Garrett Hardin rightly lays the blame:
The pollution problem is a consequence of population. It did not much matter how a lonely American frontiersman disposed of his waste. “Flowing water purifies itself every 10 miles,” my grandfather used to say, and the myth was near enough to the truth when he was a boy, for there were not too many people. But as population became denser, the natural chemical and biological recycling processes became overloaded, calling for a redefinition of property rights.
(Quoted from "The Tragedy of the Commons," by Garrett Hardin; page 1245 of the 13 December 1968 issue of Science.)
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