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Living within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos Revised Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195093858
ISBN-10: 0195093852
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Editorial Reviews


"We have but one world; we should be careful with it. Anyone who agrees will love this book, whose every page is almost too full of important facts and wise arguments....Hardin has given us the altruistic 'warning call' of the prophet with a dangerous message--dangerous to give and dangerous to ignore. Somewhere he should get a genetic reward."--EES Newsletter

"A wide-rainging and eclectic presentation....It is also an excelletn resource for those teaching high school and college students about human-ecosystem interactions. In truth, this is a helpful guide for all of us as we recognize the problem of overpopulation and start learning to live within the earth's limits. With Hardin's help, perhaps we can begin to envision a sustainable future for a stable population."--Electronic Green Journal

"Living Within Limits is a sophisticated attack on immigration that spans philosophical and sociological arguments."--he Public Eye

"Garrett Hardin is...a fearless and original thinker. Living Within Limits is very welcome. Hardin is tireless in his crusade to make us face up to ecological realities, especially our seeming inability to confront the most serious long-term problem, overpopulation."--New Scientist

"This is an outstanding volume on population issues - the most important issues facing humanity today."--Payson Sheets, University of Colorado

From the Back Cover

In Living Within Limits, Hardin focuses on the neglected problem of overpopulation, making a forceful case for dramatically changing the way we live in and manage our world.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised edition (April 6, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195093852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195093858
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tom Andres on August 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is essential reading. As someone lucky enough to have called Garrett Hardin my friend, I was once with him at one of his book signings in Santa Barbara, California. As two rather prosperous looking young women rushed by his display table, one said to the other: "`Limits'--I don't like it!" After which Hardin turned to me with a twinkle in his eye and said, "You see, she just summarized my whole problem." But one of the things that Professor Hardin is still teaching us, through his books and his students, is that once we accept the fact that the world has real ecological limits--for example, we stop assuming that we can cram a quarter-billion people into America, or that affordable substitutes for finite resources like oil and topsoil will be generated magically by the marketplace--the quality of our lives will actually improve. It is something like the little boy who has many scattered ambitions, from cowboy to Superman, upon reaching maturity being able to focus in on the adventure of passionately pursuing life's real possibilities. In his own life Hardin was anything but grim. Garrett Hardin just wanted to help our society grow up and, as said in Corinthians, put away childish things.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would give this book 99 stars if I could. Garrett Hardin, most famous for his essay 'The Tragedy of the Commons' (look it up on Wikipedia), intellectually evicerates anyone who would be so foolish as to think that overpopulation is NOT a problem. Nearly every human ill can be attributed to the simple phrase 'too many people and too few resources,' and Hardin attacks this issue from every angle. As a self styled 'ecological conservative' Hardin attacks both liberal democratic and traditional conservative ideology.

I thought I knew a little bit about 'real' economics until I read this book, boy was I wrong. If, like me, you thought that Freakonomics was cutting edge and savvy then you would definitely love this book. Hardin clearly has a firm grasp on what economics is actually about. He throws everything at you - natural selection, Thomas Malthus, carrying capacity, demographics, Unmanaged Commons and so much more that this book is sure to open your eyes to the growing problem around us.

The only negative thing (hence the -1 star from 100) I can say about the book is that there is little continuity or flow to it. Rather than any continuous theme, it seems more like his lecture notes stuck together in some kind of topical series. Besides that, I highly highly recommend everyone read this book - sadly though, I am a realist and know that few will (to society's detriment).

If you like this book, you will like Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed; or if you liked Collapse, then you will like this book.
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Format: Paperback
Reading this book was a revelation. In clear and precise prose, Hardin articulated all the feelings I'd had after years of observing people and their behavior. In the same way overly zealous Christians force the bible upon non-believers, I press this book and its ideas upon others. If everyone were to read this one single book and adhere to its simple and logical tenets, the world would be a reasonable and content place. What is even scarier than the future word we are going to inherit due to the people who impose misguided policies upon others solely to feel good about themselves is the fact that NO ONE outside of universities knows of this man or his books. I occasionally discuss his most famous essay The Tragedy of the Commons with some of the students in my college classes, and even though they all freely admit that his arguments and reasoning are irrefutable, they still think he's wrong because they "don't like" what he's saying. They offer no response or logical counter offer, they just "don't like it." Sadly, these people vote and shape our world, and the majority of my community unfortunately feels the same. If you have any interest in learning better and more productive ways of making choices and viewing the world regardless of the attractiveness of those guidelines, I cannot recommend this book enough.
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Format: Paperback
1st edition, reissued (1995), 311 pages

This is another of the twenty books that Charlie Munger recommends in the 2nd edition of Poor Charlie's Almanack (which I cannot recommend more highly). When a very widely read and highly effective thinker like Munger gets to eighty years old and recommends a list of just twenty books, I think one would be justified in expecting all of them to be pretty good.

Even so, as I make my way through his list I find myself pleasantly surprised at just how good some of them are. The clarity of thought Hardin demonstrates in this book is simply superb.

There is an important difference comparing this book to most others. Because so much of his subject matter (the subtitle is: `Ecology, Economics and Population Taboos') is smeared over by taboo and emotion, Hardin appears to have decided that in order to deal with this problem he also needs to demonstrate how to think properly.

Thus it is really two books in one: a manual on how to think effectively and a treatise on his chosen subject. For example, he hammers home the importance of default positions to provide the foundation for critical judgement (in economics: there's no such thing as a free lunch; in psychology: reward determines behaviour; in ecology: and then what?).

I am left with a feeling of gratitude towards both Munger and Hardin - without either of whom I would not have read this marvellous book.
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