Peter Singer is Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. Author, co-author, or editor of forty books on a range of topics, Singer is best known for Animal Liberation, widely considered to be the founding statement of the animal-rights movement. In 2005, Time magazine voted him 'one of the 100 most influential people in the world.' He lives in Melbourne, Australia, and is married with three daughters.
Verdict: This persuasively argued book will encourage readers to rethink their personal commitment to ending global poverty. Background: Best known for Animal Liberation, a seminal work in the animal rights movement, Singer (bioethics, Princeton Univ.) offers a thought-provoking look at the excesses of the developed world and why it is imperative for individuals in the West to give up certain luxuries (e.g., bottled water and cafe coffee) and donate crucial funds that could save millions of lives. Singer appeals to logic, psychology, and ethics in making his sound argument. Although some readers might find his recommendations daunting, his conclusions will force people to reconsider how they are spending their money.-Deborah Hicks, Univ. of Alberta, Canada Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Part plea, part manifesto, part handbook, this short and surprisingly compelling book sets out to answer two difficult questions: why people in affluent countries should donate money to fight global poverty and how much each should give. Singer (Animal Liberation) dismantles the justifications people make for not giving and highlights the successes of such efforts as microfinance in Bangladesh, GiveWell's charitable giving and the 50% League, where members donate more than half their wealth. Singer alternately cajoles and scolds: he pillories Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, who has given less than his former partner, Bill Gates, and lives far more extravagantly: "His toys include a large collection of vintage military aircraft and a 413-foot oceangoing yacht called Octopus that cost him over $200 million and has a permanent crew of sixty." Singer contrasts Allen's immoderation with the work of Paul Farmer (a cofounder of the international social justice organization Partners in Health) and the cost of basic health services in Haiti ($3,500 per life saved), or malaria nets ($623-$2,367 per life saved). Singer doesn't ask readers to choose between asceticism and self-indulgence; his solution can be found in the middle, and it is reasonable and rewarding for all. (Mar.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Peter Singer s new book presents a logical, compelling argument for the need to end world poverty. He proposes a new standard for giving which, he believes, would help to alleviate the terrible conditions in which 1.4 billion people struggle to survive on less than US$1.25 a day. He addresses the issues of waste and surplus in individual consumption in developed nations and considers the environmental damage done by these nations at the expense of poorer countries. He graphically illustrates how relatively small changes in consumption can, collectively, create more funding to reduce poverty. Singer discusses the ethical and emotional factors in decisions about giving and looks at common reasons for not giving more. He looks at current levels of aid provided by countries and individual philanthropists, highlighting the ways in which we chose to give, favouring family, community and country over the unknown. For example, Americans gave US$1.54 billion for disaster relief work after the 2004 tsunami which killed 220,000 people in Southeast Asia, yet the following year they gave $6.5 billion in aid to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina, which killed about 1,600 people. In a key chapter, 'Creating a Culture of Giving', Singer looks at individuals who have made the decision to give more, not necessarily from a high-income base. He argues that philanthropy is not for the rich alone; we can all do more. The real need seems to be for leadership not self-interest; a positive approach can be created through both corporate and individual initiatives. The arguments in the book have been presented to audiences around the world; they represent Singer s views about why we give, or dont give, and what we should do about it'. His goals in writing the book are to make people think about their duties to those trapped in poverty and to get them to give more of their income to the battle against poverty. The arguments are not emotional but rational. The scale of the disaster facing the world is made clear; those living in extreme poverty are part of our world and our responsibility. This book will appeal to those who already give to charity or provide aid in some other form, and to those who are thinking about giving. It should be read by all of us. (See interview page 58). Chris Harrington is co-owner of Books in Print, Malvern