Spotlight On: The Environment

This is the first in a new series of posts providing additional detail on the values that motivate our contributions.  We'll do a different post for each cause, and hope that in doing so, we give you a better sense as to what exactly you're supporting when you donate to Power of Deduction.  Our goal is to leave you confident your donation will be put to thoughtful and responsible use.

For this first installment, the spotlight's on the environment.

As with all of our causes, we focus our environmental giving on organizations taking a pragmatic approach to fixable problems with a significant human impact. We also place a high value on the teaching of experts within the field, which is particularly important in the realm of the environment. That’s because, while we’re no slouches (Adelaide’s a PhD and Eric’s a lawyer, after all!), the challenges facing the environment and the best ways to address them require scientific knowledge and academic training that we just don’t have.   

That being said, we’ve benefited from the writings of experts in the field, who have confirmed our intuition that the primary challenge facing the environment—the one liable to do the most damage—is climate change.  “Fixing” climate change is of course a complicated proposition, and could conceivably be done in a few different ways.  You could: (1) reduce emissions, (2) boost what are known as “carbon sinks” (which take in more carbon than they emit and reduce harmful atmospheric gasses in that way), or (3) simply try to mitigate the effects by, for example, building seawalls around areas endangered by rising sea levels.   The prevailing view among scientists seems to be that the long term solution will require a reduction in emissions.  However, we agree with various experts that such a reduction will require both scientific progress and governmental intervention, and we aren’t sure that either of these agents of change is particularly dependent on charitable contributions.  True, some scientific studies are financed in part by contributions processed through charitable organizations.  That’s why we’ve supported the World Resources Institute’s efforts in this area in the past, and we certainly may do so again in the future.  But ultimately, we think governments' and scientists' activities are largely independent of the world of charitable giving and therefore question whether the reduction of emissions is the right goal to pursue with our contributions.

Organizations that advance carbon sinks, on the other hand, while perhaps not getting to the root of the long term "fix," can still have a significant impact, and are largely dependent upon and responsive to charitable contributions.  As a result, we expect to focus our environmental giving on organizations like the Rainforest Trust or the Rainforest Alliance in the near term, both of which make protecting large amounts of trees—the ultimate carbon sinks—a central focus of their missions.

The above of course remains subject to further evolution as we continue to research this area, but it reflects our thinking as of today.