What is it?

Have you ever heard of Peter Singer or Toby Ord?

If yes, then you probably already stumble upon the Effective Altruism concept.

If not, this post will help you understand what effective altruism is

and how you can join the movement.

Effective altruism is a philosophy and a movement

that aims to use reasoning to do the most good.

3 big ideas of effective altruism are:


Impartiality

Impartiality is about taking sympathy and compassion out of the picture when it comes to helping others, and instead use impartial and impersonal reasoning. This evidently leads to the conclusion that the ones that should be benefited are not the ones closer to us, or whose misfortune is closer to out hearts, but instead the ones who are in the worst conditions and suffering the most.


Cause prioritization

Most organizations and non-profits focus on a single cause. A true effective altruist is not concerned with a cause above other. Instead, they prioritize the causes based on if they can be advanced significantly in an efficient way. A cause that has a bigger benefit and affects more people is likely to be prioritized over another that produces less good.


Cost-effectiveness

Very connected to the last idea, is cost-effectiveness. When choosing a cause or organization an effective altruist will prioritize the one that can do the most good with the least amount of resources. This can be expressed for example in quality-adjusted life years (QALY) saved per dollar. The bigger this number the more cost-effective is the cause or organization.


An illustrative argument in favour of effective altruism

Let us say you are walking in a park by yourself and you see a child drowning in the nearby lake. What would you do? I am going to assume you would heroically jump into the lake and save the child. Now let’s say you just bought a new pair of shoes that you love and you know will be damaged if you go in the water. You have no time to take them off. Would you still save the child? Most likely yes. A life of a child is way more important than the cost of your new shoes. Now let us say the park is located in one country and the lake in the neighbouring country and there is a border (not a physical one) in between. Is that an impediment to save the child? Probably not. The life of a child from other nationality is as important as the life of the child from our own country. Now let us say this child, instead of in a lake right next to us, is dying in a country we cannot see. Would you still sacrifice the cost of a pair of new shoes to save this child? Most of us don’t. We distance ourselves from problems we cannot see, even when saving a life is relatively easy and inexpensive. Something simple like a mosquito net that can protect a child from contracting malaria costs some mere 30dkk (4eur).


How to donate?

You can be saving hundreds of lives if you become rational about your donations and start allocating resources, even if few, to cost effective organizations. And how do you find these causes? That is easy, there are organization dedicated to research the causes that do the most good. Give Well is just one example. And you can still choose what are your personal priorities. The movement focus on several causes like global poverty alleviation, animal welfare, long-term future and global catastrophic risks, among others.

But if we all donate of effective organizations, then all other organizations lose funding. Shouldn’t we diversify?

The answer is no. There will always be people donating for causes that are resonate with them in some emotional way, but for an effective altruist the priority is to do the most good possible with the resources they allocate. This implies to always donate to effective causes disregarding personal preferences. Once that cause is tackled and resolved, then we can move on and make other cause our new priority. And that is how you properly solve all the world’s problems, or at least you try.


A change in perspective

If you think your small donation will not make a difference, think again. In the big world that we live in, a small amount like 300dkk(40eur) can make a huge impact. This amount is more than the average monthly income per capita for a country like Afghanistan or the Democratic Republic of Congo. We in the developed world have the added responsibility of contributing to help the problems of the world. This line of thought does not come from a place of superiority or pity charity, it comes from reasoning. If we have more resources and can apply them better somewhere else in the world then that is the rational thing to do.

And if you think you don’t have many resources - maybe you are just a student, eating noodles most nights - it’s time to change your perspective and check your own privilege. You are probably still on the top 20% of the richest people in the world. In fact you can check that here. So, giving the equivalent to a Spotify subscription every month to an effective charity can make a real change in the world without impacting your finances significantly.


