The Inevitable

“Man can and must prevent the tragedy of famine in the future instead of merely trying with pious regret to salvage the human wreckage of the famine, as he has so often done in the past. We will be guilty of criminal negligence, without extenuation, if we permit future famines.” – Normal Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Lecture

What things are inevitable? Some technologies might be inevitable but they may also be difficult to see from a distance in time. Some events might also be inevitable and they may also be difficult or impossible to see coming. But some are not impossible to see coming. Some inevitable we can predict and if they are positive things, we should consider how to advance their arrival.

I want to look at a few things that were achieved that seemed impossible at one time but later became inevitable and finally happened. I want to use those past occurrences to consider what future things might be inevitable, and what we can do to accelerate their coming.

The two things that I want to highlight that happened in history are the moon landings and the eradication of smallpox. How incredible are those 2 things? How often does the normal person think about them? I suspect not very often. I only think about the moon landings a lot recently in light of the recent explosion in popularity in space stuff. I am looking to them for inspiration for what I believe to be an inevitable occurrence, the landing of a human being on Mars during my lifetime.

The eradication of smallpox from the world is another incredible achievement. I suspect before the first vaccine was discovered there was little realistic thought about eradicating a disease. The average person probably didn’t really think that there was a way to beat smallpox or any other disease. They probably hoped and prayed they didn’t get it and that was that. Now that we have eradicated smallpox and rinderpest (I’d never heard of it either) and almost eradicated polio, what is next?

I propose that we should fight the easiest to eradicate problems, those problems for which we already have a cure. Problems we don’t have to invent new cures to fight. The easiest is hunger. You and I are probably not hungry. We have plenty of food available to us down the street but many places don’t.

We often think of Africa when we think of third world countries. We see videos of people starving and are asked to send money to help. It’s good to help those types of things and the claims are true. The people need help. But what is the right type of help? We could send food aid but as the old saying goes “Give a man a fish and you’ve fed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.” I am a fan of organizations like One Acre Fund which works with farmers in Africa to provide them with high yield seeds and planting techniques to increase the yields of their small farms (usually less than one acre) from less than enough to feed a family to enough that they are able to save some for their families as well as produce some food to sell at a market.

I believe it is inevitable that one day there will be no hungry people in the world. We already produce enough food that we could feed everyone in the world if it was distributed evenly. Unfortunately, it is not. Some people have access to $300 meals every night. Some people live on $300 a year.

I hate making comments about “the rich”. Many have accumulated their wealth through creating products, businesses and jobs which provide for the people that buy the products and livelihoods for the people who work  in their businesses.

I also don’t like to criticize people who save for retirement. It’s great to save for retirement, usually through investments in businesses, via the stock market, or by starting your own business.

I am trying to think about how to encourage the average person to think about the people who are in dire need more. I have read a number of books that I believe will bring a sense of urgency related to helping others to anyone who reads them.

The Life You Can Save: Acting Now To End World Poverty – Peter Singer

Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty  –  (Audible) Roger Thurow, Scott Kilman

Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth – R. Buckminster Fuller

Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help  –  (Audible) Larissa MacFarquhar

Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least  –  Jessica Jackley

I hope after reading this you will be encouraged to learn more about the hungry of the world and how we might be able to help them.

There are many thoughts on why people are hungry and I am never focused enough to talk about just one. I always try to encompass every reason and contingency and consider if I’m wrong. This often leads to inaction and I hope that I can work on myself to be more willing to invest in ways that I think will lead to the reduction and eventual elimination of starvation in our world.
You may want to read this article that will get you thinking about some big issues related to hunger that you might not have considered yet.

10 of the Most Common Ways World Hunger Is Misunderstood Could the way people think about hunger be the greatest obstacle to ending it?
There is also a book (which i haven’t read yet) that is related to the list above.

02016 Year End Review

You can read my 02015 year end review here, which I did in November 2015. Wow. For 02016 I am waited until the actual end of the year to complete it.  

