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The Global Commons
Environmental degradation has been a total pic of conversation for many generations. The negative implication it is having on the planet as well as society has caused many solutions to be proposed in the past 50 years. As early as the 1960’s, Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons has brought up the issues of global climate change as well as negative implications of population growth and deterioration of the “commons”. Similarly, Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, also describes the negative implications of environmental degradation. Both Laudato Si and Tragedy of the Commons highlight the importance of change necessary to preserving the environment. However, the approach to how to solve global issues differs for each.
The environmental issues in the commons are a leading discussion for Pope Francis in Laudato Si and Hardin in Tragedy of the Commons. They both stress the importance that change is necessary in order to preserve the environment that we share as a people. Pope Francis addresses the worldly environmental problems with a mindset that times have been changing and so must our approach to sustaining what we were give. He says, “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.”(Laudato Si, 53). Similarly, Hardin states, “A hundred and fifty years ago a plainsman could kill an American bison, cut out only the tongue for his dinner, and discard the rest of the animal. He was not in any important sense being wasteful. Today, with only a few thousand bison left, we would be appalled at such behavior.”(Hardin, 3) Both readings emphasize on how instead of focusing on what we are taking from the environment, we must also be aware of everything we have put into the environment. Pope Francis insists that, “Account must also be taken of the pollution produced by residue, including dangerous waste present in different areas. Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources.”(Laudato Si, 21) Hardin also indicates that we need to be aware of the environmental issues, specifically in the commons, “Here it is not a question of taking something out of the commons, but of putting something in-sewage, or chemical, radioactive, and heat wastes into water; noxious and dangerous fumes into the air.”(Hardin, 3) Both readings insist that awareness of the environmental issues will lead people have a better understanding and cooperation.
Hardin and Pope Francis wrote their approaches to combating environmental issues through Laudato Si and Tragedy of the Commons. While their approaches may differ at times, they both tend to agree on ways to we can fix environmental issues. To begin, both Hardin and Pope Francis discuss coming together to unite and solving problems with resources. Hardin discusses drawing the line between private property and common resources for everyone. In one specific example, Hardin states “The factory owner of a factory on the bank of a stream often has difficulty seeing why it is not his natural right to muddy the waters flowing past his door”. Hardin uses this example to capture the mindset of many people who do not realize how much they affect their commons. Hardin is trying to encourage the growing population to think about how they affects others. Pope Francis agrees and also encourages in his encyclical to think of others. Pope Francis states “There is also pollution that affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general”(Laudato Si 20). Pope Francis notices the same problem as Hardin, and believes it can be fixed the same way even after many years Hardin’s paper was published. Pope Francis and Hardin both believe that people should join together to help the commons resources, humanity, and the environment. Both Hardin and Pope Francis encourage the idea of not only thinking of yourself, but thinking of solutions that involve all those involved in the “global commons.”
Pope Francis and Hardin’s approach to solving environmental issues differs in regards to finding solutions. Hardin discusses how the population has been growing “geometrically,” and that we have a finite amount of space and goods in a finite world. Hardin explains that a possible solution to this problem is related to the amount of calories we intake. “We must make the amount of work calories (Extra calories) per person approach as close to zero as possible. No gourmet food, vacations…”(Hardin 1243). Hardin believes that the true solution to population growth is unobtainable in the current lifetime. That I will take many generations of research to figure out what may really work. His solutions may be unobtainable, but he argues that is comes down to how we handle population growth in future generations.
In the Pope’s Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si, he more or less doesn’t tackle the issue as population growth, but as other problems that we could more easily handle. “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together” (Laudato Si, 48), seeming to explain that we alone will not fix our population crisis. He mentions how it is hard to bring awareness to our issues, when the population with the most issues, doesn’t have a voice. Focusing more on how all forms of society will have to come together in order to help solve their issues. That we as a society aren’t in enough physical contact with one another, that we don’t even know that people have issues and problems out in the world. “To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution,” (Ladauto Si, 50). Pope Francis does not agree that population growth is a major contributor to environmental issues, but instead it is social issues.
Laudato Si and Tragedy of the Commons both highlight the importance of solving environmental problems, however Pope Francis has a different approach in regards to solving global issues. To begin, throughout his encyclical, Pope Francis describes the importance thinking outside of the box in regards to those people who need it the most. Pope Francis introduces this idea of integral ecology in chapter four of the encyclical noting “Everything is closely related and todays problem calls for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of a global crisis […] one which clearly respects its humans and social dimensions.”(Laudato Si 137). Pope Francis believes that in order to solve global environmental issues, which must consider strategies of “combating poverty, restoring dignity, and at the same time, protecting nature”(Laudato Si 139). It is important to Francis that in order to better the environment, we must first care for all those people living in our common home as well as care for the environment because the two cannot be separated. On the other hand, Hardin’s approach to environmental issues rests controlling population growth. Hardin argues in order to solve global issues we need to assess global population growth. Hardin claims “Men will control their individual fecundity so as to produce the optimum population. If the assumption is not correct, we need to examine our individual freedoms to see which ones are defensible.” (Hardin 1244). Hardin contrasts Pope Benedicts view because Hardin believes that people are selfish and only care for themselves, which has caused environmental degradation. However, Hardin does not argue to think about the poor like Benedict but instead we need to focus on finding a middle ground for what is the commons and how to preserve it. The Pope even states “To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.”(Laudato Si 50). This is directly conflicting with Hardin’s view because the Pope encourages thinking of other in different economic classes and social status and consider changing our ways on consumerism to aid those who need it.
Both Laudato Si and Tragedy of the Common highlight the importance of change necessary to preserving the environment. However, the approach to how to solve global issues differ for each, as well as touching upon similar issues and topics of population in relationship of environment.
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