We are destroying the planet. At certain point, we will be forced to stop reproducing and perhaps we will be killed due to the lack of resources (e.g. Donald Trump will not hesitate to shoot people from shitty countries). But such solution will be coercitive, not voluntary. Now, before reaching such point, is the time to think about the voluntary options.

From an ethical point of view, should I choose to live or to die in this current context, so I stop consuming resources and allow others to persist on this planet?

(naturally, I wish to live; but I need to get a philosophical / ethical approach, if I should die for others, including Trump, to persist, and perhaps in order to create laws allowing people to die voluntarily in order for others to survive. Or if a voluntary option is not allowable, and why)

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    There's nothing ethical about suicide. Augustine said, "It is utterly wrong that anyone should be ungrateful to the Creator's goodness for his existence."
    – user3017
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 9:14
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    @PeDeLeao That is absolutely subjective. A lot of people died and continues to die voluntary for the benefit of others, and that seems ethical. Or Jesus acted unethically.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 9:54
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    @RodolfoAP: According to Dilthey, a German historian and philosopher, law is an objective form of human subjectivity, it's not just naive subjectivity; so to charactise theological law as 'absolutely subjective' is plain wrong. It's not just Christianity that says suicide is wrong, Islam also says it. Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 12:44
  • David Hume didn't think suicide was so wrong. Indeed, in some cases, he argued well that suicide may indeed be justified. See, e.g. davidhume.org/texts/suis.html
    – amWhy
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 0:42
  • That's an argument to believers of Augustine's Theology, @PédeLeão
    – amWhy
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 0:48

4 Answers 4


Outside of the context of a tightly controlled thought experiment, there's nothing to suggest that your personal death would do anything substantial to improve conditions for the rest of us. The Earth actually has more than enough resources to sustain an even larger population than the one we have. The real problem is that we are consuming resources wastefully, inefficiently, and needlessly. As Gandhi said, "The Earth has enough resources to meet the needs of all, but not enough to satisfy the greed of even one person."

There is also little to suggest that your own death would inspire the needed cultural change to shift to sustainable living, or that even the voluntary suicides of massive percentages of the population would keep the remaining people from offsetting any gains with increased consumption.

If you are willing to die to promote sustainable living, a better, and potentially more effective option might be to devote your life to that same end (while, of course, personally living as sustainably as possible).


I'm going to challenge the framing of this question by suggesting that what you have put forward is a False Dichotomy. You posit that the only options available are either to Die and therefore assist in depopulation, or not to Die and therefore overpopulate the world and cause everyone to die later.

Ignoring the veracity of that supposition for now, there's no actual reason for these to be the only two options available. You do not want any options that involve coercion- fine, those are not required, either.

Assuming sufficient technological advances (which are not quite as far-fetched as one might immediately assume) the citizens of the world could voluntarily choose additional options, such as leaving the Earth for an extraterrestrial colony. End result? The universe is preposterously huge. Stars would burn out before we overpopulated even just our tiny solar system, let alone the galaxy or universe.

If not, perhaps they like the idea of living forever? Just one catch- you have to be made infertile. This is still a voluntary choice- it just comes with a wonderful benefit. End result? People are happy, healthy, and the population is stable.

These are only two examples, but you can see where I'm going with this.

  • Despite it does not address the precise issue, this is an excellent point of view. But currently, there are no alternatives that can be seriously considered. Family and friends that I have risk becoming climate refugees along the next 10 years due to the lack of water in several cities. If this is a false dichotomy, I fail to see real alternatives than addressing overpopulation directly.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 17:34

Check out Edward G. Robinson's character in the movie Soylent Green (just google that for lots more info), particularly this scene https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOV8mBjHHYg where, exactly like you suggest, he voluntarily dies to help mitigate global overcrowding. (And I'd guess you'd find the entire movie pretty interesting and entertaining, though I'm not googling a free viewing of the whole thing online. Harvey Weinstein would've particularly liked the part where rental apartment accoutrements typically included gorgeous live-in concubines, but maybe that's off-topic here:)

Anyway, I wouldn't worry too much about it. When the time comes, natural selection will see to it that in a world without sufficient resources to support its then-current population, only the fittest will survive. And "fit" may indeed include, as you suggest, those willing to shoot others. But one thing's for sure -- "fit" won't ever include those willing to shoot themselves.

P.S. For those who already know the answer... should I spoil it and tell the op what "soylent green" actually is? That oughta provide yet another interesting (if yechy/macabre) ethical question:)

  • I had put the script up earlier but I took it down! I am partial to the first scene, I think the movie was made in 1972-73. The Club of Rome/MIT Limits to Growth report had come out in 1972, but the scientists at the Wall Street Journal found problems with it.
    – Gordon
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 6:04
  • Thanks, but a) this should be a comment, since it does not answer the question but elucidates collateral issues; b) I am not worried, I know nature will solve its problems (and that will be coercitive for humans): I ask about non coercitive options. This was already clearly stated.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 9:44
  • I'vevread Soylent Green - wasn't it by Robert Silverberg. Brilliant parody. I know what the punch-line is... Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 12:46
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    @RodolfoAP Yeah, it actually started as a comment, but I cut-and-pasted it into an answer when it got too long, and just shrugged off the strict comment/answer distinction. You recall what Emerson said about consistency?:)
    – user19423
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 20:41

Wise people never do anything without thinking twice; especially before sacrificing their life.

If a few people in a country died for others just for increasing others' lifespan, would it be good to the country if their (other people's) aim is just enjoying themselves exploiting the natural resources? Do you think the ruler would be the same person always? Don't you know that it will take 'no time' to change the complete scenario? Can't you think that the power that controls the whole universe in micro and macro-level, can solve the problem you stated?

if I should die for others, including Trump, to persist, and perhaps in order to create laws allowing people to die voluntarily in order for others to survive.

When you cannot predict your own character how could you predict another person's character? Would the ruler think in the same way you think?

Did you think about the tiny creatures that live because of humans? Don't other creatures have the same right to live in this world as humans? Don't you know truth that the life-style of other countries can affect your country?

You said you wish to live. Then you should think of an alternative. sacrificing your life is not a good solution.

Is it ethical to try to survive on this context?

Even if you blamed yourself (since you began your question with "we"), I do believe you haven't done any mistake. As from an individual's point of view, if you tried to survive, it is never unethical.
The mistakes you made might be trifle when comparing others. If so, you can say that it is ethical if you are going to remedy immediately by doing some good activities for protecting the environment.

Since human community is the villain here, we can treat this as unethical while treating them as a group. But, since we can't blame one particular person for all the evil activities, we shouldn't take this into account.

You may read this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect

You can find people in almost all parts of the world who wish to increase the population of their own category. In this context you can think over it and verify whether this issue is to be treated as ethical or unethical.

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