Here is my 02016 year in review. You can check the contents below if you just want to skip to one section
Simple Solar

Charities I Donate To
Personal things I did this year
Earlier in the year as part of my quest to share information that I think will have a positive effect on the world I made a few videos about investing and money. They can be found on my Youtube Channel here. For 2016 I had a total of 680 views coming to 814 minutes or 13 hours and 34 minutes.  While that is not a record for YouTube by any means, it was an interesting experiment for me. I will continue to think about YouTube this year and see if there is any more interest on my part in using it.


Simple Solar:

I believe almost 2 years ago I heard about a potential solar field that would be built by my local electricity provider. They called it Simple Solar. I really liked it for a few reasons.

  1. You could buy as many or as few shares as you wanted.
  2. You didn’t have to do your own maintenance (which most people don’t want to do, simple is better!)
  3. It would move with you if you moved houses, as long as you were in their provider area still. Not possible with a $20,000 home solar system.
  4. You didn’t have to worry about metering back into the grid it’s already part of the grid. This takes away a bit of hassle that you may have with a personal solar setup at your home.

The way it works after we purchased the credits and the field was build was that the shareholders will be credited each month on their bill for 20 years the amount that their shares produced when averaged over the whole solar field. There is no specific panel I own in the solar field.

I started receiving payments on my monthly bill in approximately July 2016. I also started paying for my panels, 4 shares of the whole project at $270/share for a total of $1080 or $90/month paid over 12 months. My monthly pay back rate is  $0.055002/KWH.  (Kilowatt hour). My 4 shares each generated 14.28 KWH in December (a not very sunny month). The normal rate I pay is $0.0579/KWH. While that is only $3.14 this month other months I have seen a payback of $6 or $7. Assuming a monthly payback of $5 = $60/year = $1200 over it’s lifetime. This just covers the $1080 investment. So at first it may not seem to be great money investment. $1,080 returning 7% a year for 20 years would be $3,869.  My calculation doesn’t take into account any raise in the electricity price that will surely happen over 20 years. It also doesn’t include a calculation for how much pollution is being reduced. Because of those reasons I see the money I put in this solar field as investing in the future. I see this as just as important as investing in your retirement accounts or perhaps even more important!

Here is an interesting website that shows the instantaneous and lifetime, and other facts, output of the solar field. Here is a video of the field.

I wrote 17 posts for You can find the list of all posts here.


Near the end of 02014 I was introduced to Mike Finley AKA “The Crazy Man In The Pink Wig”. He can be found here. He helped me learn a lot about investing and money management. One thing he encouraged was a yearly net worth statement. Here is what I’ve done over the year related to that.  

Start of Year 02016– 1-1-02016
401K – $60,383
HSA – $4,119.76  (none invested)
Vanguard – $14,268.47 ($3,000 to be part of 2016 ROTH $5,500 limit)
Bonds – $853
Total – $79,624.23

End of Year 02016 – 12-31-02016

401K -$85,896.34 (Change +$25,513.34)
HSA -$6,527.75 ($2,799.24 invested)   (Change +$2,407.99)
Vanguard -$17,933.78 (Change +$6,665.31)
Bonds – $882.01 (Change +$29.01)
Total – $111,239.88

My total 401K deferment was $17,399.20 between my own money and my company’s match. My personal ROTH IRA deferment was $5500, the max for someone under 55 years old. My HSA investment was $3350 but some of that was spent for health expenses, that’s why that is not $3,350 higher than the start of the year.

This gives a total of $22,899.20 into retirement accounts (401K + ROTH IRA).

You can see that my 401K balance rose more than the money I put in. This is due to growth of the economy. This is why it’s good to save money in the market, it grows faster than the market. You can see a great graph from Mr. Money Mustache here about how the market is always growing (over the long haul). If you checked the markets everyday, like I did, you will realize that most of the growth in stocks came after November 11th. Previous to this the return was hovering around 2% or 3%. This just goes to show that it is hard to know when to put money in which is why dollar cost averaging is a good strategy. With this strategy you don’t try to time the market. You just buy when you have money. This is how most 401K investments are set up if you have money deferred from a paycheck anyway since that is a regular payment.