Giving What We Can Pledge

If effective altruism is something for you, maybe you should check the Giving What We Can Pledge. In 2009, Oxford philosophers Toby Ord and Will MacAskill created the Giving What We Can Pledge based on the effective altruism philosophy. Similarly, to the Giving Plegde (a pledge taken by the world’s wealthiest individuals that commit to giving out the majority of their wealth to philanthropy) the Giving What We Can Pledge is also about committing to give a significant amount of your income to charity. Members that take the pledge commit to give 10% of their income to effective altruism causes for the rest of their lives. More than 5000 people already took the pledge. But if this sounds scary, they have a Try Giving Pledge, where you can commit to donate 1% or more of your income for a limited amount of time. And if you have no income? Then you can commit to donate 1% of your life expenses. There are no excuses to not give it a try.

There is only one place in the world that I know of, where you can swim in a busy urban harbour, ski down the roof of a green-energy power station, drive a solar-powered boat, stay in an eco-friendly hotel and dine on organic food on every street corner! It's the city of Copenhagen, one of the world’s most sustainable cities.


Denmark’s capital has long put sustainability at the top of its agenda, as have many of the people living here. As one of this city landmarks of sustainable living works Copenhill. An eco-friendly, green-energy power station built in a shape of a year-round artificial ski and snowboard slope, which turns waste into energy to supply tens of thousands of homes and businesses. It's a perfect example of the way Danes think about their environment and future.

It is no secret that Denmark likes its way to be the green way, and that this country is a leader when it comes to innovation. So, why is Denmark perceived as such? What is the reason behind Danes' ability to think outside the box and in such a sustainable way?


First we have to understand

"What is sustainability?"

Sustainability is a very open concept and means different things to different people. To the Danes, sustainability is a holistic approach that includes renewable energy, water management, waste recycling, and green transportation including the bicycling culture.

Through years and years of efforts and improvements, Denmark has built a world-class.



What is "The Danish Mindset?"

From the time they are small children, Danes are told to question conventional wisdom - and encouraged to come up with something better. That makes innovation and entrepreneurship a natural part of their thinking process. Danes are brought up to question authority, which makes them powerful innovators.


Almost every Danish company is based on a flat hierarchy as their organizational structure, meaning that no matter on which level Your position in the Company might be You can direct all your work concerns or creative ideas to whomever you like. Danes base on equality in every aspect of their lives.


That might explain their spark for innovation, but why are they so good at Sustainability You ask?

They prefer sustainable means of travel

All buses are changing from diesel to electric, while more and more road surfaces are devoted to cycling.You can rent an electric bike at low cost, perhaps traversing the harbour on one of the two recently constructed cycle bridges.


Prefer to travel by water? Hire a GoBoat to explore the canals of Copenhagen. Taking up to eight people, the boats have electric, solar-powered engines and are made from wood from sustainable sources.

They use sustainable solutions to everyday problems

The Capital city of Denmark already has more than its fair share of parks and green spaces. Much of the harbor district, and Refshaleøen across it, have already been regenerated with sustainable design, such as grass roofs that both filter rainwater and insulate their buildings.


Moreover Copenhagen has some of the most innovative solutions to deal with pollution in the city, like GreenKayak. It’s an organization that works to reduce the amount of garbage floating in the coastal waters of Copenhagen. The idea is simple – get a free GreenKayak trip in return for collecting trash & sharing this on social media. GreenKayak also shares knowledge, and helps people of all ages get out on our beautiful oceans and take action. What distinguishes Denmark from almost all other European countries, is the proactive approach of successive governments to sustainability issues. The country's environmentalists point out that Denmark was the first in the continent to establish an official environment ministry (back in 1971, almost three decades before the UK).


The Country also has equipped itself with powerful tax incentives for low-carbon technologies (Denmark boasts some of the most cutting edge wind turbine manufacturers in the world today) and renewable energy generation. Driving more and more entrepreneurs towards Sustainable ways. In the city of Copenhagen energy saving renovation is on the top of the list of Climate Plan 2025, the strategic document for city development. The main goal of the Climate Plan is to reach zero level of CO2 emissions by 2025, so Copenhagen can be the first CO2 neutral capital in the world.

