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Member since: Fri Sep 9, 2005, 07:39 PM
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The Tragedy of the 'Tragedy of the Commons' (Scientific American)

The man who wrote one of environmentalism’s most-cited essays was a racist, eugenicist, nativist and Islamaphobe—plus his argument was wrong

By Matto Mildenberger on April 23, 2019

Fifty years ago, University of California professor Garrett Hardin penned an influential essay in the journal Science. Hardin saw all humans as selfish herders: we worry that our neighbors’ cattle will graze the best grass. So, we send more of our cows out to consume that grass first. We take it first, before someone else steals our share. This creates a vicious cycle of environmental degradation that Hardin described as the “tragedy of the commons.”

It's hard to overstate Hardin’s impact on modern environmentalism. His views are taught across ecology, economics, political science and environmental studies. His essay remains an academic blockbuster, with almost 40,000 citations. It still gets republished in prominent environmental anthologies.

But here are some inconvenient truths: Hardin was a racist, eugenicist, nativist and Islamophobe. He is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a known white nationalist. His writings and political activism helped inspire the anti-immigrant hatred spilling across America today.

And he promoted an idea he called “lifeboat ethics”: since global resources are finite, Hardin believed the rich should throw poor people overboard to keep their boat above water.
more (worth the read): https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/the-tragedy-of-the-tragedy-of-the-commons/

This, and/or similar rebuttals, have, I'm sure, been posted on DU before. But it's always worth another read.
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Tue Aug 18, 2020, 10:31 AM (5 replies)

Can someone with real medical competence tell me why this weird idea wouldn't work?

This idea occurred to me a couple of years ago. It concerns the need for patients with lung damage, or fluid-filled lungs -- such as pneumonia patients or victims of smoke inhalation -- to maintain blood oxygenation, when the normal process of O2 absorption from their lungs is frustrated. I suppose someone, at some point, might have tried using a heart-lung machine to bypass the lungs in desperate cases, but I don't know for sure. With heart-lung machines being more complicated, more expensive, and less common than ventilators anyway, this wouldn't seem to be much help in the COVID crisis, so something simpler is needed. Unfortunately, I'm not a doctor, nor any sort of medical expert, myself, and I don't know who I could recommend this idea to for possible evaluation.

The idea comes from one very odd observation. Some turtles -- air-breathing animals which totally lack gills -- are able to survive hibernation underwater for months at a time. Of course, this is partly due to a drastic slowing of the animals' metabolism, a common ability among reptiles, but it's not enough by itself. Recently, investigators learned that these turtles are actually capable of "breathing" underwater -- through their butts. Now, technically, it involves the cloaca, an organ found in reptiles and birds, but not humans. Now, I realize turtles are not humans, and (with one prominent exception) humans are not turtles, and a human intestine is not the same as a cloaca. But consider what the intestines do -- they absorb nutrients, water, and salts from the contents of the digestive tract (water and salts apparently flowing both ways, as needed), at least partly by simple diffusion. To make this process rapid enough to be effective, the inner surfaces of the intestines are covered with tiny protrusions called villi, which increase the surface area available for diffusion, complementary to the way the airways of the lungs are ramified into many tiny alveoli for rapid diffusion of O2 and CO2. So couldn't an intestine serve as an alternative lung ? This is an idea which could be quickly be tested on dogs or pigs -- use a colonoscope or similar device to insert a tube deep into the colon, pass in O2-enriched air and allow it to pass out again through the anus. Then cut the animal's O2 supply (substitute pure N2, e.g.) and monitor the blood oxygen level. Even if this method is not as effective as normal breathing, it could still be very useful. It probably couldn't substitute completely for a ventilator, but might substantially augment oxygenation for patients in extreme pulmonary distress -- maybe enough to tip the balance. The equipment involved is not much more complicated than the high-flow nasal cannulas commonly in use, and much simpler than a ventilator. When ventilators run out, maybe it could even serve as a stopgap until a ventilator becomes available.

Again, I'm not a doctor, and don't have any in the family or my circle of acquaintances to discuss this with, but I'm just putting this out there to see if anyone can find merit in it, or improve the idea to the point it's more worth considering. Hope it helps someone, somewhere, somewhen.

(Possible later development -- use silicone or fluorocarbon fluids -- artificial blood -- in place of air. Might be of interest for deep-sea diving, or at least SF stories about same.)
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Tue Apr 7, 2020, 12:17 AM (10 replies)
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