I don’t want to live in this world
Have you ever wondered how you can change the world? I find myself thinking about it a lot. I want to believe that our ethical choices can help make the world a better place. But when you start thinking about the billions of people on this planet, it becomes increasingly difficult to think that our actions make even the smallest ripple.
The notion came up again recently while listening to a podcast on elephant poaching in Africa. I started day-dreaming about giving up my life in Beijing, moving to Africa, and becoming a champion of the elephants. I’d write letters to conservation organizations, telling them how I wanted to dedicate my life to the cause. I’d ask what was the best way someone who was truly dedicated could help stop the poaching.
I quickly realized that not only do they probably get such requests all the time from impractical dreamers, but even if my request was sincere and I followed through with it, would I really be able to make any kind of a difference. I’m sure they already have plenty of dedicated, trained individuals who are doing everything in their power to stop the poaching. If they aren’t able to affect change, what impact could I possibly have?
Realizing your impotence is always a depressing thought. No matter how well-intentioned, my desire to save the elephants–or the whales, or the wolves, let alone the entire planet–was naive.
So should I just go back to watching The Walking Dead and playing with my iPhone and stop worrying about all the problems of the world? I’ve never even been to Africa. What’s it to me if someone wants to shoot elephants and rip their ivory tusks from their skull while they are still alive?
Turns out, it’s everything:
If I know about such atrocities and I chose to ignore them, if I fail to do my utmost to prevent them, then I am complicit, even from thousands of miles away. I truly believe it is up to every individual to try and right these injustices.
I’ve reached two conclusions: One, it is extremely difficult for one person to make a significant difference in our modern world; Two, that’s no reason not to try.
It’s for these reasons I’ve decided to implement a new philosophy in my life, what I am calling the Five Percent Rule. I’m still working out the exact details, but the premise is simple. I will donate 5% of my income from now on to charities and organizations that have a clear and direct impact on improving the world. I will also donate 5% of my time to volunteerism.
I challenge everyone to do the same. 5% of your income and 5% of your time. If everyone did this, think what an impact it would have.
For the monetary donations, I will pick out the charities at the end of each year, but I’ll be looking for lean, efficient organizations that spend the bulk of their money on the cause, not on themselves. This won’t be easy, I know, but I’ll use a portion of my donated time to research the organizations. Personally, I’m sure most of my donations will go to environmental causes, because that’s what matters to me. But there are plenty of other options that will have a positive impact on the world, organizations that support medical research, anti-trafficking, or the defense of human rights.
I want to emphasize that the Five Percent pledge DOES NOT involve religious or political groups. Neither type of group is concerned with making the world a better place. Politics is about putting your political party into power. Maybe you align yourself with the values of a particular political party, but donations to that party go towards election campaigns, not meaningful change.
In the same way, religious organizations may do a lot of charitable work, but they aren’t working to make the world a better place. They are working to save souls for the after life. They are concerned with the next world, not this one. If someone wants to donate money to a religion, that’s perfectly reasonable, but it wouldn’t be a part of a Five Percent pledge.
As for the donation of time, I haven’t exactly worked out the details, but it’s going to involve something like one day a month dedicated to volunteering in some capacity. Five percent of a year works out to eighteen days, so one day a mount accounts for two thirds. For the remaining six days, it will likely involve research, advocacy, etc. As I said, I haven’t fully thought it out, but I know that if I’m going to find ways to donate my money and time, it’s going to take some effort to make sure I’m doing it properly.
So that’s the idea behind five percent. Who’s with me? If you feel like making the five percent pledge, say so in the comments. And I encourage you to help spread the word as well. One person may be a drop of water in the ocean, but if you get enough drops of water, then you can make an ocean of your own.
I do want to live in this one