Smog pollution in Beijing
Smog pollution has been around since the start of industrialization, and there are many cities that suffer from its consequences. Among them, Beijing is singled out as the hotspot these days. In the past winter, an unprecedented amount of smog cloaked Beijing, filling the city with noxious air and causing convulsive coughing among the local residents. Not only does smog cause inconvenience in transportation by reducing visibility, but also, according to a study at UC Berkeley, smog has a huge impact on people’s health: “people living in the smoggiest cities were 30 percent more likely to have succumbed to lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia.” In his essay, “The Tragedy of The Commons,” Hardin suggests that problems like environmental pollution have no technical solution and that they could be solved effectively through mutual coercion. However, I believe that, besides methods like mutual coercion, technical solutions do exist. In general, technology solves the problems by pushing the limit of the “commons” towards infinity. In “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Garrett Hardin proposes that the problem of the commons is caused by the conflict between the individual interest of a rational self-interested man and the limit of a commons. His reasoning works in the following way: each individual taking a certain amount of resources from/dumping a certain amount of wastes (let’s call this amount A) into the commons brings an individual gain of G to him or her, and a collective loss of L to the whole commons. If the total population over the commons is P, then his or her individual loss becomes roughly L divided by P, which, in most cases, is smaller than his or her gain, G. Therefore, any rational and self-interested man will keep using resources from/dumping wastes into the commons. However, the total available resources/affordable wastes of a commons are limited and let’s call the limit L. If each person uses more and more resources or dumps more and more waste, the increasing A, when multiplied by the total population P, may go above the limit L, resulting in depletion or pollution of the commons. He, furthermore, proposes that there exists no technical solution because the equation A*P=L always hold and that the resource consumption/waste generation A should be limited by mutual coercion so that A is less than L/P. However, there have been many examples of technology solving problems of the commons. For instance, to our ancestors, the Homo sapiens, who lived in the forests of Africa together with many other animals millions of years ago, the commons was the forest around them. The forest had limited food, putting a limit on the population. This limit still holds for the animals: there are still a very limited amount of them living in the same forest now due to food limitation and diseases. However, the offspring of those Homo sapiens, human beings, has grown to a size which is several million times more. With technology for farming, they were able to walk out of the forests. With technology for animal husbandry, they could get food more efficiently without spending too much time to hunt for animals. With technology for shoe making and cloth making, they walked out of the forests and reached every part of the world. In fact, it was the technology that helped them overcome the limitation of the commons. The same thing happened several hundred years ago. In the 1400s, people in the Europe were suffering from poverty and religious intolerance. Not only did they have very limited resources but also various contagious diseases, such as the Black Death and smallpox that made the growth of population and agglomeration of people huge problems. However, with the advancement of technology in sailing and shipbuilding, Columbus discovered a new continent, North America, which is about the same size as Europe. This has enlarged the living space of human beings....
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