Peter singer poverty essay

However, these stories do not necessarily teach others…. Throughout history, humanity has been dealing with poverty in society. Among all global countries, poverty is one of the biggest problem being faced to eradicate. However, poverty can not be eliminated easily. People from wealthy countries like the U. He proposes that every household should donate…. You live every day wondering how much longer you will survive in this situation.

This example may represent an extreme situation in Zambia, but forces one to think about how many people are living in poverty throughout the world. Poor people often lack adequate food and shelter and education and health, which keeps them from leading the kind of life that everyone values. They are extremely vulnerable to illness, to economic displacement, and are treated negatively…. If people use their extra money to help others to get…. According to FAO, in to , more than million people in the world live in poverty and starve, so it means in nine people have one person lives in hunger.

Madison is a successful businesswoman who has become convinced that she ought to give a substantial amount of her earnings to help those in extreme poverty in the developing world. Her brother, Thomas, a local college student, is not persuaded that such donations are a good idea. You ought to…. Essays Essays FlashCards. If without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance we can provide just one family with the means to raise itself out of extreme poverty, the third premise is vindicated. I have left the notion of moral significance unexamined in order to show that the argument does not depend on any specific values or ethical principles.

Ethics Lecture 1: Peter Singer on World Poverty

I think the third premise is true for most people living in industrialized nations, on any defensible view of what is morally significant. Our affluence means that we have income we can dispose of without giving up the basic necessities of life, and we can use this income to reduce extreme poverty. Just how much we will think ourselves obliged to give up will depend on what we consider to be of comparable moral significance to the poverty we could prevent: stylish clothes, expensive dinners, a sophisticated stereo system, exotic holidays, a luxury car, a larger house, private schools for our children.

For a utilitarian, none of these is likely to be of comparable significance to the reduction of extreme poverty; and those who are not utilitarians surely must, if they subscribe to the principle of universalizability, accept that at least some of these things are of far less moral significance than the extreme poverty that could be prevented by the money they cost.

So the third premise seems to be true on any plausible ethical view—although the precise amount of extreme poverty that can be prevented before anything of moral significance is sacrificed will vary according to the ethical view one accepts. Often these arguments are based on demonstrably false beliefs, such as the idea that aid organizations use most of the money given to them for administrative costs, so that only a small fraction gets through to the people who need it, or that corrupt governments in developing nations will take the money.

Measuring the effectiveness of an aid organization by the extent to which it can reduce its administrative costs is, however, a common mistake. Administrative costs include the salaries of experienced people who can ensure that your donation will fund projects that really help the poor in a sustainable, long-term way. An organization that does not employ such people may have lower administrative costs than one that does, but it will still achieve less with your donation. It is very important to give to charities that are effective in reducing extreme poverty, and its consequences.

Fortunately there are now other organizations, specializing in the evaluation of organizations working to reduce extreme poverty, and they can help us find out which charities are truly effective. There may still be some people who regard global poverty as a kind of black hole, into which we pour money. But we are making progress. GiveWell is one such organization. It has, for example, compared the cost per life saved of various organizations which work to combat the diseases that kill many of the 8.

Since you can give to one of the top-ranked organizations, it seems clear that the third premise of the argument is true for people who spend at least a few hundred dollars a year on things they do not really need. They can save a life, or prevent some extreme poverty, without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance. There may still be some people who regard global poverty as a kind of black hole, into which we pour money, and never make any progress.

That estimate I just mentioned, that about 8.


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If you pick up the paperback edition of my book, The Life You Can Save, the figure it gives is 8. In the hardcover edition, the figure was almost a million more. In fact, going right back to the s, the figure was as many as 20 million children a year.

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We do see results, but we are still in a situation where far too many children are dying each day because of this preventable poverty. This is something that we could do something about. We know what to do. Concern for the poor appears to be in tension with the need to protect our environment. Is there any point in saving lives if the people whose lives are saved will continue to have more children than they can feed, so that in another generation there will be even more hungry people seeking assistance?

It is undeniable that saving innocent human lives is good, but how do we balance that good against the loss of extinction? Then there is climate change. How would the world cope if everyone were to become affluent and seek a lifestyle that consumes as much energy, per capita, as those who are affluent today? Part of the answer—the easy part—is that poverty reduction and environmental values often point in the same direction.

It is simplistic to assume that helping more children to survive to reproductive age is bound to increase population in poor countries.

One important reason why poor people have large families is that they need to be sure that one or two of their children will survive to take care of them in their old age. As parents grow more confident that their children will live to adulthood, they have fewer children. If they no longer need child labor to grow food, that removes another reason for having children. Most important of all, if reducing poverty makes it possible for families to send their children— especially their daughters—to school, all the evidence indicates that their children will have smaller families than they otherwise would.

That tendency will be reinforced if women have opportunities to work outside the home. Obviously, access to family planning helps too. So in several different ways, what reduces poverty and promotes development also reduces population growth.

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The most influential ethicist alive says the world is actually becoming a better place

This has consequences for preserving forests in developing countries. In the long run, aid for schools and local health clinics will often be the most effective way to reduce the population pressures that lead to turning forests into fields. Some development projects provide employment opportunities for the poor, but at a high environmental cost. From Indonesia to Brazil, vast areas of tropical rainforest have been cleared to grow palm oil, or soybeans, or to graze cattle.

