What I am reading 📚
Reading books should not be a competition. One should not read just for the sake of reading or for filling up time but rather to learn something and nourish the mind. Good books in fact are ones that are worth re-reading in order to fully grasp its message and teachings. Nassim Taleb said it best, “a good book gets better at the second reading. A great book at the third. Any book not worth rereading isn’t worth reading.”
Last week I re-read Doing Good Better by William MacAskill. This book completely changed my mind about giving to charity and trying to make a difference. Even though “conventional advice is that if you want to make a difference you should work”, MacAskill argues that a better approach might be to keep working in your sector and work harder to earn more and give money to a cause you care about. “By doing this, and being smart about where you give, almost anyone in rich countries can do a tremendous amount to help others.”
The problem though is that it is usually difficult to assess a charity’s performance: “One difference between investing in a company and donating to a charity is that the charity world often lacks appropriate feedback mechanisms. Invest in a bad company, and you lose money; but give money to a bad charity, and you probably won’t hear about its failings. Buy a shirt that’s advertised as silk when it’s really polyester, and you’ll realize pretty quickly; but buy coffee that has a Fairtrade stamp on it, and you never know whether doing so helped people, harmed them, or did nothing.”
Luckily, there are already a few resources to help us give more effectively. One is a list of charities compiled by the Effective Altruism team. Another option might be Project Wren 🍃 a startup trying to help people offset their carbon footprint. I haven’t tried this app myself, but if you do let me know!
Nerd Corner 🤓
For the past few weeks we’ve been inundated with news about the fires 🔥 in the Amazon rainforest. While it is true that the consequences of these fires are devastating for the environment, the population of those regions (mostly indigenous tribes) and wildlife, some questions arise: What is really going on? How can we help?
To understand what’s going on we should spend some time sifting through the noise of sensationalist articles. For example, the claim that “the Amazon rainforest produces 20% of the World’s oxygen” is untrue. Dr. Jonathan Foley (a global enviromentalist) explained why the assertion is false in this tweet thread. You can also read this NatGeo 🌎 article for a thorough explanation.
Now, in light of all this devastation you might feel urged to help. I certainly did but I recalled this piece from Doing Good Better: “Ironically, the law of diminishing returns suggests that, if you feel a strong emotional reaction to a story and want to help, you should probably resist the inclination because there are probably many others like you who are also donating.”
This seems logical. There is only so much that can be done and with all the spotlights on the fires, many people felt the same urge and many ended up donating a lot of money diminishing the impact of your potential contribution.
A better way to help in this case might be to buy red meat from sources you trust and avoiding soybean products. After all, these fires are linked to illegal deforestation in order to clear land for crops and cattle.
Also interesting 🤯
Canola oil is deemed a one of the “healthiest cooking oils”. This video explains how it is made. The process looks more like petrol refinement than food production. Judge for yourself.
This infographic from NPR describes which types of plastic can be recycled. Go check it out ♻️.
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Until next week!