An Open Letter to Marcus Rashford, Michael Sheen and many more

Dear Marcus and Michael,

I write to you both as someone who has valued your openness about trying to do good, create positive change and use your high-profile  platform to inspire others.  

Sports stars and actors are an inspiration and heroes to millions around the world. And both of you use this platform for good - you have put your time and money where it matters and are committed to effective change.

I want to let you know about a movement which I think you would be interested in. It is widely known as Effective Altruism (EA), and I came to the movement through the Giving What We Can Pledge.

In its simplest form, the EA movement uses reason and evidence to do the most good. Crucially, it focuses on rational compassion – using objective analysis and research to find out where our money can make the most difference.

This means it often goes to causes which are neglected, comparatively easier to solve and can impact a large number of people. It is centred on causes, that for a myriad of reasons and cognitive biases, don't get our attention.  

The Giving What We Can Pledge is a public pledge to give a portion of your income to organisations which can most effectively improve the lives of others. In June 2017 I took the Giving What We Can pledge and committed to giving 10% of my income to the most effective charities. I talk more about this decision, and the challenges associated with it being someone who doesn't earn much, in this article. I fully realise for some people reading this, with the cost of living crisis, this might seem daunting but I hope my experiences can help. Also the Giving What We Can website has a very useful Q&A page.

One of the funding pots that my money has gone to is EA’s Global Health and Development Fund, which is dedicated to improving the health or economic empowerment of people around the world. Recently this has included the following:

Lead and Mercury Poisoning: One-third of children globally are lead-poisoned, which leads to increased chance of disease, disability and affects their brain development.  The funds are donated to organisations that implement interventions to reduce our global exposure to lead.

Malaria: Malaria kills 625,000 people a year, 70% of which are children, and malaria is easily preventable. The funds are donated to organisations which provide anti-malarial drugs to children and long-lasting insecticidal bed nets.

Pesticide Suicides: Of the 800,000 individuals who die globally of suicide, 10-20% die from pesticide self-poisoning. This issue affects mainly poor agricultural communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Many suicides are impulsive, and research clearly shows that removing or banning highly hazardous pesticides dramatically reduces suicides in these communities.

Many of these causes don’t have champions and don’t arouse sufficient empathy. Rational compassion combats this flaw in our wiring and alleviates the suffering of those who might otherwise have been forgotten. The EA movement also focuses on the long-term future of humanity by preparing for risks from areas such as artificial intelligence and pandemics, improving the well-being of animals , and growing the movement itself. I honestly believe this movement is the way to a better future for all of us.

You may think that you would like to focus your efforts on causes that resonate with you. And I want you to keep doing so. The beauty of the 10% pledge  is that 10% of my pre-tax income is given to the most effective charities. With the remaining 90%, plus my time, I still support causes close to my heart or within my local community. I still feel and listen to my empathic response to causes and work to build up my local community. Sadly, there are plenty of issues that impact the UK, and I use my writing, and my time and resources to support these as well.

I very much hope you get to read this, and I that it sows a seed, so you at least consider joining a movement that can vastly change the world for the better. I genuinely view this movement as the best way to quickly alleviate unnecessary global suffering. It also offers the best way to protect the world our children and grandchildren will inherit and will help the plight of billions of sentient creatures.

I’ve been lucky enough to help out with the Giving What We Can community, and their ambition is to create a world where giving effectively and significantly is a cultural norm. I, too, dream of this world, and I believe it can be a reality. However, it needs more attention and more champions for this to happen. It would be a privilege if one of these were you.

I have aimed this article at Michael Sheen and Marcus Rashford. However, this invitation is open to anyone who is moved to act by the arguments of Effective Altruism, who has a desire to do good or who feels they have a profile that can inspire others make the dream world a reality.

Newsletter: I will be writing an article every few months. If you are interested and would like to subscribe to my newsletter, you can here.