Some time ago I wrote 3 different articles about the charities I personally support. These are charities which support people, nature or animals. But after writing these posts I heard some interesting criticism against charities. And so, the question arises: are charities the solution to our problems? Charities exist within capitalism and so I get the criticism. But today I want to explain why I think charities are part of a solution to certain problems today.
The criticism I mentioned above is the criticism that charities alone cannot change the world. We live in a capitalistic system. And capitalism is a system which encourages destruction. It prioritizes money and growth over anything. People literally die because of capitalism. That is indeed true. But right now, I cannot think of another system that we could switch to. Nor do I see society actually make such a switch. I do believe that we might be able to arrange capitalism differently. If we set certain rules and make agreements, I do think it might work someday (even though I still have doubts about this, but for now this is my point of view).
Core of the problem
So I agree with the criticism. However, I never said that charities are the solution to all of our problems. I think the core of our problems is indeed capitalism and so it’s capitalism that we need to change. How do we change capitalism? I don’t know exactly. I think the solution lies in global standards. A circular economy, veganism being the standard globally, agreements about a minimum percentage of protected areas, a ban on all pesticides, laws to protect workers, and more. I believe that capitalism and society are evolving and that there is an end point to it, a point where it is sustainable. Maybe this system does not look like capitalism anymore in the end, who knows. Let’s call it capitalism-light.
Anyway, my point is that we always need to address the core of the problems we face today. And no, supporting charities is not addressing the core of our problems. Charities are just a nice extra to have.
In the posts about the charities I support I also said this: supporting charities is not a way to buy off your guilt. On a personal level, making a better world starts with living an eco-positive lifestyle. That way we shift to a better world. Then we would not destroy the planet and it inhabitants anymore and that’s most important. It’s not okay if you do not live within the earth’s boundaries, but do support charities and so you think you are doing a good job. Your net impact is still negative. Addressing the massive problems we face today starts with changing the system we live in and changing our lifestyles.
So why do I then still support all these charities? Well, because I personally already live an eco-positive lifestyle. I already live in a way that is transforming capitalism. My base is already good. So, any positive impact I can make is a nice extra. All the money I give to charities is just the best I can do to speed up the process towards a better world. It’s a way to speed up the process of making things better, right now. And also: it’s the most ethical thing to do.
End of charities
If we do things right, if we address the core of our problems due to capitalism and solve the big problems of today (hunger, poverty, climate change, loss of nature, etc), charities are not needed anymore. Right now, I support charities to speed up the process to a better world. But my hope is that charities die off eventually, simply because they’re not needed anymore. But today that is not the case yet. And so, I feel like it is my duty to donate to charities and speed up the process of solving all these problems.
Why do I feel like donating money to charities is my duty? Because it’s the most ethical way to spend your money. If you follow a classical thought experiment from Peter Singer, you’ll find out. I’ll elaborate on that experiment another time, in a special post about effective altruism. But what it comes down to is that every time you buy something for yourself which you do not absolutely need (like a 6th pair of shoes, a holiday, make-up, more clothing, etc.), you choose not to spend that money on saving lives/making the world a better place. Donating to charities can literally saves lives. And so, if you choose to buy a 6th pair of shoes instead of saving a life, you’re making an unethical choice.
But as you might think right now: this is a little extreme. If you are as privileged as me, it’s extremely difficult to never go on a holiday or buy something nice for yourself. Rich people waste money all the damn time. Therefore, I think it’s impossible to live 100% ethical. Living 100% ethical would mean that I would work as much hours as I could, to donate almost all of my money. I can’t do that, I can’t be that selfless. But that does not mean I can do nothing at all. I can choose to donate a big share of my income to charities. Right now, I donate 7% of my income each month and in the future I hope to enlarge this percentage. It’s the best I can do right now.