Saturday, September 12, 2015

Portland II

Effective Altruism

From Wikipedia: "Effective altruism is a philosophy and social movement that applies evidence and reason to determine the most effective ways to improve the world. Effective altruists aim to consider all causes and actions, and then act in the way that brings about the greatest positive impact.[1] It is this broad evidence-based approach that distinguishes effective altruism from traditional altruism or charity. While a substantial proportion of effective altruists have focused on the nonprofit sector, the philosophy of effective altruism applies much more broadly, e.g., to prioritizing the scientific projects, companies, and policy initiatives which can be estimated to save and improve the most lives.[2] Notable people associated with the movement include Peter Singer,[3] Dustin Moskovitz[4] and Toby Ord.[5]"

I got to hear Peter Singer a few nights ago in a town not far from Portland. Peter Singer, aside from being a founder and developer of the idea of Effective Altruism, is also an animals rights activist (and vegan). He is in fact one of the main founders of the whole animal rights movement of today with his book "Animal Liberation", which he wrote in 1975.

This is the website Doing Good Better:

A little disclaimer: Peter Singer wrote a whole book on Effective Altruism and I have not yet read it, so this post is the post of a "poor" person (poor with knowledge). I'm writing from the knowledge I acquired in an hour-and-a-half long session (lecture and then Q&A) with Peter Singer the other night.
It was so inspiring that I felt the need to write about it and spread the idea even before I get my hands on the book.

Some of the main points Peter Singer spoke about (some of these ideas are by his fellow Effective Altruists, who also wrote books or have websites): We can easily save lives of humans and animals, without much effort or much money. In a lifetime we spend around 80,000 hours in our careers, but much less time deciding what career to choose. If we chose a career that effectively helpful to the world, we would actually be spending 80,000 hours of our lifetime doing good, worthwhile work for the world. If we donated about a tenth of our income to charities, such as organizations helping prevent blindness in developing countries, we could easily save thousands of children from blindness (Matt Wage, for instance, went into a finance career to make as much money as possible, and only one year after graduation, had already donated $100,000 to effective charities). And of course, a course of life that can tremendously benefit people, animals and the world itself, and Peter Singer does not forget to mention this, is going vegan and promoting veganism. (If you want an extended understanding of how veganism benefits everyone, you can search online, or ask any knowledgeable vegan.) 

I didn't go to the book signing line to talk to Peter Singer, although I probably should have. I should have told him that I'm from Israel and that the animal rights movement is Israel has really been taking off in the past few years, that Effective Altruism is an idea I'm sure many Israelis would be inspired from and that I think he should come to Israel to talk to us Israelis. I'm not in a high enough position in the Israeli animal rights world to be able to bring him to Israel myself, and I'm not associated with any one particular animal rights organization in order to propose the idea of trying to bring him, but I will definitely do something about this. Because this is wonderful and inspiring. It's an easy idea to spread, and if people realized how easily they could help the world, the world would be helped a whole lot more. 

"If we admit that animal suffering is comparable to human suffering, then we shouldn't disregard that just because they are animals and we are humans."


I'm really liking Portland. Everything and everyone is Clean. That's the word that came to mind the other day when we walked through Portland's weekly Farmer's Market. Lush green trees framed the scene of clean sidewalks, clean people with clean clothes, walking in the park between vendors of fruits and vegetables and local farm products, baked goods, food and flowers. The people are young, hip and colorful. Kind of like many Israelis. Everyone seems nice, and not in a phony way. 
My couch-surfing host is lovely. A few nights ago we went to a vegan bar, Sweet Hereafter, where I drank something really good but I forgot what it was called, and met some nice people.
We went to a drag show and a dance performance, a vegan brunch restaurant and a vegan pizza place. I'm probably forgetting some more things, but the photos I'll post in the next blog post will have tidbits from everything.
I still have to get a few last-minute hiking stuff, and then in a few days I'm setting off on the Pacific Crest Trail with Bob and Cameron.


My aloneness is sinking in, but not in a bad way.

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