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From Carrying Capacity as an Ethical Concept by Garrett Hardin

by Garret Hardin, (c) 1975

(To Paul Sears)

A man said to the universe;
"Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
a sense of obligation."
-- Stephen Crane, 1899

So spoke the poet, at century's end;
And in those dour days when schools displayed the world,
"Warts and all," to their reluctant learners,
These lines thrust through the layers of wishfulness,
Forming the minds that later found them to be true.

All that is past, now.
Original sin, then mere personal ego,
Open to the shafts of consciousness,
Now flourishes as an ego of the tribe
Whose battle cry (which none dare question) is
"Justice!" -- But hear the poet's shade:

A tribe said to the universe,
"Sir, We exist!"
"So I see," said the universe,
"But your multitude creates in me
No feeling of obligation.

"Need creates right, you say? Your need, your right?
Have you forgot we're married?
Humanity and universe -- Holy, indissoluble pair!
Nothing you can do escapes my vigilant response.

"Dam my rivers and I'll salt your crops;
Cut my trees and I'll flood your plains.
Kill 'pests' and, by God, you'll get a silent spring!
Go ahead -- save every last baby's life!
I'll starve the lot of them later.
When they can savor to the full
The exquisite justice of truth's retribution.
Wrench from my earth those exponential powers
No wobbling Willie should e'er be trusted with:
Do this, and a million masks of envy shall create
A hell of blackmail and tribal wars
From which civilization will never recover.

"Don't speak to me of shortage. My world is vast
And has more than enough -- for no more than enough.
There is a shortage of nothing, save will and wisdom;
But there is a longage of people.

"Hubris -- that was the Greeks' word for what ails you.
Pride fueled the pyres of tragedy
Which died (some say) with Shakespeare.
O, incredible delusion! That potency should have no limits!
`We believe no evil 'til the evil`s done' --
Witness the deserts' march across the earth,
Spawned and nourished by men who whine, 'Abnormal weather.'
Nearly as absurd as crying, 'Abnormal universe!' . . .
But I suppose you'll be saying that, next."

Ravish capacity: reap consequences.
Man claims the first a duty and calls what follows Tragedy.
Insult -- Backlash. Not even the universe can break
This primal link. Who, then, has the power
To put an end to tragedy? Only those who recognize
Hubris in themselves.

Copyright: Garrett Hardin, 1975.
From Carrying Capacity as an Ethical Concept by Garrett Hardin

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