On 7-6-02016 I purchased $2600 of FUSEX (a S&P 500 index fund) through my Health Savings Account which is held at Fidelity . The expense ratio is .09% or $0.90/$1,000 invested (Meaning if I have $2,600 total invested in that account I pay $2.34 per year to have that money in that investment. At the end of the year that $2,600 had grown to $2,799.24, which is a growth of $199.24/$2,600 = 7.6% growth. The Mad Fientist has a great post about the benefits of a HSA and investing it.

Digging further into my financial laundry, I will report that I do not own a house nor am I saving up for one. I am enjoying the limited amount of home repair time and cost that an apartment affords me. For most people you could include a house in your net worth calculation but you’d also have to include it in a debt calculation. I have no debt from vehicles, student loans or a house which puts me in a fairly good situation.

As for savings, I have a relatively small amount in cash at any one time. I do have my HSA which can cover any medical bills and the principle of my ROTH IRA can function as emergency cash at any time if I am in a real bind. If I need thousands of dollars in cash for anything besides a car or home loan I am probably in trouble. With my salary and  credit history and showing I have assets in a ROTH and 401K I should be able to secure a loan at any time with little down. This may not be an option for everyone but I believe it works for me.

I have a life insurance policy through work by default (2X my salary) and one extra one through work for $30,000 that costs about $2 a month. I have been meaning to cancel that but I have to physically send in paperwork and haven’t yet. Being a single male with no dependents I don’t see much need for life insurance on my part.

I wanted to share this information because a lot of people do not talk about money or retirement, but a lot of people are anxious about it. The less you talk about something the more anxiety comes from it because the less you know about it. I believe in the free sharing of information. I also believe if you don’t control your money it will control you. I understand that some people measure the value of others by how much money they have or make. This is true for people who don’t make or have a lot assuming that those who do have stolen it from them or others. It is also true for people who make or have a lot thinking that those who don’t are lazy or stupid. Both stereotypes are mostly wrong. Open dialogue between people would help clear up those misunderstandings. I also believe that knowing what you have should help you realize that you probably have more than you need. You can compare yourself to the rest of the world at the website “Global Rich List”. I found that (according to investments) I am in the top 7.6% of people in the world. That certainly makes you think.


One thing that I am unsure about is how I am supposed to balance saving vs. spending vs investing in myself or others. I think about how selfish it is to consume so much energy, food, entertainment myself when there are many who are unable to get enough to eat. That lead me to read the book “Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help”. While I am no saint, I wish I was better. One friend I talked to about this this year said that we should all do our best at whatever we are “called” to do. He thinks that if you are “called” to be the best race car driver in the world you should pursue that with passion. I am a bit skeptical if anyone is called to be the best race car driver. I understand that we can’t always be focused on helping others or we’ll get burned out or cynical. But how much more should we be trying to help others who are in a worse spot than us solely based on where they were born?

The tough thing about this line of reasoning is that you eventually end at that you shouldn’t have any fun and you are never doing enough because there is always someone else to help. At least that’s what others have told me. I want to take a bit more hopeful view of it. I hope for a time when we each care about one another more. We provide for those who don’t have enough and we aren’t to wrapped up in our own small lives. The book “Looking Backward” by Edward Bellamy has a pretty interesting outlook on this future.

In light of that, and while I am probably saving more than many people, I am also interested in many charities. Here is some information on those.

Charities I Donate To:

I read the book “The Life You Can Save”. You can read my review of that book here

That goal is possible. Here’s a seven point plan that will make you part of the solution to world poverty.

  1. Tell others what you have done. Spread the word in any way you can: talk, text, email, blog, use whatever online connections you have. Try to avoid being self-righteous or preachy, because you’re probably no saint, either, but let people know that they, too, can be part of the solution. Peter Singer (page 168 The Life You Can Save).

In working with that message, here is my list of charities for 2016 and a bit of justification for each.

Wikipedia – I uses this nearly every day. I appreciate that donating to charities allows you to choose how much you value it yourself and also allows you to pay as much as you can while not limiting access if you can’t pay.

