Philosopher Peter Singer’s book The Life We Can Save poses a simple question:
What would most of us do if we saw a toddler drowning in a shallow pond?
Most of us wouldn’t hesitate to save the child—even if it meant ruining an expensive pair of shoes in the process.
He argues that this empathy should apply to endangered children across the world. Millions of children live in extreme poverty, and many do not make it past the age of five. If we wouldn’t ignore a child drowning in a pond, why do we ignore children on the other side of the world who die every day?
Taking small imaginative leaps, like the one Singer suggests, can help us see that suffering in far away countries deserves our moral concern as much as local suffering.
Most of us will never be faced with the need to save a drowning child. But Singer says there are other ways we can save lives. He suggests donating to effective international charities.
The Life You Can Save is an elegant manifesto directed at the people of wealthy countries like our own, and the message is simple: We have so, so much more than most other people on the planet do. Sharing some of our wealth could save lives.