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The Ostrich Factor: Our Population Myopia [Hardcover]

Garrett Hardin
2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 15, 1999 0195122747 978-0195122749
Garrett Hardin, one of our leading thinkers on problems of human overpopulation, here assails the recklessness and basic ecological ignorance of economists and others who champion the idea of unbounded growth.
Hardin delivers an uncompromising critique of mainstream economic thinking. Science has long understood the limits of our environment, he notes, and yet economists consistently turn a blind eye to one feature we share with all of our planet's inhabitants--the potential for irreversible environmental damage through overcrowding. And as humankind draws ever closer to its goal of conquering our final natural enemy--disease--the fallacy of sustainable unchecked population growth becomes more and more dangerous. Moreover, Hardin argues, rampant growth will soon force us to face many issues that we will find quite unpalatable--most notably, that since volunteer population control will not work, we will have to turn to "democratic coercion" or "mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon" to limit growth, a policy that directly threatens long cherished personal rights. Challenging an array of powerful taboos, Hardin takes aim at sacred cows on both sides of the political fence--affirmative action, multiculturalism, current immigration policies, and the greed and excess of big business and "growth intoxicated industrialists."
Hardin's forceful and cogent argument for the union of ecology and economics is a must for anyone concerned with the goal of a bountiful, yet sustainable world. Sure to spark controversy, this book underscores the urgency of our situation and reveals practical steps we must take to ensure the long term survival of humankind.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Because overpopulation poses such a grave threat to the planet's sustainable economic future, and because voluntary measures to curb population don't work, we will soon be forced to abandon our head-in-the-sand stance and adopt some form of coercive constraints on individuals' "unqualified reproductive rights." Or so argues Hardin (Living Within Limits), professor emeritus of human ecology at U.C.-Santa Barbara, in a collection of accessible, if academic, essays that venture some highly unfashionable proposals. Hardin suggests that every person should be required to carry an identity card "to put a stop to America's race toward multiculturalism," which he sees as a misguided movement that fosters cultural and political balkanization. He ridicules One Worlders' ideal of global government, arguing that such a system would be more likely to lead to chaos than our present multinational world of balanced antagonisms. Affirmative action, in his withering critique, is an overreaction to racism, a program that "turned out to be racism with a different name" and that often fails to supply the level of skills that jobs demand. Hardin also favors sharp restrictions on immigration, high tariff walls and a reversal of the current economic thinking that, he says, nurtures the illusion that perpetual growth is possible. The "ecological economics" Hardin embraces would force us to choose ethically among limitless demands in a world of finite resources. Throughout these blunt, open-ended essays, the author invokes a visiting, wholly rational Martian, not clouded by human passions, who surveys Earth's corrupt, self-destructive governments and offers a pro-population-control Martian sonnet, "To Malthus." Many readers will doubtless find some of Hardin's notions alarmist, but he airs unorthodox views that could conceivably be on the table tomorrow.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Hardin (human ecology, emeritus, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara), founder of the field of human ecology, has written a learned, witty, and controversial book evaluating contemporary ethical assumptions regarding population planning and world population growth. By examining difficult societal questions, Hardin illustrates how ethics and economics are being transformed by ecology. His book examines questions of jurisprudence, including the place of natural law, the difference between equality and equity, and the role of greed as expressed through survival of the fittest. Hardin believes that one of the most difficult tasks for humanity will be the acceptance of limited resources. He argues for community-sensitive restrictions, produced by mutual coercion, as a means to limit population growth. Although the book is intended for a general audience, difficult economic concepts and profound ethical, sociological, and philosophical questions may limit readership. Recommended for academic libraries and special collections in religion, ethics, sociology, ecology, and economics.?Margaret Ann Aycock, Gulf Coast Environmental Lib., Beaumont, TX
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195122747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195122749
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,992,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some insights among the indirections May 7, 2002
Format:Hardcover
The central argument of this book is that we are ostriches with our heads in the sand unable to face our problems because facing them would entail confronting taboo, which is socially and politically impossible (at least within earshot of anybody). But Professor Hardin, who is the author of Stalking the Wild Taboo, finds a way around the forbidden by creating a man from Mars who can be objective where we cannot, allowing Hardin to express the taboo point of view. For example on page 106 he has the Martian say (referring to the organization, Zero Population Growth): "it is virtually unheard of outside the learned community... [I]n the long run, it will decrease the relative number of educated people compared with the uneducated." The Martian adds, "Propaganda in favor of reducing fertility must be accompanied by repressive legal measures... Perhaps the first thing to do would be to cancel income deductions for the third child in a family (and beyond)." Hardin himself obliquely gives his point of view on page 61 with these words, "The natural sciences have probably made it possible for millions--probably not billions--of human beings to live sustainably on the earth."