Partners in Health – I read the book In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez at the end of 2015 and into January 2016 at the request of a friend. I appreciate that Dr. Farmer is working to help those in need get basic services that we take for granted in the developed world.

Alternatives Pregnancy – Based in Waterloo, Iowa. This is a Christian based non-profit that helps women who are pregnant. They are a pro-life organization. I appreciate that they are working to help those who can be in a tough position (unplanned pregnancy) instead of just telling them to have a  baby but not supporting them.

St Augie – Platteville, WI – This is the church I went to in college. They asked me to donate to them so I do now since I didn’t have a lot of money in college. (This is a relatively small monthly amount).

Long Now Foundation – This is a non-profit dedicated to long term thinking. They are where I picked up the idea of using 02016 instead of 2016 for a year date. I like them because they are inherently selfless, planning for long after they are gone. ($8/month = minimum membership).

End 7 (sabin vaccine) – Similar to Partners in Health.

“Most people have never have heard of diseases like elephantiasis, river blindness, snail fever, trachoma, roundworm, whipworm or hookworm. But nearly one in six people globally, including more than half a billion children, have these diseases. Without treatment, NTDs can lead to lifelong disabilities and suffering. Just 50¢ can treat and protect a person against all seven of the most common NTDs for up to one year.” – From their site.

Focus – Being Catholic I supported a friend’s girlfriend and future spouse (now spouse) who was doing Focus at the time. Now I support one of her friends.

One Acre Fund – I read their book, The Last Hunger Season, and a few pages into the book I donated to their charity. Here is my review of their book. Their philosophy of giving a man (or woman) the tools and knowledge to take care of themselves vs. handing out charity is a great idea to me. This is supporting both immediate needs (within one growing season people get more food) as well as helping them provide for themselves long term.

Imagine Missions – A woman started an orphanage in Haiti. I went to a friends church one day this year and she was speaking there so I decided to donate to them. $25-$50 a month provides for a child’s education and food. They also make a Facebook post daily so you can keep up with what they are doing.

The Job Foundation – I both mentor kids through this local program and donate to them. I see it as an investment in the future. This is a local and long term program.

NPR – I had grown up listening to NPR and was on a resurgence about a year or 2 ago. Eventually I have transitioned to listening to audiobooks almost all the time when I’m driving but continue to contribute (a little) each month to NPR in the likely event I start listening to them in the future again. I also listen to some public radio content via podcasts so supporting my local NPR station is another way to support those. Similar to Wikipedia, if you can pay for something and you use it you should to help subsidise it for people who may not be able to afford to pay for it. I know I listened to NPR in my life when I couldn’t pay for it and others were.

Children International – This charity allows you to sponsor individual kids who otherwise wouldn’t be getting the schooling and some healthcare. This is an international and long term program.

House of Hope – This is a local charity that is helping women and children who are in a tough place. I like that it gives them 2 years to get back on their feet as well as helping with education. I think this is very similar to the idea of a basic income (in a limited capacity).

Charity:Water – This charity is working to provide clean water to people by providing wells. Clean water can provide so many benefits since it stops a lot of other issues related to dirty water. It also gives more free time since people shouldn’t have to walk as far to get water.

Give Directly – This is a charity interested in seeing what happens when you provide people with a basic income. I read the study, “Household Response to Income Changes: Evidence from an Unconditional Cash Transfer Program in Kenya”  about some people who received help from them. I am interested in what happens when a basic income in provided. Will people work harder at something they enjoy? I am interested in what would happen for a basic income if it was applied to everyone. It’s cheaper to provide that for people who have a lower standard of living to start out with. They are working on a basic income program this year in Kenya.

Cedar Valley Gearheads – I don’t donate to this charity but I was the Vice President this last year. I see their work as good for effecting a short term immediate need of some local residents. Each charity has it’s own focus, long or short term, local or distant. Ultimately all need support so we should just identify which we can help the most and do that.



