When I launched my flight-turbulence prediction tool in December, I expected it to remain the focus of my attention through 2017. However, the global chaos that has followed Trump’s ascendency beckons me to shift my priorities. Surrounded by crises both suddenly shocking and subtly insidious, I can’t help but turn to less uncertainly entrepreneurial channels in order to assist the new American resistance.
BumpySkies won’t go anywhere, in the meantime. Having achieved minimum viable product, it has reached a sort of local minimum of stable utility; it does its one thing well, and requires little attention from me. I would love to turn BumpySkies into an income-generating venture, somehow, and I can see many paths to profitability I could start investigating — but any one such journey would require a very large personal investment in time and attention.
In the other timeline, I might have felt happy to begin this adventure immediately. In the world we have, though, I feel instead the call to return — at least for a while — to my consulting work, racking up a lot of billable hours and finding new but dependable routes for recurring project fees. I have, for the last couple of weeks, thrown myself into doing good work for my clients, approaching my professional relationships with renewed vigor.
This has meant that, on weekends when my friends and family have been marching in protests, I’ve stayed in my office, my head down over a hot text editor, refactoring code and writing automated test suites. And yet I march with them in spirit, because our goals are the same, and I have conviction that this method, indirect as it may seem, represents the best way I can assist the American resistance. I choose to trade away a larger slice of my time and attention for an activity that pays me well specifically so I’ll have more money to give away to causes I believe in, causes that will in turn help to keep my country and my world on-track.
A friend of mine told me recently that my new conviction resembles the philosophy known as effective altruism. Its Wikipedia entry describes that in rather specific terms, but also links to a related strategy simply called earning to give, which resonates immediately. Effective altruism, when practiced by the book, features an oddly passionless mandate for maximizing charitable efficiency — choosing, for example, malaria-prevention concerns over any charity of closer relevance to one’s own life, because money so applied will help far more people in measurably profound ways, dollar-for-dollar. Earning to give decouples this principle from the simpler pledge of pursuing the highest-paying career one can in order to tithe away a significant fraction for society’s good, leaving the specifics of targeting for the heart to decide.
What does my heart say? At present, there exist two major beneficiaries of my charitable giving; I have set up automated and sizable monthly donations to both. I reserve the right to adjust my sights in the future, but for now I like keeping to a strategy of having one near charitable recipient, whose actions lie close to home in terms of both location and time-span, and a far one concerning itself with long-term, world-wide issues. I do not mean to imply that these charities are the best, or even the most worthy within their spheres. They’re just the ones I give to right now.
ACLU. The near-term one, obviously. I last gave to them once the latter Bush administration grabbed the opportunity of a terrorist attack to enact its own abusive regime. If I recall correctly, I gave them a single gift of $100 — an amount commensurate with my financial status more than fifteen years ago. Today, I can afford to give more, and more often, and I do. Like countless others, I see its leading the swift legal fight to nullify Trump’s thoroughly un-American travel ban as immediate proof that I have invested wisely.
Union of Concerned Scientists. Prior to last November, I couldn’t have named a single politically active organization dedicated to legally challenging the forces who would keep the world ignorant about the threat posed by climate change. Now I know at least three. I learned about UCS first, and began monthly donations to it on November 9. I have since then encountered both EarthJustice and NRDC.
I may re-examine and rebalance my giving; UCS seems to emphasize communication and organization, and I may prefer supporting a group that favors direct action and legal challenges, in the same vein as ACLU. In any case, I find myself as frustratingly susceptible as anyone else to losing focus on climate change’s fearful, long-term promises when surrounded by closer crises of every kind. I very much want to support an organization that will pay attention to it — and act on it — in my stead. For now, UCS will do.