Over at TED.com, a website where videos are posted of speakers discussing things from consciousness and virtual reality to comedy and architecture, there are often talks dealing with issues such as hunger, AIDS, and poverty. Shockingly, to me, many people who post comments on these videos strongly oppose measures helping those suffering based on the fact that "there are already far too many people on this planet." Helping those who are currently dying or otherwise suffering, the logic goes, increases the ecological and economical burden on the world by letting more people live longer and healthier lives, which, they seem to think, will ultimately worsen conditions for everyone via lack of resources. So my question is this. Assume it is true that there are too many people on this planet (a debatable fact that depends on what metrics one uses). Is it then ethical to let millions die because helping them would further increase the ecological burden humanity places on the planet?

I let others answer the hypothetical. The key point to stress in response to such comments is that the assumption on which they are based is empirically false (see my answer to question 2459 at www.askphilosophers.org/question/2459). We are fortunate that the moral imperative to eradicate the massive incidence of hunger, severe poverty and trivial diseases is in harmony with the moral imperative to bequeath a sustainable world, with a sustainable human population, to future generations. It is very unfortunate that this fact is not widely known. It should be stressed in any discussion of your hypothetical: a morally attractive and highly cost-effective way of slowing human population growth is to fight hunger, severe poverty and trivial diseases and to promote education, especiaally for girls and women.

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