I had heard about micro-loans and microfinance for a while. I finally took the plunge and put my first $100 into Kiva January 28th, 2016. Since then I have put in a total of $608. Some of that was donated to Kiva for their own expenses. I have made a  total of 37 loans this year of $25 each for a  total of $925 loaned. That is one interesting thing about Kiva is that that money is not donated but only loaned. You can also pull that money back out of Kiva anytime after it’s been repaid to you. The money comes back but you don’t receive interest on it. I had one person die who I’d provided a loan to so that money was lost, but since it’s $25/loan (unless you choose to do more) it’s not a big loss. A much sadder loss for the man’s family that his life was lost.


I also read the book “Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least” which was sort of a memoir of one of the founders of Kiva.

Kiva is interesting because it gives you a lot of stats. You can keep track of how many countries you’ve loaned to (28 of 79 available countries to loan to for me this year). This could be a bit of a result of the gamification of everything. Another interesting aspect of their gamification is you can join lending teams. Fittingly the 2 largest teams with their stats are:

(A+) Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics,… 36,404 members have lent $29,751,725 in 1,024,874 loans

We loan because… We care about human beings and understand that it takes people to help people.


Kiva Christians 18,557 members have lent $28,448,925 in 611,093 loans

We loan because… Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (Jam. 1:27)

A little further down the list is Kiva Mormons 1,747 members have lent $3,877,725 in 111,031 loans

To spare you the math, and just for fun, that’s an average of $1533.06 from each Christian and $817.27 for each Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics….
The Mormons come to $2219.65/person.

Another fun thing that Kiva will do for teams is make various graphs. For example the Kiva Christians seem to fund more loans by men (by some percentage) while the Atheists seem to fund loans to women by approximately 4x!



Kiva’s microloan dollars are distributed by local banks and credit union partners in the countries it operates in. The lenders, such as myself, are only the capital. Some of the partners charge interest, others do not. The lenders (like me) do not get any interest though.

I am often quick to make a judgement about something like charging an interest rate to those who are asking for such small loans. To help offset some of those thoughts here is a FAQ page from Kiva. This can be seen as similar to the One Acre Fund policy of lending partners (people they are helping) money to purchase seed, fertilizer and other stuff from One Acre Fund and expecting to have that loan paid back. The borrowers are better off since they are able to produce more food for themselves and to sell. It is good for them to give that money back so someone else like themselves can receive that loan the next year. They are also free to get another loan from One Acre Fund to purchase more feed/fertilizer. Since they are likely to produce excess to be able to pay back the loan and have more for themselves overall the loan is a good thing. I believe the way Kiva’s partners operate with charging interest if they have to to survive may not always be a bad thing.

I am interested if Kiva and microloan is the right thing to do in general. I certainly believe that those people are probably being helped but one question is if the people who don’t receive loans are actually being hurt by the competition they are receiving from someone backed by a loan? Are the people receiving the loan getting an unfair advantage? I am not sure.

Another question I wondered was “Would there be an opportunity for ‘regular’ lenders like banks to make money from lending and gaining interest from a typical microloan user?” Again, perhaps but they may be more likely to lend at even higher rates than if the capital is coming from a relatively “rich” backer from Kiva. (Relatively rich since a typical loan on Kiva is a few hundred dollars compared to thousands or even hundreds of thousands for a typical USA loan for a car, house or education.

Kiva is also interested in other types of loans, such as their 0% loans available in the US here. Perhaps they are also available in other places?


I loaned my first money via Zidasha on August 21st, 2016. It is similar to Kiva (it was started by a former Kiva employee) in that it does micro loans. I can’t tell you exactly what is different. The way I have it set up it auto relends money as low as $1 (although you can go in and set it to relend at a certain date to allow more to get paid back to you for a larger loan to any one person). I sort of like have a little more ($25 vs $1) in each loan, but I suppose the way Zidisha does it, having even more people participate in each loan, donating as low as $1 spreads the risk out even more for the lenders. If you don’t particularly care which projects/businesses/school education gets your money the auto relending seems fine. It is probably more efficient. I mostly signed up for Zidisha just to see a different system from Kiva. My first loan through Zidisha was for $52 and now through repayments $78 total has been lent to 9 loans. I am not actively adding money to this like I have been to Kiva. I haven’t looked into it enough to determine which I really think is better. Kiva is certainly larger. You can find a lot more information about Zidisha here.




