In an article by Vox, Dylan Matthews is frustrated by his realization that most companies do not seem as if their goal is to focus on the issues that matter most. The idea of effective action, or effective altruism, is to focus on the issues that seemingly matter the most, in order to make our efforts have the most impact possible. This immediately brings up the question of what should we then focus our efforts on; Effective Altruism says that the issues our actions will have the highest impact on, are the ones that are of large scale, highly neglected, and highly solvable. There are many ways to have a high impact – some that are highlighted include choosing the right career path, and especially donating to the most effective charity. Effective Altruism and Vox both stress the importance of monetary donations to alleviate problems such as extreme poverty, animal welfare/rights, and climate change. Vox brings up an argument from philosopher Peter Singer, saying that the difference between living on $60,000 per year rather than $70,000 per year is negligible compared to the difference that a $10,000 donation would make.
In our Environmental Engagement class, we discussed these readings and their faults. A focus entirely on the effectiveness of actions does not take all considerations into account. For example, there are many issues within the animal welfare fight, such as whether to focus on the conditions of poultry production, or on fish overconsumption, which are both pressing issues that meet criteria given in the articles; effective altruism also neglects necessary political change for progress by taking an individualistic approach. A significant recurring theme in our discussion was each article’s focus on monetary donations, neglecting multiple aspects of the state of our country. As many classmates pointed out, not everyone has the ability to set a portion of their income aside to donate, nor does everyone have the ability to give their time to a cause. It is especially problematic to call for working class people to donate money, and to donate effectively, while there is such an uneven distribution of wealth allowing for hundreds of billionaires just in the U.S; there are also many extremely wealthy corporations, such as Amazon and Chevron, paying zero taxes while exacerbating these issues such as climate change which effective altruism tells us to focus on (link).
Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) actively works towards engaging in effective action in their mission statement (link). They work on a large scale, interacting with four different tribal fisheries (Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla, and Nez Perce). CRITFC mainly provides “technical assistance on harvest, hatchery, water management, and fish passage issues” and helps ”coordinate with state and federal agencies to ensure that the tribes receive an equitable share (1/2 of the harvest) of Columbia River salmon.” (link) Coordinating the tribal fishing policy in turn benefits a larger group of people, specifically other fishers on the Columbia River. Securing the rights of one group in turn should strengthen the rights and reasonable regulations of another. They’re also engaging in effective action through addressing a typically neglected group of people, Indigenous Tribes. Through helping a historically discriminated group, there is large opportunity for productive change and interactions through ensuring just laws and land rights. CRITFC also works on highly solvable problems, for example putting fish back in the water sheds, which makes it an even more able engage-able collective having feasible, accomplishable goals.
Effective Action relates to the broad context of our personal engagement with CRITFC through how we’re partnering with them. As of right now, we’re starting a conversation with CRITFC, which is a large part of what CRITFC does already in it’s own matters. CRITFC educates the public on fishing services and salmon culture, which helps people engage with the land more appropriately. CRITFC has a free Salmon activity book that teaches young readers about Salmon health, rivers, and the tribes. CRITFC also has certain advocacy issues, such as effects of petroleum spills on fish, and Integrating Floodplain Management and Salmon Conservation (link). CRITFC also provides information about selling Salmon, as seen on their website under “Buy Salmon” (link). These methods of engaging with people and the land all lend towards effective action toward ensuring tribal fishing rights and having productive fish management policy. Overall, CRITFC works with many groups of people including lawyers, policy makers, Indigenous Tribes, school children among many others. Engaging with a wide range of people makes CRITFC an example of effective action.