Essay The Effective Concept of Lifeboat Ethics

Essay The Effective Concept of Lifeboat Ethics

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Lifeboat Ethics is a metaphor for the process of wealth and resource distribution as described by ecologist Garrett Hardin. In 1974, he published an article called, “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case against Helping the Poor,” that outlines his reasons that the wealthy nations of the world should not be wholly responsible for supporting the needs of the poor. Donald Kennedy and William Clark both wrote articles in regard to the concept of lifeboat ethics and the tragedy of the commons. In the article, Hardin defines the concept he terms lifeboat ethics and defends his utilitarian approach to the problem of wealth distribution by offering interesting solutions through use of his appeal to reasoning; however, his metaphor finds fault in assuming that the problem is solved when the richer countries completely stop aiding the poorer countries.
Garrett Hardin’s use of logos assisted in explaining the concept of lifeboat ethics. His hypothesis is that people in richer nations should not do anything in terms of sustainability for the people of poorer nations. Hardin disagrees with how environmentalists label the Earth as a “spaceship,” citing that a spaceship implies that there is a single ruler in charge of all the Earth’s resources for every single country. Instead, he labels Earth as a lifeboat in which the rich nations are aboard and have the necessary resources to sustain themselves, while those in the water swimming to the lifeboat are the poorer nations who want to share in that wealth. This is an excellent analogy in how one can visualize the problem with an ever-expanding population. His use of logos made it exceptionally clear in how problematic the wealth distribution is. For example, in the “Adrift in a Moral Sea” chapter, Hardin cr...


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...rden on the availability, sustainability and distribution of Earth’s natural resources. Hardin’s essay, written in the ‘70s introduced many of the problems humans face today. He had such a great insight to use the research he did and correctly predict that many of the poorer countries would effectively double in population by this time. With more and more people being added to this planet each day, something has to be done in order to save us from ourselves.



Works Cited

Clark, William C. "Two Cheers For The Commons." Environment 40.10 (1998): 1. Academic Search Complete. Web.
Hardin, Garrett. “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case against Helping the Poor.” Reading the World: Ideas that Matter. 2nd ed. Ed. Michael Austin. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. 357-368. Print.
Kennedy, Donald. "Sustainability and the Commons." Science 12 Dec. 2003: 1861. Academic Search Complete. Web.

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