I finished reading 33 books in 2016. I started 2 books that I didn’t finish. Antiquities of the Jews (super long book, I got 100 pages in which is longer than most of the books on this list and Getting Things Done the art of stress-free productivity (2015 Edition) – David Allen This book I just found rather boring. A lot of people in the work group I read this with didn’t finish it either.) I also read 1 kindle book (Time and Regret). I had resisted reading Kindle books because I like being able to highlight in my books and find those references again. I found that it is even easier on a Kindle to do that. I also just like having a book in my hand. Maybe I’m old fashioned. I may try more Kindle books in the future.

I finished 21 audiobooks between audible and CD’s.  I have mainly given up listening to music or news on the radio. Perhaps current news would be good to listen to but I find it usually incomplete. I generally find that I can find more reliable information a few days after some real information is found out. I remember in 2015 listening as the Boston Marathon Bombers were being chased down. It sounded as though I was getting live updates from the officers chasing them. I was getting anxious just listening to it. I don’t really need that up-to-date news. I can hear it in a day or 2. Because of that I am now identifying things that will improve my understanding of how the world came to be as it is and things that will improve me. I read books on history and the future. On technology and religion, about science and pseudoscience and science fiction and a lot of books about space, Mars and astronauts! I listened to books about the governments of China, Russia and North Korea. I read a few books about the work certain nonprofits were doing (Kiva and One Acre Fund). I purchased 33 books from Amazon but only read 20 of them. I didn’t read 13 of the books I purchased (for myself to read). Of the other 12 books I did read some must have been purchased the previous year, some were purchased in person, a few came from a book study at work and at least a few were gifted to me by other people. I listened to 2 books by Walter Isaacson, read 2 by C.S. Lewis, 2 by Oliver Sacks and 3 by Scott Adams, one by Albert Einstein and one about him, 2 by astronauts (1 by Buzz Aldrin and 1 by Chris Hadfield) and one about the experiences of a lot of astronauts (The Overview Effect) and 2 books about Kiva (one by a person who started it and one by a man who loaned a lot of money via Kiva and interviewed some of the people who received that money).  I also read one book for the third time, Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth by Buckminster Fuller.

My complete reading list over the past few years can be found here.

Personal things I did this year:
In January I attended the Detroit Auto Show. One of my favorite vehicles shown there was the 3 wheel, 2 person Elio. It is not in production yet but I hope it eventually is!
In June I attended a wrestling Camp with my younger brother. He is a freshman this year.
Later in June I visited a friend in Texas. We went to the Johnson Space Center, 2 Lamborghini dealers and a Hindu Mandir (temple) in Houston.
In July I attended a family reunion where we celebrated the 100th birthday of one of my father’s aunts.
In July I also became a Godfather for the 2nd time.
In November I visited a friend in Chicago and went to the Museum of Industry and Science. The German U-boat there was incredible!
I visited the Performance Racing Industry Trade show in December 2016.




The Life You Can Save: Acting Now To End World Poverty – A Book Review (of Sorts)

Here is a link to Peter Singer’s TED talk about effective altruism, which makes a lot of the same points as the book “The Life You Can Save: Acting now to End World Poverty”.

The target we should be setting for ourselves is not halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, and without enough to eat, but ensuring that no one needs to live permanently in such degrading conditions.

That goal is possible. Here’s a seven point plan that will make you part of the solution to world poverty.

1.Visit and pledge to meet the standard.

(read 2 and 3 in the book yourself)

4. Tell others what you have done. Spread the word in any way you can: talk, text, email, blog, use whatever online connections you have. Try to avoid being self-righteous or preachy, because you’re probably no saint, either, but let people know that they, too, can be part of the solution.

 Peter Singer (page 168 The Life You Can Save)

In writing this post I am trying to do exactly what Peter Singer asks above. The basic premise of the book, if you can’t tell from above, is that “wealthy people” (nearly anyone reading this qualifies as wealthy) only need to give a small percentage of each of their individual incomes to help eliminate world poverty and save the lives of “the extreme poor”. These are people who are dying from diseases that have long been defeated in the “1st world” countries.

