Inspirational

Lou

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Got this in the mail a few days ago and I can't stop thinking about it.


Hey readers,

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with Peter Singer, the Princeton moral philosopher whose 1975 book Animal Liberation kick-started the animal-rights movement. My Q&A with him focused largely on his new book Why Vegan? and his reflections on a lifetime of activism on animal rights.

But there’s another Peter Singer book that we didn’t get to talk about then that has also been influential — for me personally and for a generation of activists. And I want to devote some of this space to talking about it.

I first read The Life You Can Save when I was 17. It came at the perfect time: I was then developing an intense and single-minded focus on how to fix everything in the world.

The book, which came out in 2009 (a new edition was published in 2019), opens with a restatement of one of Singer’s most famous thought experiments: You’re on your way to an important meeting when you see a child drowning in a pond. Do you save them, even if it’ll ruin your nice suit and make you late? Most people say yes.

But does it change anything, Singer asks, if the drowning child is 10,000 miles away? If you’re similarly certain that your time and money can save lives, he says, you ought to do that, even if the life you can save is that of someone you’ll never meet.

The book spends the rest of its pages backing up the claims that hold the thought experiment together. Singer demonstrates that there are still people dying of easily preventable causes, like malaria, which is treatable with a cheap course of medication or preventable with a bednet that costs only a few dollars.

Then he points out that there are highly effective and accountable charities that address these issues, and you can donate money so they can expand their operations, allowing them to save more children.

The book is challenging and relentless, not because its argument is complicated but because it’s so simple. You should give some money to the poor because then whole human people, as valuable as you and me, will go on living instead of dying, Singer says.

The book inspired many, many people — including me — to think more seriously about the many simple ways we can help others. The effective altruist movement, aimed at identifying the best ways to do good, grew in significant part out of this book and Singer’s body of work.

Probably the most important person it inspired was Cari Tuna, who along with her husband Dustin Moskovitz has since become one of the most important philanthropists in the world, pouring well-targeted money into key global interventions from malaria to climate change to pandemic preparedness.

But The Life You Can Save’s argument isn’t just for billionaires. It’d be much more comfortable if it was. It’s easy to say that billionaires should do something about all of the problems in the world; it’s a bit harder to say that I personally should.

This year has been terrifying; in that terror, financial security feels more important than ever. I have kids; I want them to have a future, and I have no idea what our fast-changing global economy is going to demand they learn how to do. The suggestion that we give what we can feels demanding in a way that it didn’t when I was 17. I can relate better, now, to the many reasons why most people decide to ignore such a call.

But take it from me: There is a lot of power in choosing to help people, even when it’s not easy, even — or maybe especially — when we’re scared and uncertain ourselves. 2020 has sucked in many ways, but one of those ways has been the helplessness we’ve felt, the sense that whether the world returns to normal, whether we get our lives back, whether our hospitals are overwhelmed, is almost entirely out of our hands.

When I see people bitterly shaming each other online for moderately risky activities (outdoor dining in a walled structure), I see that helplessness. Things are bad, and there’s not much we can do.

But there is so much that we can do about malaria. There is so much we can do about vitamin deficiencies causing blindness. There is so much that we can do about childhood parasite infection, about getting kids vaccinated, about factory farming, about preparedness for the next pandemic. It’s hard, but it works.

Which is why The Life You Can Save’s new edition — available free as an audiobook or ebook — couldn’t have been better timed. When you read The Life You Can Save (and you should read The Life You Can Save), think about the glimpse we’ve seen of what it’s like to live at the mercy of infectious disease, and then remember that most infectious diseases are easy to beat if the organizations fighting them have the resources they need.

Think about how good it feels to step up and meet a challenge instead of being stuck spinning your wheels and waiting for it.

The Life You Can Save is intimidating because it argues you should help people. But it is gloriously empowering because it argues that you can help people.

—Kelsey Piper,
@kelseytuoc
 

Lou

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I already downloaded the ebook. I haven't started it yet. But we should all read it and discuss it.
 
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1956

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I have Never downloaded an ebook... However, this does sound Really good... So I guess that I will try...
 

Lou

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I have Never downloaded an ebook... However, this does sound Really good... So I guess that I will try...
it IS really easy. but if you have any troubles, send me a PM. Also if you need ideas on how to read an ebook, let me know. I can help you there, too.
 