The destruction of forests destroys ecosystems, and releases huge quantities of carbon, thus accelerating climate change. In tropical Africa, logging roads through jungles offer new opportunities to impoverished villagers, who may get work with the logging companies, or may find it easier to get their local products to markets.

Arguments against Peter Singer’s Solution to World Poverty

Improved access to hitherto remote jungles and the incentive of cash payment has led to widespread hunting that has slashed the numbers of many of the hunted species. What should we do? Sometimes we should choose to protect the environment, and the nonhuman animals that depend on it, even if that denies economic opportunities to some people living in extreme poverty. We should, of course, try to find alternative environmentally sustainable opportunities for those living in or near these areas.

If protecting a world heritage benefits all of us, it is unreasonable to expect local residents to bear the full cost—in terms of economic opportunities foregone—of that protection. To preserve the options available to future generations, we should aim at development that does not do further damage to wilderness or to endangered species—and will eventually, I hope, lead to greater respect for the interests of all other sentient beings, who should also count in their own right.

We should also seek development that brings us closer to a demographic transition that in turn stabilizes global population at a sustainable level. It is clear, though, that the planet cannot sustain 6 billion people at the level of the most affluent billion in the world today, consuming the resources and emitting the greenhouse gases that we are emitting. Climate change is a dire threat to all the progress we have made in reducing global poverty. The failure of the major industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will not cause serious adverse effects to others is moral wrongdoing on a scale that exceeds even the wrongdoing of the great imperial powers during the era of colonialism.

Even those who think that we have no obligations to help anyone beyond our borders will, I hope, agree that we have obligations not to harm them—and harming them is exactly what we are doing. According to the World Health Organization, the rise in temperature that occurred between the s and is causing an additional , deaths every year roughly equivalent to causing, every week, as many deaths as occurred in the terrorist attacks on September 11, The major killers are climate- sensitive diseases such a malaria, dengue, and diarrhoea, which is more common when there is a lack of safe water.

Malnutrition resulting from crops that fail because of high temperatures or low rainfall is also responsible for many deaths. Fertile, densely settled delta regions in Egypt, Bangladesh, India and Vietnam are at risk from rising sea levels. In the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific body established by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Association, found that a temperature rise, by , in the range of 2. Rising sea levels would expose, each year, an additional 16 million people to coastal flooding.

A temperature rise limited to 2. Perhaps a technological miracle is just around the corner, one that will enable everyone in the world to consume energy at something like the levels at which we consume it, without bringing about disaster for everyone. Bob's conduct, most of us will immediately respond, was gravely wrong. Unger agrees. But then he reminds us that we, too, have opportunities to save the lives of children. We can give to organizations like Unicef or Oxfam America. How much would we have to give one of these organizations to have a high probability of saving the life of a child threatened by easily preventable diseases?

I do not believe that children are more worth saving than adults, but since no one can argue that children have brought their poverty on themselves, focusing on them simplifies the issues. Unger called up some experts and used the information they provided to offer some plausible estimates that include the cost of raising money, administrative expenses and the cost of delivering aid where it is most needed. To show how practical philosophical argument can be, Unger even tells his readers that they can easily donate funds by using their credit card and calling one of these toll-free numbers: for Unicef; for Oxfam America.

Now you, too, have the information you need to save a child's life.

Brief summary of the article

How should you judge yourself if you don't do it? Think again about Bob and his Bugatti. Unlike Dora, Bob did not have to look into the eyes of the child he was sacrificing for his own material comfort. The child was a complete stranger to him and too far away to relate to in an intimate, personal way. Unlike Dora, too, he did not mislead the child or initiate the chain of events imperiling him. In all these respects, Bob's situation resembles that of people able but unwilling to donate to overseas aid and differs from Dora's situation. If you still think that it was very wrong of Bob not to throw the switch that would have diverted the train and saved the child's life, then it is hard to see how you could deny that it is also very wrong not to send money to one of the organizations listed above.

The Singer Solution To World Poverty

Unless, that is, there is some morally important difference between the two situations that I have overlooked. Is it the practical uncertainties about whether aid will really reach the people who need it? Nobody who knows the world of overseas aid can doubt that such uncertainties exist. The problem is that most of them aren't doing it. Does this mean that it is all right for you not to do it?

Suppose that there were more owners of priceless vintage cars -- Carol, Dave, Emma, Fred and so on, down to Ziggy -- all in exactly the same situation as Bob, with their own siding and their own switch, all sacrificing the child in order to preserve their own cherished car. Would that make it all right for Bob to do the same? To answer this question affirmatively is to endorse follow-the-crowd ethics -- the kind of ethics that led many Germans to look away when the Nazi atrocities were being committed.

We do not excuse them because others were behaving no better. These readers seem to be acting at least as badly as Bob was acting when he chose to let the runaway train hurtle toward the unsuspecting child. Perhaps you should do it before reading further. Now that you have distinguished yourself morally from people who put their vintage cars ahead of a child's life, how about treating yourself and your partner to dinner at your favorite restaurant?

But wait. The money you will spend at the restaurant could also help save the lives of children overseas! And what is one month's dining out, compared to a child's life? There's the rub. Are you therefore obliged to keep giving until you have nothing left? At what point can you stop? Hypothetical examples can easily become farcical. Consider Bob. How far past losing the Bugatti should he go? Imagine that Bob had got his foot stuck in the track of the siding, and if he diverted the train, then before it rammed the car it would also amputate his big toe.

Should he still throw the switch?