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on March 15, 2016
I was surprised how well written this was. It has a text book content and topic, but I could hardly put it down.
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on October 2, 2009
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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on July 9, 2015
We have NOT been living within our ecologically sustainable limits for hundreds of years, as this author so clearly shows.
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on June 1, 2016
commonsense read
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on November 10, 2009
This book opens up avenues of thought and reason that aren't explicitly expressed or taught through conventional means. This should be read and discussed by many, unfortunately few will have either the interest or intellectual flexibility to make the most of this brilliant exercise in reason. The only part of the book I feel is flawed is his staunch view on Immigration. There are societal influences that did not add necessary weight to his argument [maybe they are expanded on in his book dealing solely with Immigration]. However, that is a fractional concern when the rest of the book is a work of such immense caliber.
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on May 5, 2011
WARNING: Reading this book will make you physically ill. This subject has worried me for a good number of years and this book moves the timeline up a great deal.
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on March 31, 2013
Item was received on time and was as described. I had no problems with the item or the description of the product.
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on March 19, 2015
Couldn't get in-to it from the get-go. Hard to read-like walking in mud "slow and hard"
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on April 23, 2017
I am not as smart as some of the other people who have already reviewed this book. I openly admit this. I'm only on Page 96 and I am dreading the next 200 pages. The author repeats himself over and over,mentions people who I've never heard of (sorry, I already said I wasn't smart) and wastes paragraph after paragraph saying almost nothing.

Thus far? All you need to know is this. Watch the movie "Kingsman: The Secret Service" Samuel L. Jackson's character 'Richmond Valentine' wants to control the world population problem as he sees it by killing off anyone who isn't rich, beautiful, powerful, and/or famous and you can save yourself the agony of reading this book. I haven't gotten there yet, but I'm sure the author is going to recommend population control in some way, shape, or form, and while extremely logical it's unrealistic.

Humans are going to reproduce, ravage the ecosystem, and think nothing of future generations for whatever cause currently consumes them be it self interest, political, or otherwise. Acting like it's going to change is nonsense.

Hey, here's another movie reference from The Matrix that will save you some time:

Agent Smith: I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure.

While artificial intelligence could be just around the corner, I doubt I'll see it in the next 50-years. But this quote from The Matrix and the plot of Kingsman sum up this book thus far for me.

Again, I'm stupid and I had to use movie references to make sense of it. I'll finish it, but this is a hard read for a jackass like myself.

P.S. People are still going to have sex and destroy any math and/or logic that comes into existence no matter what level of intelligence is behind population control. When you get to the "people are starving in 1949 China and ate the birds that ate the insects and screwed up the eco-system" part should you read this book, you will realize that all the logic in the world isn't going to stop self-interest. People who are starving will eat some birds, yes - the insects that don't get eaten are (were) a problem. But if you think anyone is going to starve to death to balance out the eco-system then you're nuts.

Maybe the next 200 pages will have better information, but I'm not counting on it.

05.22.17: Finally finished this thing. This was a chore. Here's some more observations from the book.

A. Homer Simpson is running every nuclear facility in the United States. The author actually infers this without bringing up Homer Simpson's name but he may as well have done so.

B. Poor people have nothing to do but reproduce.

C. Optimism and hoping for technology to improve anything for the long term is far fetched science fiction.

Again, I see the logic behind his thinking but I'll give the author credit for this: No politician is going to make population control their main point of emphasis when campaigning for a position.

I still like my two movie references above to describe this book. Planet Earth needs a lot of help and while I agree population will be - if it's not already a problem - the author doesn't do much other than point out a problem and offers very little solutions.

If you're into listening to people whine for hours upon end without providing solutions to the problem, then this book is perfect for you.
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Garrett Hardin (1915-2003) was famous for an essay, The Tragedy of the Commons, written in 1968. He thought that folks who kept their cattle on common lands had little concern for the condition of the pasture, while private pastures befitted from the careful stewardship of wise ranchers. In 1994, the essay evolved into The Tragedy of the Unmanaged Commons.

I was unsure of his message. Everyone understands that privately owned cropland is degraded with every pass of the plow, year after year, despite being managed by government rules and regulations. Private land is often permanently ruined by mining and manufacturing enterprises. Maybe the root of the tragedy was our civilized mindset -- nature was created for human use, and the future doesn't matter.

For years, I dismissed Hardin as a free enterprise gadfly. I discovered I was wrong when I read Living Within Limits. He was an enthusiastic critic of economic growth and population growth. In this book, Hardin had a heroic objective -- radically reforming industrial civilization before it disintegrated. He read mountains of books, and generated an enormous stream of rational ideas and recommendations.

