Making a difference – could you up your game too?

I have always wanted to make a difference; I think most people do.

As a young teenager, I remember giving away all my Christmas money after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. I understood that I didn’t actually need that money, and there were other people who needed it desperately. As I grew older, I began to realise that this desperate need doesn’t go away just because the news cameras have moved on, or is only present in the wake of a disaster. Extreme poverty is an everyday fact of life for thousands of people, a fact not deemed newsworthy only because of its constant, ongoing nature.

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Cognitive Dissonance

I recently committed a crime. I know that isn’t a promising confession from someone who wants you to read their blog about living a more ethical life, but hear me out.

It was a crime against reason and a crime against my values. It was also an actual ‘breaking the law’ crime. And I got caught.

Here’s what happened. I caught a train. I didn’t buy a ticket. This was noticed, and I paid for it in the form of some mild social shaming and a £20 fine. Sleep safe in your beds tonight, everyone. The system works.

Why am I telling you this in a blog about leading an ethical life? Is it to absolve myself of guilt via public confession? Not really.

The fact is, I didn’t feel that bad at all about what I’d done, and this illustrates an interesting wider barrier we all have to living more ethically; trying to avoid cognitive dissonance.

cognitive

 

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A climate of concern? Why we have to keep talking about climate change

What do you love?

This is the slightly surprising question the Climate Coalition has been asking. As the UK’s largest group dedicated to lobbying on climate change, and with everyone from Oxfam to the RSPB providing input, they should be a force to be reckoned with – but there’s a problem.

Climate change has fallen out of public consciousness – or rather, we’ve simply gotten used to the idea. It’s like a scratching noise coming from the walls of your house or a long, low buzzing; increasingly troubling, increasingly something you must try to fix, then – something you’re used to. Something you accept. You no longer worry about what the scratching in the walls might mean. You have long since stopped hearing the buzzing sound.

world

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Why financial education matters for smarter giving

This academic year, financial education was made part of the compulsory national curriculum in the UK for the first time.

This is fantastic news for young people, but also potentially for effective altruism. Most effective altruists that I have met have a good understanding of finance and economics, which is unsurprising in a movement which seeks to do the most good by giving. However, to spread effective altruism on a large scale, we need to be mindful that large numbers of people have a poor understanding of personal finance.

Learning time

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Bad Habits 101: The Ethics of Gossip

Have You Heard? You are going to want to hear this, trust me….

earBeing ethical is about more than our grand gestures or big lifestyle choices. We can make the world a better place even by changing our little habits.

With that in mind, I wanted to share this recent experience.

I am often preoccupied with how I can be a more ethical person. It’s something I make a genuine effort with, and spend a lot of time thinking about. But the other day I got called out for behaving in a less than ethical way, over something so simple it completely slipped under my radar.

Gossiping.

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Vegan, Vegetarian or Meat in Moderation: Any Good is Good

goat

There are many important ethical reasons for eating less meat. For one, rearing animals for meat simply isn’t sustainable; livestock use up many more calories in being fed than they produce in the form of meat.

The impact of farming for meat on the environment is also extreme; livestock herds account for around 10% of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions as well as widespread deforestation, not to mention high levels of ammonia and nitrate pollution from animal waste.

If we bring to this picture inhumane farming practises – where animals are kept in shocking conditions and killed cruelly – and the question of whether it is ever even right to take the life of a sentient creature, we have a pretty compelling list of reasons to stop eating meat and other animal products right now.

It’s just that actually doing it is a lot harder than saying it.

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Compassion for all; a critique of Effective Altruism

In my last post, I wrote about ways to support people experiencing street homelessness. Some of these ways involved giving money. This brings me to two important questions:

Could this money go further if I spent it elsewhere? Could I be using my money in a more effective way?

The short answer to both is yes. Effective altruism is a growing movement which attempts to make the world a better place using only the most impactful, evidence based methods. It does this in part by rigorously examining charities to see which are the most effective.

Giving What We Can, one of the organisations at the Centre for Effective Altruism, found that some charities do 1000 times as much good as others.

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