December 9th, 2008


Birthday Solicitation

I don't normally send out a blatant request for gifts for my birthday (or for Christmas for that matter), but I'd like to do something different this year and I'm asking everyone who reads my journal to participate. Whether you're planning on giving me a gift or if the only thing you've ever considered sending me is Anthrax spores, please take a moment to read this. I have wish lists at the usual web sites, and there's always something new and shiny that I'd love to have, but I've been giving a lot of thought lately to my current situation and what I want the most. Bear with me while I ramble a bit and then I'll explain.

I'm blessed with an extraordinarily good life. I really am fortunate beyond describing, and I can say with all honesty that I'm the happiest person I know. I have a relationship that's far better than what most people would even suspect is possible, a wonderful, loving family, and my friends are the finest band of freaks, rogues, and mad scientists on the planet.

From a material standpoint I enjoy a standard of living better than anyone on Earth a mere 100 years ago, and far better than most of humanity even today. I have more toys, games, books, and movies then I'll likely ever get to fully appreciate. I routinely carry around more computing power on my back than existed in the entire world combined on the day I was born, and the largest repository of knowledge in human history is literally at my fingertips. I have easy access to a staggering array of food from around the globe, and the only time I ever face the possibility of going hungry is if I'm too busy doing something else to bother eating. My home is secure, my environment is climate controlled, food is plentiful and nutritious, water is clean and so readily available that I never need to even think about it. In light of such overwhelming abundance, the thing that I want most is help in bringing others up to this level of bounty, starting with the very basics.

The contrast between my (and your) situation and the day-to-day situation of most of the human race is heartbreaking, not just because of the discrepancy but because of how trivial it is for us to make such an enormous positive difference in the lives of others. For example, the simple lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation is directly responsible for 80% of all sickness and disease, and kills more people every year than war, violent crime, and terrorism combined. A small expenditure on behalf of the poorest people in the world will produce far greater utility than even a large expenditure on my behalf, provided the expenditure is actually helping the end beneficiary rather than simply maintaining an intermediary organization.

To that end (Look! I'm finally getting to the point!), what I ask for my birthday is a $20 donation to an organization called Charity: Water. This isn't a particularly selfless act on my part - I genuinely enjoy my life more than anyone I can think of. I've done a bit of research (and also donated to them myself), and their efforts seem to provide the greatest human benefit for the amount donated. Their administrative and infrastructure costs are funded by corporate donations, and 100% of the donations from private individuals goes directly toward drilling and rehabilitating wells and other projects to provide clean water in the areas of greatest need. $20 can provide one person with clean drinking water for 20 years.

Nifty PSA putting the issue they address into perspective (with Jennifer Connelly!):

A more informative video (sadly, no Jennifer Connelly in this one):

If you're interested in more specific information on what Charity: Water does and the results they've had, click here.
Most importantly, you can donate here.

I'm not picky nor demanding, and none of you reading this owe me a damn thing. We do, however, have an obligation to our consciences and to our fellow humans to ease suffering where possible, and if you have the means to read this post then you have the means to do something. If you can't afford $20, give what you reasonably can. If there's a different charity that you think will use your money more effectively then use your best judgment. I don't even insist that you tell me about it (though I'd certainly like to know).

And hey, if you want to double up and make it a Christmas present as well that'd be even better. :-)

Thanks for taking the time to slog through this wordy petition, and thank you all for being a part of my most excellent life!
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