While I (and the natural resources of the planet) would welcome a world with say six hundred million people as opposed to six billion, I must disagree with the man from Mars about the educated and the uneducated. I suspect, regardless of actual numbers, their proportions would stay approximately the same.
However most of this book is not about overpopulation, but about political and economic issues that Professor Hardin is pleased to expound on. There is the problem of "Equity, Equality, and Affirmative Action" (Chapter 14). As Hardin sees it we really need to understand that "no two human beings are created equal" (p.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn�t live up to its promise June 29, 1999
By Callida
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I loved Hardin's previous book, "Living with Limits" which I found hard hitting, concise and spot-on with its criticisms of unchecked population growth. So I started reading "The Ostrich Factor" with high hopes, but was ultimately disappointed. To me the book seemed to consist of long and sometimes rambling justifications for why we must come to accept some restriction on the right of individuals to produce as many children as they want. I had already accepted this proposition which was why I bought the book, and didn't need to be convinced. I was hoping to see a discussion of the different ways that this "democratic coercion" may be applied, and a consideration of the practicalities, ethics and long-term implications of each.
Is it something to do with me not being American? Not that the cult of the individual isn't big in Oz too, and I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, but I don't have any problem with the idea that individual rights cannot continue to run rampant once they start to damage the world that we all depend upon, and obliterate the other species with whom we share it. Surely there are plenty of educated, thinking people who have come to the same conclusion? I found myself frustrated with Hardin's seeming assumption that this was the ultimate taboo which needed to be elaborately justified at every step, at the expense of an in-depth discussion of the practical side of population control.
Good criticisms of current economic theory and immigration policy, but nothing I haven't read before. I finished the book feeling that I was little the wiser about how a large-scale system of "mutually coercive" population control might occur.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than meets the eye June 17, 2000
Format:Hardcover
This book has more in it than meets the eye and it infers many things that readers may not pick up on. One of the ideas I thought was useful not just for the population problem but for many other problems that humas are facing his his ideas about all the investments in failure that we are making in many of our "solutions". I think Hardin implies the solution which is that limits have to be set and that our basic ancient mythology which was set at a time when population growth was extreemly useful is now no longer useful. His solution is to argue this point again and again because so many people still have their heads in the sand. Until people can come to some of the realities of our world population problem it is pointless to try to implement any solution which those with their heads in the sand will continue to oppose. His solution is very difficult to swallow for people who are holding on to the ideals of the past which are now fatal so this book is very vital. I like that he leaves it to the inventiveness of the reader to pursue the results of his findings. Details about any of his infered solutions are not in this book. This book is a work of genious from someone who has been in the field of population control for over 30 years. He knows what he's up to. He opens up so many possibilities for creative readers or political thinkers. His ideas on coercion, equality, multiculturalism, and altruism will be invaluable for any solution to take place. This book is just brimming with discussions and it makes for a great book for a class to read and discuss which is what I think Hardin ment it for mostly to be used in his classes and used to launch many discussions. That is why is is so bare in many ways and leaves the conclusions up to the reader. The thing I dislike about the book the most is that the inside cover says "sure to spark controversy." It just goes to show how many in our society have there heads in the sand!
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