An advertisement for Hardin’s lecture in the Queen’s Journal.

Garrett Hardin was Professor of Human Ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a prominent environmentalist. He specialized in human population dynamics, evolution and the history of science. Hardin authored the extremely influential essay “The Tragedy of the Commons” (1968), which had an enormous impact on modern environmentalism. However, more recently Hardin has been recognized as a racist, eugenicist, nativist and Islamophobe. His writings and political activism inspired anti-immigrant activism, including his idea of “lifeboat ethics”: that since global resources are infinite, the rich should throw the poor overboard to keep their boat above water. He believed that racially homogeneous societies were more likely to survive, and, even in this Dunning Trust lecture, announced that population growth in Global South should be stopped long before such measures were considered in the Global North. He was awarded numerous honours, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America Margaret Sanger Award (1980) and AIBS Distinguished Service Award (1986). He died in 2003.

Hardin’s lecture was the first in the series “Social Problems in Environmental Recovery.” He began with the idea that zero population growth would one day be required to ensure human survival. However, he argued that birth control is too frequently equated to population control, when in reality they are completely different projects. Birth control technologies, even when perfect, only work to enable a woman and her partner to have the number of children they desire. What was needed, he stated, was a campaign to educate and transform public opinions about the appropriate number of children to have. This included, for example, rejecting the idea that women who do not have children or want children are “monsters.” Technology may be the solution to the birth control problem, but it was not the solution to the population control problem. He ended by discussing what he perceived as the different needs for population control in the Global South and the Global North, reflecting his attitudes towards non-white populations and reproductive rights.

Hardin’s lecture was held on October 23, 1972.

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