With regard to contemporary global challenges that we often feel as if we have little to no power in helping find the solutions to, effective altruism aims to serve as a response to this disheartenment. In Jim Proctor’s ENVS 295 class on Tuesday, February 18, we discussed readings that explore what form of altruism is effective in solving these issues. The Introduction to Effective Altruism argues that to be most effective, one should prioritize issues based on how big of a difference an individual will make. One should look for a cause that is great in scale, highly neglected, and highly solvable. After picking a cause, they then argue that the action should be done through either giving donations and choosing a career that works to help solve the issue.
After discussing the article, we were assigned to three different perspectives on environmental action: solutions can be achieved through donations and career choices or effective altruism; effective altruism ignores multiple complexities and is only part of the solution, and environmental engagement is the most effective in finding solutions. We then had to roleplay dialogue with other students with different perspectives than us and in some cases had to argue a view that we didn’t agree with ourselves. Each group was able to argue multiple points that further helped further their position. The exercise helped us understand the different perspectives of people and the reasons as to why they hold them. We walked away from the class thinking about how environmental action can include both effective altruism and engagement.
During a time when ecological concerns are tremendously polarized, progress in addressing natural resource management seems to constantly be in a state of immobility. Sustainable Northwest aims to tackle this issue through expert “facilitation, conflict resolution, and negotiation of multi-party agreements.” They work to create solutions to problems that affect both people and natural systems, which places the organization in what they call the “radical middle” of community, economy, and ecology. Pursuing to drive systematic change over short-term results, the concept of Effective Action and what is considered effective is an essential part of what makes the organization successful. By engaging with the local community as well as working to incite change at a state and federal level, Sustainable Northwest uses a multitude of approaches to achieve their objectives. They pay quite a bit of attention to local interests, trying to produce community-driven solutions in the face of change and conflict. They work at the intersections of natural resource management, ecosystem restoration, a spectrum of communities, and local economies to develop engagement across political, economic, and cultural boundaries. Through using their self-label as the “radical middle” to cultivate a variety of methods in which they work to drive systematic change, Sustainable Northwest shows that multiple techniques can be considered Effective Action.
We believe a healthy economy, environment, and community are indivisible, and all can be strengthened by wise partnerships, policies, and investments.”– Sustainable Northwest
Sustainable Northwest lightly follows the guidelines of Effective Altruism. From the perspective of their organization, their cause is considered great in scale, highly neglected, and highly solvable. Additionally, the organization is extremely dependent on government funding, donations, and other forms of financial support. For this reason, effective altruism is essential in helping Sustainable Northwest take action. With these funds, Sustainable Northwest determines the most efficient methods for producing meaningful change via its multitude of ecological programs. These programs engage with farmers, ranchers, tribes, and conservationists to address concerns including water competition, forest fire management, energy production, and logging practices. Furthermore, financial information such as their donors and their expenses are available on their website, showing exactly how important money is in their ability to conduct these projects. As current college students, our ability to help with organizations such as Sustainable Northwest through means of donations or career paths are largely limited. Because of this, engaging with the organization through the discussion of and participation in their programs is one of the main ways we can get involved.