Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer

There is a book making the rounds of media reviewers right now called "The Life You Can Save." I would review it, but it seems that a lot more eloquent people than me are reviewing it now. Perhaps we'll do an online discussion group on it here soon?

Here is an excerpt from what Dwight Garner of the New York Times about it yesterday:

"Mr. Singer is far from the world’s only serious thinker about poverty, but with “The Life You Can Save” he becomes, instantly, its most readable and lapel-grabbing one. This book is part rational argument, part stinging manifesto, part handbook. It’s a volume that suggests, given that 18 million people are dying unnecessarily each year in developing countries, that there is a “moral stain on a world as rich as this one.” We are not doing enough to help our fellow mortals.

Human beings have an intuitive belief that we should help others in need, Mr. Singer writes, “at least when we can see them and when we are the only person in a position to save them.” But we need to go beyond these intuitions, Mr. Singer declares. And so, early in “The Life You Can Save,” he proposes the following logical argument, one I’ll quote in full:

“First premise: Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care are bad.

Second premise: If it is in your power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything nearly as important, it is wrong not to do so.

Third premise: By donating to aid agencies, you can prevent suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care, without sacrificing anything nearly as important.

Conclusion: Therefore, if you do not donate to aid agencies, you are doing something wrong.”

To reject this argument, Mr. Singer writes, “you need to find a flaw in the reasoning.”

It’s pretty tempting to try to toss Mr. Singer’s argument back in his face. The counterarguments well up in your mind: The economy is tanking. Charity begins at home. I work hard for my money. Charity breeds dependency. Some charity groups waste too much money on overhead. And doesn’t everyone hate a do-gooder? (In a 2008 Reuters poll, Madonna was voted the least-liked celebrity do-gooder. Mr. Singer strongly defends her.)

Mr. Singer convincingly dismisses these counterarguments, and his logical conclusion above is well-nigh irrefutable. Helping the world’s poor will bring “meaning and purpose” to our lives, he suggests, through financial adjustments that will mostly “make no difference to your well-being.” "

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chicago Food Depository: 30 yrs serving the community

One of my favorite Chicago organizations, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, is celebrating 30 years of service. I am proud to have made my small mark on the long history of this phenomenal organization through volunteering at repacks, event steering committees, and financial donations. I encourage in the Chicago area to do the same! My favorite thing about GCFD (of which there are many) is the basic premise it was founded on...taking excess quality food and distributing it to hungry people. Reduce waste...feed the hungry. What could be more logical? Here is an excerpt from their history currently posted on their website at :
The Greater Chicago Food Depository is commemorating its 30th anniversary in 2009. Six individuals—Ann Connors, Father Philip Marquard, Tom O'Connell, Gertrude Snodgrass, Ed Sunshine and Bob Strube—are credited with the founding of the organization, which was modeled after a food bank established in Phoenix in 1967. The organization was named “the Greater Chicago Food Depository,” rather than “Greater Chicago Food Bank” because of an Illinois statute that then prohibited the use of the word “bank” in the name of non-banking entities.

Bob Strube donated warehouse space for the fledgling organization at the historic South Water Market on the Near West Side. Mr. Strube, then president of Strube Celery & Vegetable Company, had been active in hunger-relief causes for many years. For years, he searched for a way to take unused produce and distribute it efficiently to hungry people.

“The poor would go and follow the garbage wagon [at the market] and pick food out,” Mr. Strube said.

The forerunner to the Food Depository was a food cooperative called Feed the Hungry, Inc. that distributed excess produce to low-income individuals for a nominal fee. The co-op, founded in 1970, included more than 20 pickup locations at churches and community centers. Mr. Strube had sketched out ideas for a distribution system as early as 1968.

“Food is real energy,” Mr. Strube said in 1979. “You need the right kinds of food in the right quantities just to have the energy to get up and go to work.”

The parallels between 2009, 1979 and even 1929 are striking.

“You might have your house all paid for, but you still have your taxes,” Mr. Strube said in 1979. “And you’ve got your heat and your electricity and your water bill. You have all these bills to pay and they’re all higher and they have to be paid. The only thing you can cut back on is food.”

The Food Depository has grown through the years—from 471,000 pounds of food and 85 member agencies in its first year to 46 million pounds of food and 600 member agencies last year—but all with the sobering backdrop of deep, continued need in the community. The Food Depository has seen a 33 percent increase in the number of people turning to pantries in the past year.

Monday, March 9, 2009 $3.5 loaned in February 2009

I recently got a note from with some pretty exciting news...
"The shortest month of the year was also Kiva's biggest month ever. You helped us send over $3 and half million dollars to entrepreneurs around the world! In these tough economic times, this is an amazing feat!"
For those who don't know, Kiva is a web-based microlending organization. It is unique in it's ability to connect people across the globe in a personal way. Kiva lets you lend to a specific entrepreneur in the developing world - empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty. All you have to do is go to on the web with your active Paypal account and for $25 you can personally tap into the most effective way to directly fight extreme poverty.

Please visit today!