Letter to the Editor: Limits to growth

Friday, April 26, 2019

To the Editor:

The American Dream was grounded in abundant, but not unlimited, resources – animal, vegetable, mineral. Land was sparsely settled by indigenous peoples with limited technologies, which the European settlers developed to rapidly extract and exploit all resources to the point of exhaustion and extinction. We are now running full bore into the wall of limits of growth.

This is a very small planet. Its size and surface does not expand with increasing population growth. As each of us strives to maximize what we consider our share of the earth’s resources, less and less will have to be divided among more and more persons. Currently prevalent income inequalities exacerbate unequal access to resources, including basic necessities.

As Garret Hardin wrote in The Tragedy of the Commons – when there is unrestricted public access to resources by individuals seeking to maximize their share all resources will be exhausted. We will pay heavy penalties for our profligate use and waste of increasingly scarce goods – land, water, air and trees and all creatures living on, in, under, and over these habitats. Hardin pointed out that there must be severe limits to individual liberty, with restraint required to remedy and repair the damage we humans have done to this planet. The phrase The Web of Life is relevant to how our individual choices have consequences and repercussions beyond our personal satisfactions, increasingly evident as global warming and climate change spread across the planet.

Our varied pursuits of happiness are not Constitutionally guaranteed rights. The Declaration of Independence was written as an incentive to those colonials with British loyalties to persuade them to join the American War of Independence from Great Britain's monarchy. We must now make do, do without, and help each other out if we and this planet are to survive.

Gini Paulsen


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