If that doesn’t make you want to move to Denmark, I don’t know what will. No matter if You are or aren’t planning on coming here, there are few ways to get closer to Danish mindset and be more sustainable in Your life. And they are easier than you think.


Here are few Danish ways of being more sustainable and environment friendly, that You can implement in Your life from even tomorrow.



TRAVEL BY BIKE

If you’ve ever had a pleasure to visit Denmark, you may have noticed the herds of bicycles parked all around public spaces. Cycling really is a part of everyday life here in Denmark. That’s because the Danish attitude to transport is different. Driving feels unnecessary to many Danes, as well as it being cripplingly expensive.

So, why would they deviate from hopping on a bike for free? It makes a lot of sense and creates zero emissions at the same time! No to mention the huge tax for car owners.


HOW CAN YOU IMPLEMENT CYCLING INTO YOUR ROUTINE?

It’s as simple as riding a bike! Start with smaller trips to test out the roads around you. And, make sure you look up the rules of the road before you begin!

EAT ORGANIC AND STOP WASTING FOOD

Organic produce grows without the help of pesticides or chemical fertilisers. This means that there's no unhealthy runoff that will go on to pollute local water supplies. In general, organic food is regarded as being better for humans too. So, you can see why the Danes are big fans of organic agricultural practices. Not only do the Danes eat organic, they also fight food waste with an app like ‘To Good To Go’ that allows you to purchase food not sold by the restaurants by the end of the day for a cheaper price. Normally this food would be thrown out, instead the Danes can enjoy their favourite meals almost for free. Another interesting initiative based in Copenhagen is a non profit organization called Food Sharing. They collect food that is still good but can no longer be sold due to regulations of big super markets and give it away to people who could use it. You can read more about it here.


READY TO INCORPORATE ORGANIC PRODUCE INTO YOUR OWN LIFE?

There are organic options available in most large supermarkets. If you can’t find them there, try going to local farmer's markets instead. Although organic produce tends to be more expensive than normal food, it’s worth it for you and the environment.

Perhaps, have a think about what you shop each week. Do you buy excess food which doesn’t get eaten anyway? Try cutting these parts of your shopping list to conserve extra money for organic food.

RECYCLE!

Denmark was one of the very first recycling innovators! Back in 1978, the Danes created the world’s first law on recycling! They stated that at least 50% of all paper and beverage packaging should be recycled. They’ve kept up this revolutionary spirit since!

Since 2008, a recycling system called PANT has been in operation in Denmark. To encourage people to recycle, a small deposit is added on to the price of plastic and glass bottles. When returned to a supermarket, the customer receives their deposit back. It has proven hugely popular. The PANT system is expanding even now.


SO, GET RECYCLING WHEREVER YOU ARE!

If you’re unsure about the facilities in your local area, get in touch with your authorities or look online. It’s worth working out what can be recycled and what you have to put in the bin. If too many incorrect items are put in recycling, a whole batch may have to be put in landfill.




For our first post for Wednesday Mindfulness, we will start of by posting a quick and easy mindfulness activity – A breathing exercise!



Breathing exercises can be quick and be done anywhere by everyone - At home, at work, in school, wherever you have a few minutes to yourself. It can help reduce stress, anxiety, improve blood flow, increase energy levels, improve digestion and much more. Here is one breathing exercise that can be done in a few minutes or longer, depending on how much time you have. Before getting started, find a comfortable position. It could be in a comfortable chair, on the floor or on your bed and keep your eyes closed, as it makes it easier to focus on your breathing.


Step 1: Breathe in through your nose. Let your belly fill with air. Step 2: Breathe out through your nose. Step 3: Place one hand on your belly. Place the other hand on your chest. Step 4: As you breathe in, feel your belly rise. As you breathe out, feel your belly lower. The hand on your belly should move more than the one that's on your chest. Step 5: Take three more full, deep breaths. Breathe fully into your belly as it rises and falls with your breath.


Repeat the steps as needed. Happy breathing!


Do you do any mindfulness activities? Please share in the comments!


#ThinkInLoop #DANSIC20 #MindfulnessXSustainability