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Save the Poor, Condemn the Earth

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Manila is a pollution-ridden metropolis. The dissipated smog, contributed by diesel run cars, masks the sky, forcing all sorts of chemicals down the lungs. Garbage is all around, and a seemingly abundant river has been filled to its deepest depths with it. Along with the putrid smells, come the pitiful sights of slums where there hundreds of thousands of people reside. They inhabit shanties comprised of pieces of scrap metal that serve as their roof and walls. In one of these slums, lives a nine-year-old girl named Angela. Everyday she walks through the bustling streets of Metro Manila waiting for cars to halt by the stoplights. She sells homemade necklaces made with the Sampaguita flower, and she also asks for donations to be put into her plastic cup that she took from a fast food restaurant. If people are generous throughout the week, then by Saturday she earns an average of 100 pesos, which is equivalent to two Dollars. In addition to begging, Angela also salvages for leftover food from prominent tourists on a daily basis. Her efforts, and the fruits of labor, enable her to feed her four younger siblings and her abusive father with their usual diet of rice, rock salt and two chicken eggs. The previous scenario is not too far fetched from what occurs daily in third world countries, and there can be something done about this.

Before blindly giving to world organizations however, one must weigh in the repercussions of their charitable action. Is it really worth it? By examining Peter Singer’s utilitarian principles fully displayed in his article, The Singer Solution to World Poverty, and Garret Hardin’s anti-charity mentality in his article, Lifeboat Ethics: the case against helping the poor, the right choice will be evident. To refuse aiding the poor through any avenue is a recurring theme in Garrett Hardin’s article, Lifeboat Ethics: the case against helping the poor. The first topic he discusses is the metaphor of Earth being a spaceship. He chastises this point of view because he claims, “The spaceship metaphor can be dangerous when used by misguided idealists to justify suicidal policies for sharing our resources through uncontrolled immigration and foreign aid” (Hardin 1).

He then adds that earth is not a spaceship, for having a captain in charge is a necessity and Earth definitely lacks a country that acts as a “captain” (Hardin 1). As he concludes his thoughts on the flaws of the spaceship metaphor, he asserts his idea on what the earth really is, a lifeboat (Hardin 1). He claims that earth has a limited amount of land, food and natural resources, and once those resources run out then the situation will be dire (Hardin 1). Hardin then uses a hypothetical situation to that incorporates earth as a lifeboat: So here we sit, say 50 people in our lifeboat. To be generous, let us assume it has room for 10 more, making a total capacity of 60. Suppose the 50 of us in the lifeboat see 100 others swimming in the water outside, begging for admission to our boat or for handouts. We have several options: we may be tempted to try to live by the Christian ideal of being “our brother’s keeper,” or by the Marxist ideal of “to each according to his needs.” Since the needs of all in the water are the same, and since they can all be seen as “our brothers,” we could take them all into our boat, making a total of 150 in a boat designed for 60. The boat swamps, everyone drowns. Complete justice, complete catastrophe. (Hardin 1)

In this short hypothetical situation and the lifeboat metaphor, Hardin delivers a massively important point about overpopulation and how it is a problem that will continue to haunt the earth until something is done about it. As soon as he finishes staking his claim on the dilemma of overpopulation, Hardin then writes about what causes it and the negative effects it has on the earth. One negative effect Hardin mentions that overpopulating and under producing can result in, is global starvation. If the poor continue to procreate at a substantially greater rate than the rich, then aid will be difficult to procure (Hardin 2). If aid is not obtained for the poor, then the country will starve and the World Food Bank will have to kick in.

However, if the food bank which was created as an emergency resource by, and for, a rich country was depleted by a poor country, then what would happen to the rich country if it was struck by famine? Its citizens would perish, thus resulting in a global catastrophe (Hardin 4). In addition to overpopulation being a way for the lifeboat to sink by directly attacking humans, it can also make the lifeboat sink by attacking the environment. Hardin mentions two prime examples to support this idea. One example is the amount of landslides that occurs in modern day India. Because of the massive amount of people that resides there, the soil has been abused to an extent that landslides have become a natural occurrence, causing costly to damages to millions (Hardin 6). The next example would be the Chinese miracle wheat and its incomparable rate of growth. Hardin cites this as an example because the miracle wheat could potentially take up an immense amount of land because it is relatively cheap to grow and it grows quick (Hardin 5).

This would mean the destruction of forests and natural wonders, which would have been untouched if there was not such a great need for more resources, would be an imminent threat. It would be a shame for the entire world to perish because we could not simply look the other way and refuse to lend a hand. Hardin proves throughout his entire article that aiding through the food bank and through financial gifts is a misstep in helping the world as a whole. Hardin’s almost heartless point of view is not the only way to view helping those in need, for Peter Singer also delivers a strong emotional argument in his article, Singer Solution to World Poverty. Singer starts out with a metaphor that centers on a woman in South America. The woman sells a child to an adoption agency thinking that the child has a better future there, but she soon finds out that the child will die because of her (Singer 60). She decides against returning the money and claiming the child again because she just used the money to purchase a new entertainment system (Singer 60). Singer uses this story for two reasons, to tug at those emotions that would inspire to donate money immediately and also to show the similarities between Americans and the woman. He claims that Americans are not giving enough because we spend too much money on luxuries (Singer 60). Singer then mentions that even the U.S. government will not meet the United Nations recommended target of 0.7 percent of gross national product (Singer 63). He is enraged by this fact, so proposes a way to be able to help those in need: So how does my philosophy break down in dollars and cents?

An American household with an income of $50,000 spends around $30,000 annually on necessities, according to the Conference Board, a nonprofit economic research organization. Therefore, for a household bringing in $50,000 a year, donations to help the world’s poor should be as close as possible to $20,000. The $30,000 required for necessities holds for higher incomes as well. So a household making $100,000 could cut a yearly check for $70,000. Again, the formula is simple: whatever money you’re spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away. (Singer 63) Singer conveys his utilitarian point of view and his belief that the world can be fixed when he mentions his philosophy in his article. Although it is noble, it is outrageous that an American must sacrifice that much money, and that weakens his argument immensely. In conclusion, Singer takes a noble stand in defending the poor, but his cause is tarnished when he fails to provide a logical side to the argument.

After analyzing both situations, it is clear that Hardin presents a story that is more logically backed. He inserts statistics about each dilemma that overpopulation produces, while Singer uses more metaphorical situations. Furthermore, Hardin’s article talks about the future and what would occur if overpopulation were not handled, while Singer’s article lacks depth; he only presents the situation of right now. The Singer Solution to World Poverty would have been an efficient way to convince people to contribute to the waning world organizations, but its lack of verifiable data and real life examples caused it to be an article that relied solely on the ethos form of convincing. This is what differentiates Garret Hardin’s article, making it more effective and more convincing, he touched on all three aspects used to convince readers; logos, ethos and pathos. Thus, with his various evidences that proved that aiding the poor destroys nature and could wipe out an entire generation, it is obvious that saving the poor is condemning the earth.

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