Ahimsa

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Got this in the mail a few days ago and I can't stop thinking about it.


Hey readers,

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with Peter Singer, the Princeton moral philosopher whose 1975 book Animal Liberation kick-started the animal-rights movement. My Q&A with him focused largely on his new book Why Vegan? and his reflections on a lifetime of activism on animal rights.

But there’s another Peter Singer book that we didn’t get to talk about then that has also been influential — for me personally and for a generation of activists. And I want to devote some of this space to talking about it.

I first read The Life You Can Save when I was 17. It came at the perfect time: I was then developing an intense and single-minded focus on how to fix everything in the world.

The book, which came out in 2009 (a new edition was published in 2019), opens with a restatement of one of Singer’s most famous thought experiments: You’re on your way to an important meeting when you see a child drowning in a pond. Do you save them, even if it’ll ruin your nice suit and make you late? Most people say yes.

But does it change anything, Singer asks, if the drowning child is 10,000 miles away? If you’re similarly certain that your time and money can save lives, he says, you ought to do that, even if the life you can save is that of someone you’ll never meet.

The book spends the rest of its pages backing up the claims that hold the thought experiment together. Singer demonstrates that there are still people dying of easily preventable causes, like malaria, which is treatable with a cheap course of medication or preventable with a bednet that costs only a few dollars.

Then he points out that there are highly effective and accountable charities that address these issues, and you can donate money so they can expand their operations, allowing them to save more children.

The book is challenging and relentless, not because its argument is complicated but because it’s so simple. You should give some money to the poor because then whole human people, as valuable as you and me, will go on living instead of dying, Singer says.

The book inspired many, many people — including me — to think more seriously about the many simple ways we can help others. The effective altruist movement, aimed at identifying the best ways to do good, grew in significant part out of this book and Singer’s body of work.

Probably the most important person it inspired was Cari Tuna, who along with her husband Dustin Moskovitz has since become one of the most important philanthropists in the world, pouring well-targeted money into key global interventions from malaria to climate change to pandemic preparedness.

But The Life You Can Save’s argument isn’t just for billionaires. It’d be much more comfortable if it was. It’s easy to say that billionaires should do something about all of the problems in the world; it’s a bit harder to say that I personally should.

This year has been terrifying; in that terror, financial security feels more important than ever. I have kids; I want them to have a future, and I have no idea what our fast-changing global economy is going to demand they learn how to do. The suggestion that we give what we can feels demanding in a way that it didn’t when I was 17. I can relate better, now, to the many reasons why most people decide to ignore such a call.

But take it from me: There is a lot of power in choosing to help people, even when it’s not easy, even — or maybe especially — when we’re scared and uncertain ourselves. 2020 has sucked in many ways, but one of those ways has been the helplessness we’ve felt, the sense that whether the world returns to normal, whether we get our lives back, whether our hospitals are overwhelmed, is almost entirely out of our hands.

When I see people bitterly shaming each other online for moderately risky activities (outdoor dining in a walled structure), I see that helplessness. Things are bad, and there’s not much we can do.

But there is so much that we can do about malaria. There is so much we can do about vitamin deficiencies causing blindness. There is so much that we can do about childhood parasite infection, about getting kids vaccinated, about factory farming, about preparedness for the next pandemic. It’s hard, but it works.

Which is why The Life You Can Save’s new edition — available free as an audiobook or ebook — couldn’t have been better timed. When you read The Life You Can Save (and you should read The Life You Can Save), think about the glimpse we’ve seen of what it’s like to live at the mercy of infectious disease, and then remember that most infectious diseases are easy to beat if the organizations fighting them have the resources they need.

Think about how good it feels to step up and meet a challenge instead of being stuck spinning your wheels and waiting for it.

The Life You Can Save is intimidating because it argues you should help people. But it is gloriously empowering because it argues that you can help people.

—Kelsey Piper,
@kelseytuoc
I've read a few of Peter Singer's books but I'd not heard of this one until now, so I shall send for it tomorrow. Singer is my favourite philosopher for many reasons but most of all he's my favourite because he addresses the most important issue of all, how we treat others, no matter what their species.
 
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