He plowed through multiple editions of Malthus, and concluded that the good Reverend was 95 percent right, which delighted me. Hardin summarized the message of Malthus as, "Disaster is a natural outcome of perpetual population growth, but disaster can be forestalled if society can find the will to put an end to population growth." Poor Malthus has been widely hated for 200 years, most commonly by those who have never read him. His great sin was in questioning the trendy belief that civilization was in the fast lane to utopia, where humankind would achieve flawless perfection.

Hardin learned that enlightening the befuddled world was a frustrating endeavor. Questioning sacred norms instantly turned you into a dangerous nutjob. Alas, the modern world was as rational as a loony bin -- despite the fact that we were the most highly educated generation that ever walked the Earth. The notion that there were limits was impossible to accept. The only thing that's limitless is debt.

Here we are, well into the twenty-first century, still throwing away billions of dollars in the ridiculous pursuit of colonizing other planets. We need more space to grow, more resources to mine, fresh ecosystems to destroy. Would you volunteer for a 400-year voyage in a small metal capsule?

Here we are, still feverishly determined to pursue economic growth by any means necessary. Almost all economists suffer from the hallucination that endless economic growth is possible and desirable; resources are infinite. The sun is setting on the cheap energy bubble, which will eventually bring growth to a halt, and shift it into reverse. Well, let's not think about that.

Here we are, several years beyond the peak of the global production of conventional oil, paying no attention to the foreseeable challenges ahead -- production will continuously decline, whilst prices will continuously rise. M. King Hubbert, a Shell Oil geologist, predicted this in 1948, and the crowd chuckled. Hardin included a stunning graph that charts annual energy use, from 5,000 years past, to 5,000 years forward. At the center of this 10,000 year timeline appears one icicle-shaped spike, lasting a few hundred years, then dropping back to normal (a chart of population would look about the same). Of all the oil we will ever consume, 80 percent of it will have been extracted during a 56-year binge, roughly from 1969 to 2025. Let's not think about that.

Here we are, still refusing to seriously consider the huge problem of overpopulation. Our boundless optimism has no doubt that miraculous technology will solve any problem. For almost the entire hominid journey, the rate of population growth has been close to zero. The rate rose a bit when ancestors got interested in tools, it rose more with the advent of agriculture, and it skyrocketed during the fossil fuel disaster -- a reality that we consider to be normal. Hardin imagined that we will be happier when the herd shrinks to a half billion or so, as it was in 1492.

The problem is that, one by one, we've eliminated many of the controls that used to keep our population in balance. We killed off most man-eating predators. We developed a food production system that reduces the risk of famine. We built sanitation systems to prevent pandemics of fecal-oral diseases. We invented vaccinations and antibiotics to cure or prevent contagious diseases.

The remaining birth control options are voluntary, and Hardin insisted that voluntary efforts have always failed in the long run. An effective solution can only be based on coercion. We're coerced to stop for red lights, aren't we? Talking about reproductive rights without equal regard for reproductive responsibilities is foolish. Why hasn't Congress fixed this problem already?

Hardin also detested immigration. America is a high waste society, and it's highly overpopulated. Is it truly our obligation to care for everyone? There are two billion poor folks in the world. Shall we invite them all to join us? Or, should we send them lots of food?

Overpopulated poor countries are living beyond their carrying capacity, and this cannot not fixed by sending them food. More food reliably results in even more hungry people. Hardin thought this was dumb -- we should simply mind our own business, let nature take its course, and allow balance to be restored. He thought that the leaders of poor countries had an obligation to take responsibility for their overpopulation, and develop appropriate solutions. It's their job.

It's been 20 years since Hardin's book was published, and everything has rapidly gotten worse. There is clearly a sense of frustration and despair in his words. We're heading for a bloody disaster, and nobody cares! The problems are obvious, as are intelligent responses. (Scream!)

I used to feel that pain. The pain was rooted in the expectation that modern society should behave in a rational manner, as we were taught in school. I've since realized that this expectation was absurd and harmful. We are who we are, and we'll change when we run out of options. The pain has faded.

In theory, humankind is not fatally flawed. Almost all of our ancestors lived in a relatively sustainable manner. They developed voluntary methods of birth control that worked quite well. Genetically, we are purebred hunter-gatherers, beautifully evolved for a low-impact life in the great outdoors. Our experiment with civilization has been purely unnatural. Our current problems emerged in the last few thousand years. In theory, we can learn from our mistakes, and return to living in balance. In the long run, it's either balance or bye-bye.

By definition, an unsustainable population can only be temporary. The same is true for continuous economic growth. Time will fix these mistakes, with or without our assistance. We should have listened to Hardin, but we didn't, so we'll leave more scars on the planet. The scar of an unbalanced climate may not heal for a long, long time. It's quite possible that warming will force the human journey into a new and very different direction. Should we think about it?

Richard Adrian Reese
Author of Sustainable or Bust
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