|University of Kentucky||College of Agriculture||Agripedia|
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Triage is the approach used by medical personnel in an emergency to classify patients as to the seriousness of their injuries, the amount of medical care required, and the likelihood that an immediate medical intervention will lead to the patient's survival. Patients are divided into three groups which determine the timing and level of medical attention they receive so that scarce medical resources are directed at those patients who will benefit the most from this care.
Garrett Hardin, a biologist, suggested in the 1970s that given the scarcity of world food resources, emergency food aid should be provided on a triage basis. He and others argue that for one group of nations, their rate of population growth and the size of their population has so overburdened the ability of their natural environment to support the population that no matter how much food aid or other assistance is provided, these nations will inevitably face a major population collapse. A second group of nations may occasionally face a brief crisis due to natural disaster or political or social upheaval, but their natural environment can easily sustain their current population. These nations need little help, even in a crisis, because their population is in balance with their own resource base. A third group of nations are poised on the edge of population or environmental disaster, but their physical environment has not been so degraded that it cannot support the population if major food and technical assistance is provided quickly. Hardin argues that to provide any kind of assistance to the first group of nations is to both delay the inevitable population crisis and to make the number of persons affected much greater than it would be. The second group of nations will manage to survive any crisis without assistance because they have sufficient resources in balance with their population. Food and technical assistance should be directed only at the third group of nations where assistance has a likelihood of helping nations bring their population into balance with their resource base.