If you’ve spent any time here you’ll see I am passionate about making the world a better place.
I imagine that is probably true of most people.
If you’re anything like me you’ve probably spent time wondering how exactly, in a world full of so many issues (and opportunities) you can do that.
This blog is full of my current best answers to that question.
So how did I start on this particular path?
I will spend this blog writing about things like why I believe in donating a percentage of my income to particular charities, why I made the transition to being vegan and what difference I think boycotting Amazon makes. I’ll discuss my personal philosophy and moral code as it develops.
For now though here is a briefish history of how I turned down this path and began this blog.
Politics and Sociology Student
In some ways this has been a long time coming, in others it’s a fairly substantial recent change.
I’ve been interested in the social sciences for a long time. Human rights, justice and equality were all areas that interested me and lead me to a degree in Politics and Sociology.
Although I enjoyed projects like conducting practical research with a local council it was always more theoretical and philosophical issues that engaged me.
Of course what use is a moral code or the concept of an ideal life if you never really live it?
A course on rights lead me to that question through the work of Peter Singer. This module, and his work in particular, forced me to the uncomfortable realisation that I couldn’t justify increasing suffering in the world just because I liked the taste of meat. And so becoming vegetarian was a practical change I could make to live something I believed in.
I didn’t go much further than vegetarianism at the time. I was involved in UK party politics but was eventually left wondering if the hours I put in ever really changed anything. I considered working for a pressure group or charity instead but with so many issues in the world how do you choose where to even start?
In 2013 I happened upon a podcast by Development Drums which featured Toby Ord discussing his Effective Altruism organisation Giving What We Can. From there I eventually found Give Well, 80,000 Hours, the Centre for Effective Altruism and even Peter Singer again not only with The Life You Can Save but also his book Practical Ethics.
Practical Ethics is partly where this blog gets its name from.
The book covers big issues of modern philosophy and politics such as abortion, the environment and poverty but focuses on practical solutions we can all be a part of.
Effective Altruism is one solution that really resonated with me. It combats that feeling of being overwhelmed by the range of problems in the world that so often leads to inaction. Effective Altruism gives you a logical starting place; donate to the charities that have been scientifically shown to do the most good for your money.
Once you know that swapping a few nights out, expensive coffees and trips to the cinema for giving to the right charities results in a life saved then it’s an easy swap to make.
That sense of purpose is quite liberating.
So donating 5% of my income found its way onto my Day Zero to do list. If you’ve not read my post about this I recommend it, the Day Zero list is a great motivational tool and a lot of fun.
Being vegan for a month also went on my Day Zero List. I’d known for some time, deep down, that I really should be vegan. My preference for the taste of meat didn’t outweigh any being’s desire not to suffer, I don’t think my love of cheese is really morally much stronger.
Once again Peter Singer was hard to ignore.
A recommendation for the Ethical Consumer actually came from a friend. The magazine articles are eye-opening and well worth a read but it was the website comparison tools that fascinated me.
Select any product you might buy and find out which companies selling that product score best, and worst, on a range of issues such as environmental, treatment of animals and people and social responsibility.
Part of my veganism stems from using my money to vote. Ethical Consumerism is a chance to vote every time you buy. I don’t support child labour, I do support a living wage. I don’t support the illegal seizing of land for profit, I do support environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil fuels. That said treading through the minefield of ethical shopping can be mind boggling. The Ethical Consumer really makes it much easier.
Practical Steps…Practically Ethics
Each of these areas have led me to practical changes I personally could make. I’m no Peter Singer or Toby Ord but I’m giving it a go.
I’ve strengthened a commitment I made in April 2014 to donate 5% of my pre-tax income to effective charities by taking the Giving What We Can Try Giving Pledge. I’ve changed online media retailers, energy supplier and hope to soon change my bank following Ethical Consumer recommendations. I did my vegan month in September and today, in February 2015, I’m still going.
I’ve made mistakes, but I’m still trying.
Writing this blog was a decision I made at the end of the 2014. I enjoy writing, want to learn more about marketing, fundraising and eventually coding and its public nature will keep me accountable and allow me to connect with others.
I really hope you find it engaging and useful.