The Life You Can Save Book Summary - The Life You Can Save Book explained in key points
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The Life You Can Save summary

Peter Singer

How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty

4.4 (193 ratings)
26 mins

Brief summary

The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer educates readers on the moral obligation to help those in extreme poverty and offers actionable steps towards effective giving. It challenges the reader to reflect on their values and become part of the solution to reduce global poverty.

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    The Life You Can Save
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    We can eliminate extreme poverty, but we haven’t.

    When the philosopher Peter Singer teaches his introductory course on ethics, it always starts the same way. He tells his students a story: Imagine you’re walking to work and come upon a small child drowning in a shallow lake. You can easily save the child, but doing so would ruin your new shoes. So, do you dive in?

    Of course, every student is quick to answer yes. After all, a life is worth more than even the loveliest loafers. But then, Singer poses a follow-up question: In 2017, 5.4 million children under five died of preventable diseases. Now, how many students bought new shoes with money they could have donated to an effective charity?

    This second query is much more uncomfortable. It highlights the disturbing truth that our actions don’t always align with our moral compass.

    The key message? We can eliminate extreme poverty, but we haven’t.

    All around the world, humans suffer and die because they aren’t able to afford the most basic necessities. According to the World Bank, as of 2018, 736 million people live in extreme poverty, meaning they live on the local equivalent of $1.90 a day. This poverty is the primary driver of premature deaths. In a country like Sierra Leone, with high poverty rates, one in 13 children dies before their fifth birthday. In a wealthy country, like Australia, only one in 263 has the same fate.

    Such statistics may seem overwhelming. But, in reality, humanity has made great strides in changing this condition. Since 1993, the rate of extreme poverty around the world has nearly halved. The most dramatic drop came from East Asia, where the poverty rate went from 60 percent in 1990 to just 2.3 percent in 2015. 

    The wealthiest nations are faring well, too. As of 2018, about half of all people are middle-class or above, meaning they have excess money for consumer goods, vacations, or other unexpected expenses. And of course, the rich are doing the best of all. According to Forbes, there are about 2,000 billionaires around the globe – twice as many as ten years ago.

    So, with such ample wealth available on earth, why do we allow millions to die because they can’t afford proper nutrition or basic health care? If we know we can reduce poverty, why haven’t we reduced it to zero? We’ll begin to answer these questions in the next blink.

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    What is The Life You Can Save about?

    The Life You Can Save (2019) is a philosophical exploration of the moral implications of poverty. This provocative treatise asks us to consider if we’re truly doing our part to end human suffering.

    The Life You Can Save Review

    The Life You Can Save (2009) by Peter Singer is a thought-provoking book that challenges our perspectives on global poverty and our responsibility to help those in need. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It presents compelling arguments and thought experiments that force us to reflect on our ethical obligations to alleviate global poverty.
    • By exploring the real-life stories of individuals living in extreme poverty, the book provides a humanizing perspective and creates empathy in the reader.
    • The book offers practical solutions for making a difference, including effective ways to donate money and choose impactful charitable organizations.

    Best quote from The Life You Can Save

    Yet while thousands of children die each day, we spend money on things we take for granted and would hardly notice if they were not there. Is that wrong?

    —Peter Singer
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    Who should read The Life You Can Save?

    • Sensitive souls wanting to help the least fortunate
    • Hardened cynics skeptical of any charities
    • Anyone interested in probing the human condition

    About the Author

    Peter Singer is a world-renowned public intellectual and the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. His writing includes foundational works of contemporary philosophy such as Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, and One World: Ethics and Globalization.

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    The Life You Can Save FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Life You Can Save?

    The main message of The Life You Can Save is the moral obligation to help those in need.

    How long does it take to read The Life You Can Save?

    The reading time for The Life You Can Save varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Life You Can Save a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Life You Can Save is worth reading as it highlights the importance of making a positive impact on the lives of others.

    Who is the author of The Life You Can Save?

    The author of The Life You Can Save is Peter Singer.

    What to read after The Life You Can Save?

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