We've looked hard. I was looking at a film-maker up in San Francisco at one point--thought we'd finance a little there--and then, on the basis of a preliminary thing he submitted to me, I decided that just wouldn't do and so we dropped it. I think there's money to produce it if we could only get the right group of people together. In fact, we've been told time after time by some of this group that money is not the problem: "If you get a good idea, we'll find the money--ten million dollars, twenty million dollars--we'll find it." But, boy, that's hard to do: to come up with something that's obviously going to work, and really, obviously, get the people who are capable of it.

RUSSELL: You were talking about something in there, that it would correspond with Kenneth Clarke's civilization series.

HARDIN: That's right. That's the dream, you see. And, of course, since then there have been several others. This David Attenborough thing. That's the model, yes. I would love to write the script for this. You know, it would be wonderful. But, you need also somebody to do it. See, David Attenborough has sort of a charm of his own. Of course, Kenneth Clark was very good. Bronowski was very successful, even though there are many of us who find him somewhat irritating. Sagan's was very successful, and again, there are people who find him irritating. I mean, probably, anybody you get, he's going to be an irritant to a good many people. But, nevertheless, in a commercial, you know, sense of reaching the public, all those people were successful. All of them.

RUSSELL: Jonathan Miller is...

HARDIN: Jonathan Miller. Now he is lower key and not as widely appreciated. That's really pretty high level; sort of an Oxford type of humor, and so on. I think he's great. A lot of people just won't stay with him, you know, because it is low key. But I like him.

RUSSELL: He's fascinating. One of the last things that you talked about that you tried to get across was this concept of selfishness, and that would be one way to reach the public. The idea of saving something for your grandchild, rather than dealing with them with a negative thing. Enough said on that one, or do you want to add...?

HARDIN: I think that still is a good way to go. It's sort of a double-edged sword in that many people, regardless of their own actions, want to think of themselves as being unselfish, and they do not want any encouragement of selfishness in others. And so they resist what I would call realistic approaches to this that emphasize self-interest. And they want to see something that emphasizes making sacrifices for the community, and so on. So it's a double-edged sword. But I think the surest way of getting around that, as you indicated, is selfishness for your grandchildren. People are willing to do that, you see; so emphasize saving something for posterity--namely, my grandchildren. I think that's a good tack to take.

RUSSELL: All during this time, I was wondering, did Watergate touch you personally in any way?

HARDIN: Not in any way at all. The only thing, I have, in a way, pleasant memories of Watergate, because during that time--this was a very active time for me, traveling back and forth; I was traveling about a hundred-thousand miles a year, back and forth to Washington--and this Watergate thing was going on. I can remember, I would get on the plane--it became almost a ritual with me--you know, the whole Watergate in my mind, get on the plane. It was Greek tragedy. I was riding first-class. I'd get a drink and I'd sit there reading the Greek tragedy and thinking about Watergate; and it was the most wonderful, dramatic performance that was going on. It was pure catharsis. Back and forth, back and forth. What next? Now what is going to be on the cover, and so on. It was one of the most exciting periods in American history. Just incredible.

RUSSELL: You didn't make any of the lists, or anything of that nature?

HARDIN: No. No, I had no connection. Purely as a spectator.

RUSSELL: The other thing that I had not read, and I'm going to have to check it out from the library--but T. C. Chamberlain, The Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses.

HARDIN: Oh. Well, this I think is a rather good essay. It's rather old-fashioned. It was written in 1890 or 1900, something of that sort. So, it's kind of old-fashioned in terms of the way you present things to students now, but I think he was very sound for a sort of a technique for developing objectivity and open-mindedness in yourself. It's a good thing, you know. You have to approach it in a positive way, you know, reading it carefully and thinking about it; but I think it's good.

RUSSELL: Okay. Now, the last thing, probably, we'll be able to touch on today--The Environmental Fund--and there's a whole group of people, particularly, I was thinking of the directors--that probably did an awful lot of work, and there's no mention probably in the literature. Very little, except for those people that are, like yourself, actively involved in it. And I wonder if we could just go through, first of all, maybe a brief synopsis of the Environmental Fund, as far as how it came about, and then, going with Blackwelder, Foote, May, Paddock, and Schmidt, yourself--you know, that working relationship that you had.

HARDIN: Well, curiously--though this is typical of me--I can't remember the initial stages of the founding of that at all. I'm sure I was in on it at a very early stage, but my first recollections of it here is in being and is going. That's all. I think we were meeting for a while with no official organization at all, and then incorporated--only I couldn't tell when it incorporated, when it went on. The person who was the spearhead on this was Justin Blackwelder. He's part of a family at Stanford, from the early days at Stanford--a geologist who had a large family of boys, and one or two girls, too. Blackwelder was the one who was the president of it from the beginning, and ran things from his office in Washington. The people who were in it from the beginning were remarkably of a mind on all these things. We were all simpatico--all had the same idea. Blackwelder had been in and out of various offices in Washington, as people do--they rotate. So, he was an old Washington hand. Emerson Foote--of Cohn, Belding and Foot, or something, are a very successful advertising agency.



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