Leigh Sharpless: EA Takes Time

Leigh Sharpless, lksharpless@college.harvard.edu

My EA experience has been anything but effortless. From the day I joined the group I found ways not to drink the utilitarian, egalitarian, cost-effectivitarian koolaid. While it makes sense to do the most good for the most people, the acute details of EA never settled with me; in systematizing good will and industrializing kindness it seems that the point of helping others has been completely perverted. I could never accept that to do the most good we must withdraw empathy and instead throw money at strangers based on statistics.

Weeks went on and I kept coming to EA meetings. The skeptic in me continued to protest, but perhaps a bit less each time. I can’t say here was ever really an “ah-ha” moment, rather, there was a causal and gradual change of sentiment. I began noticing my own behaviors more critically, seeing what waste I produced and what I could’ve done better. Rather than just eating meat, I appreciated the processes that brought it to fruition- including the harm that was done along the way. I am more conscious of the earth than I have ever been; while it is a sad reckoning, it is one that we must make. But more than ever, (even more than with animal suffering or existential crises) I am cognizant of the struggles of other people in countries that I should be doing so much more to help.

It is not everyday that we must appreciate the strife of another person many miles away. In fact, it is a rare that we even consider another human who has very little in common with us, one who will never cross paths with us, and who’s life may never affect our own. Nonetheless, EA has taught me to do just that. Even if I still find disagreement in the minor details of how EA works, the dominating ideas- that of compassion, activeness and effectiveness- are something I wish I had learned to accept much earlier. It has taught me that because of the position I am in, a new student at Harvard, there is so much I can do to change hundreds of suffering lives. It only takes a little bit of work for me to participate and help, but it can change others fundamentally. I am so glad I have had the opportunity to learn about EA and I know it will be a lesson I can pass onto others.