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Dreamed 1974/1/15 by Wayan


I'm studying Earth's carrying capacity, and the Tragedy of the Commons. Picture a village with ten cows, each privately owned; but the pasture's held in common. It can sustain ten, but everyone wants to add a second cow--your extra won't quite double your income, since the pasture will degrade about 10%, but each cow will still yield 90% as much milk; your yield is about 180%. Since cows cost a lot and your gains shrink with each, you won't buy many. But that first extra cow degrades the commons only a bit and gains you quite a lot--so many farmers will cheat that much.

Trouble is, OTHERS add extra cows too. Soon the pasture's eaten bare. The cows quit producing. The bare soil erodes too, so even enforcing strict cow-quotas AFTER degradation won't restore it easily. Maybe never. ALL starve--even those who honored their quota.

In short: Adam Smith's "hidden hand" balancing markets fails to protect anything held in common--drinking water, clean air, ozone, fisheries... public health? It's not hypothetical; the overfishing that crashed the cod industry was a Tragedy of the Commons.

But I wonder why my book doesn't frame it more simply: the Tragedy of the Stupid. People who, even when warned of the danger, rob their future--their own children.


The Tower of the Future soars beyond a hard
Breathless pass. Grand view of Needlecrag Maze:
Our troubles to come. If we thread through, the Tower!
Futurians with child bodies, great heads. Geniuses all.

But they're alone no more. Folk from my imbecile age
Hike to the future, reject now for never. Kiss up to clever!
And our far descendants can't say no; for to the sage,
Normality looks adorably dumb. Kittens cutely fall.

So the prodigies wear themselves out in care
of big inept Presentians. Hordes! Fool time-trekkers
Outnumber Futurians now. Eager to help, and they do.
And systems fall like kittens. Futurians even debase
Their own space: play pranks to vent (deniably) their
Disgust for these Commons, for Decency demands
they hospitably endure Degradation. Now all

The drinking fountains spout blue gas-flame; the air
Smoke-tangs. Never was Heaven; elite and too austere.
Dante's Purgatory? More an ivory Shangri-La.
But now, in the once-shining Tower On the Hill,
As I pick up beer-drinkers' litter in the hall,

I scent a gentle whiff of Egalitarian Hell.
I wonder--how far can Fools degrade the Tower
before the Wise bum-rush us all--no, them all
back to their natural habitat? The mall.

Don't mind me. I'm not elite & bitter.
Smothered in cute-stupid litter.

A tower behind crags, a bell curve and a brainy child, a drinking fountain emitting flame, a crushed Bud can. Dream sketches by Wayan.
2017 NOTE

Ignore me. It was forty years ago. I was just a cranky hippie. Come on, how far can the stupid degrade the future? Deny facts, trample science, wreck education, business, government, wreck the planet in a loot-it-now Tragedy of the Commons?

Oh, pretty far.

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