Looking for Causes must precede the Finding of Remedies

Garrett Hardin (April 21, 1915 – September 14, 2003) proposed what he called the First Law of Ecology, which states “You cannot do only one thing”. He is also the author of the 1968 paper, The Tragedy of the Commons. I admire Hardin for his deep ecological thinking. Here’s a quote from his book ‘Living Within Limits:Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos‘ (1993, OUP).

… Professional publicists know there is always a good living to be made by catering to the public’s craving for optimistic reports. Such behaviour finds no justification in the attitude of the Buddha, expressed five centuries before Christ: “I teach only two things: the cause of human sorrow and the way to become free of it.” The present work, though written by a non-Buddhist, proceeds along the Buddhist path — first to reveal the causes of human sorrow in population matters and then to uncover promising ways to free ourselves of the sorrow.

Hearing the Buddha’s statement today many people think, “How depressing! Why accept such a pessimistic outlook on life?” But they are wrong: it is not a pessimistic view if we reword it in terms that are more familiar to our science-based society. Reworded: “Here is something that isn’t working right. I want to fix it, but before I can do that I have to know exactly why it doesn’t work right.” One who looks for causes before seeking remedies should not be condemned as a pessimist. In general, a great deal of looking for causes must precede the finding of remedies.

Author: Atanu Dey


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