On Effective Altruism
According to the Introduction to Effective Altruism, EA is the use of research, evidence, and reasoning to figure out how to help others as much as possible. It means choosing wisely in important situations, and donating to causes that are urgent, but often neglected. The article mentioned above used the example of getting your pants a little muddy to save a drowning child, because a small loss for one person could make a huge difference for someone else. (However, it is important to be careful with examples like this as they can easily lead to a savior complex). It also explains that it is possible to implement EA into one’s daily life by following a career path that relates to a relevant problem and utilizes one’s existing skills. These methods, according to the article, are the most effective ways an individual can make a difference.
But what about those who urgently want to take action and lack the funds to do so? Vox explains that there are ways to contribute at zero, and sometimes negative, financial cost. Vox uses the example of donating a kidney, which makes only a tiny difference in a donor’s health and finances, but has the potential to save dozens of lives. On a larger scale, cutting down on incarceration could dramatically improve the quality of life and mental health of a large number of people, and would ultimately decrease government spending. Effective altruism requires critical thinking about how one’s efforts are spent, because it is very possible to make a huge difference at little personal cost. Anyone can take action, but effective action focuses on how one’s efforts are most impactfully and efficiently spent.
Thinking about EA as a broad, universal concept can pose some issues. Who decides which issues should take priority? How is importance quantified when it is largely subjective? It is important to consider these questions when applying effective action, because every well-meaning person brings their own values into the activist world, and we must be aware of how one action might be deemed more pressing than another based on personal belief.
How The Oregon Farm Bureau Uses EA
Effective altruism is a valuable technique for our partnership with the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB) because it will allow our work together to be towards one or a few targeted and specific goals. Additionally, one of OFB’s main missions is to embrace the voice of everyone in the community and help them express their beliefs in a political environment. This sense of community, which is based on the identification and execution of key issues, is a key component of the organization’s belief system that matches up with effective altruism. OFB consists of 36 bureaus that cover all of the Oregon counties, and these bureaus are able to foster effective two-way collaboration amongst themselves, other bureaus, and federal agencies. Seeing that this is the case, we will be able to explore this part of their operation upon our partnership and help them work towards solutions for the most important issues.
Throughout its existence, the OFB has been extremely politically active and organized. The OFB encourages its members and supporters to write to legislative bodies about certain bills and has a policy book outlining their political stances ranging from education to national affairs. They encourage face-to-face advocacy, providing a print-out flyer meant to be handed to legislators. The group also makes infographics for public consumption that summarize issues in a more digestible way which could be very beneficial for gaining traction.
With these strategies, the OFB makes its views known to the public and tries to help the general population understand what it’s like to be a farmer. It seems that public outreach is their main form of action, which is likely the most important to them because farmers are an outnumbered group, which is a big consideration when it comes to voting on issues that affect farmers. OFB needs outside support in order to achieve its goal of keeping family farms in business. As stated in their mission, this is their highest priority, and likely the best way for an outnumbered group to gain support is by pooling their voices and resources into a clear, united mission. That makes public outreach the most impactful and efficient expenditure of effort for Oregon Farm Bureau.