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Part 1: An examination of the Tragedy of the Commons

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Part 1: What we all face

Each week, hundreds of emails stream into my inbox concerning columns I have written addressing immigration and overpopulation. Most thank me, others condemn me and still others curse me. I am an educator. I make fun of no man. I know everyone paddles his or her canoe through life in the best way possible. We each seek love, purpose and happiness. We love our families and friends. We take part in our communities in every hamlet in the world.

Even with all the war and unrest in many parts of the planet, we remain within the family of humanity. We all possess a stake in the future of our planet. We all laugh, love and cry. True, some of us practice brutality and many of our cultures prove derisive toward women. Humanity, in many ways, must be the cruelest animal on the planet, but pretends to be the most important.I have said that humans are God's highest expression and worst mistake. If you look around at the mess we've created in this world in the last 100 years, I don't see how you could argue. We created 72,000 chemicals now contaminating the planet, horrific and never ending wars that kill, maim and destroy lives by the millions, accelerating human misery on a scale unheard of 100 years ago, we cause the extinction of 100 species daily, climate destabilization and the list grows.

Often I hear from Sub-Commandante Pedro, a Mexican National, MeCHA Brown Berets Infiltration Brigades, LA, Alta, CA Aztlan. He tells me how Americans have lost their country because they are, "Too fat, lazy and stupid to defend their failed nation...the Bronze Man will return this land to its rightful owners by making more babies than stupid gringos."Amazingly enough, he refers to black Americans in ways that would leave the mainstream press aghast. Additionally, if his brand of racism takes over, black Americans can assume even worse treatment and extrication from any areas dominated by the New Mexico in America.

As I categorically state weekly, immigration and population find themselves shackled together like Paul Newman as "Cool Hand Luke" on the chain gang being watched by the sheriff wearing those mirror glasses known as the 'man with no eyes'. Ultimately, like Newman, "What we have here is a failure to communicate," thus no way to escape our destiny.It becomes unsettling to me to know what lies ahead, having seen it in my world travels, but possessing no power to change it. Ironically, hundreds of readers write diatribes against my work on sites across the nation.

On the pro-immigration side, those advocates don't understand their own dilemma or how many makes too many? They don't understand that Mexico City, with 24 million people, grinds toward terrible water shortages and staggering environmental problems. They don't understand the sheer human overload creating horrific human misfortune.As Dr. Garrett Hardin said, "By any reasonable standards, the most rapidly growing populations on earth today are the most miserable."While the citizens of those countries live in the squalor of their own numbers and collide with reality, Americans and other first world countries do not possess a clue as to the raging battle for life going on with one-third of humanity. That's two billion people folks! It's as if 18 million people don't die from starvation annually-but the fact is, they do!

On the anti-illegal migration side, only a few people understand the devastating consequences of unending immigration. Many fail to understand that legal immigration proves worse than illegal-because it methodically added 100 million to this country in the last 40 years. Another 100 will manifest within 26 years.You would think that one look at the crumbling of California, which adds 1,700 people, virtually all immigrants streaming into America from overloaded countries, net gain, daily would raise somebody's eyebrows. Not even a blink by the mainstream press!

Dr. Garrett Hardin wrote about a phenomenon that we all face. "We may well call it "the tragedy of the commons," using the word "tragedy" as the philosopher Whitehead used it "The essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things." He then goes on to say, "This inevitableness of destiny can only be illustrated in terms of human life by incidents which in fact involve unhappiness."

"The tragedy of the commons develops in this way," Hardin said. "Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.

"As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly, or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks "What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?" This utility has one negative and one positive component."

1) The positive component is the function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.

2) The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1.

"Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another, and another! But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit - in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all."

If you look at America today or any massively overpopulated country like China, India, Great Britain, Mexico, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, etc., you can see the quickening of the 'tragedy of the commons'. You will also see millions in denial of their spiraling dilemma.

As published in my recent book, "America on the Brink: The Next Added 100 Million Americans," in our oceans, 100 million sharks suffer death at the hands of humans annually. Humans rape the oceans with drift nets and chemicals. "The oceans of the world continue to suffer from the survival of the philosophy of the commons," Hardin said. "Maritime nations still respond automatically to the shibboleth of the "freedom of the seas." Professing to believe in the "inexhaustible resources of the oceans," they bring species after species of fish and whales closer to extinction.

"The National Parks present another instance of the working out of the tragedy of the commons. At present, they are open to all, without limit. The values that visitors seek in the park are steadily eroded. Plainly, we must soon cease to treat the parks as a commons or they will be of no value to anyone."

If we add another 100 million people, our parks cannot withstand the sheer numbers, but our cities will prove even worse.

As you can see, we cannot continue on this path of the 'Tragedy of the Commons' much longer. How long is 'much longer'? We will explore that in Part 2: Pollution and breeding.
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Frosty Wooldridge Bio: Frosty Wooldridge possesses a unique view of the world, cultures and families in that he has bicycled around the globe 100,000 miles, on six continents and six times across the United States in the past 30 years. His books (more...)
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