The tragedy of the commons

Having worked in multiple molecular biology laboratories, it’s not hard to notice that science generates a lot of waste. Some labs are worse than others. I’m lucky to be in a lab in which, due to financial and environmental awareness on the part of both students and staff, we really try to reduce waste. We wash and re-use our weigh boats, plastic syringes, our glass culture tubes, sometimes even plastic conical tubes. Many labs don’t do this; many find this practice laughable.┬áThere is also the argument that it costs more in time to wash these things (or in money to pay someone to wash them), than it costs to simply buy more. Herein lies the tragedy of the commons… from the small laboratory to global environmental issues.

The paper The Tragedy of the Commons was published in Science by Garrett Hardin in 1968. I do not remember the exact context in which this piece was recommended to me, but only because it is so applicable to everything and I therefore think about it often. It is something that everyone should read. It discusses the population problem, and obvious related problems. I leave you with a rather long excerpt:


Where does the mind meet the heart?

I’m currently reading a book called, “The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality”, written by the 14th Dalai Lama. Increasingly, it seems that Bhuddism is the only (popular) religion that is compatible with science, and I am discovering that more and more people I know — who share my scientific worldview — also find some appeal in Bhuddism.