Throughout the books he shares examples of how in certain situations if there is a person in trouble right in front of us we are willing to go to extreme lengths to help that person. He then shares how with the prevalence of the internet and the plethora of NGO’s and charities operating in the world we are only a click away from helping thousands of people, even if we don’t make 6 figures a year.

In the chapter “How Much Does It Cost to Save a Life?” he tries to address the often heard excuse that “I don’t know if that charity is actually doing any good or not with my money so I won’t give any.” He discusses both Charity Navigator and also GiveWell. Both groups that try to help individuals understand the effectivity and transparency of various charities in the world. He also shares some calculated numbers of how much it costs to help people through various situations.

“Interplast corrects deformities like cleft palate, and helps burn victims so that they can walk or use their hands again.” “GiveWell calculates that Interplast spends about $500 to $1500 per corrective surgery” (p89)

“We can reasonably believe that the cost of saving a live through one of these charities is somewhere between $200 and $2,000.” (p103)

I believe, as Peter Singer states that “as people become more confident of the cost-effectiveness of charities, they will become more willing to give.” (p93)

After sharing how easy it is to give and how effective charities are these days, Singer discusses how much he thinks each person should give. He shares the story of Zell Kravinsky. Here is a link to an article about the man. He is truly amazing. He has anonymously donated a kidney to a stranger. Some of his charity has caused some internal conflict with his family. His efforts to help others are truly heroic.   The whole point of this book though, is that if we all pulled our own weight in helping others, Zell’s heroic efforts wouldn’t be necessary.

Which is the point of the next chapter, “Asking Too Much?” I can’t say it any better than Singer, “focus instead on the fact that if everyone were doing their fair share, the total amount each of us would need to give in order to wipe out, or at least drastically reduce, large-scale extreme poverty would be in the hundreds, rather than thousands, of dollars per year.” (p144)

In the final chapter Singer finally shares a real number, he proposed 5% of income per person who is “financially comfortable” should be given to charitable causes. He even shares some data about the reverse bell curve of actual giving in the USA currently. You can find that curve here. At least as measured in dollars, the less money you make the more likely you are to give a higher percentage, at least until people are making many hundreds of thousands or millions in income.  

The above statement should drive you to ask “How can I become financially comfortable?”  This should be the first step in helping others. Much like the mantra on a plane “put on your own mask before helping others” if you aren’t stable yourself, or at least feel stable, you shouldn’t be to worried about others. If you eventually figure out the few tricks

  1. The is no true security.
  2. The market always goes up.

You will be feeling quite secure in your future once you have built some assets and understand what they actually are. You can learn more about investing and saving and creating your own security here. You can learn a bit more about investing from a few videos I have created here and here.

You can also learn about security from “The Crazy Man in The Pink Wig” a personal mentor of mine. (I will buy you his book on investing if you won’t buy it yourself, just email me

Finally, you can learn from Mr. Money Mustache’s posts, here or here, or just about any post of his.

Once you are stable yourself you can then start focusing on others. You will be in good company as these guys Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), Bill Gates (Windows), Pierre and Pam Omidyar (Ebay) and Manoj Bhargava (5 Hour Energy) are already leading the charge to change the world for the better.

If you need a few suggestions on charities you can check my page of preferred charities or this post for more information about my 2nd favorite book “The Last Hunger Season” about what I think is a particularly effective charity.

Once you are in a comfortable place yourself, I would encourage you to at least “do your part” by checking in at Singer’s site, and “becoming a member”. To do that you will just have to tell the site your income and it will recommend how much you should give to charity to “do your part”. I believe that if we do this we will see the end of poverty in our life times. I have calculated the year 02041 as when we will have no more hungry people but I believe it will be much sooner than that based on an exponential rate of reduction of poverty.

The Last Hunger Season (A book review)

You can buy “The Last Hunger Season” using this link.

How we will be able to explain to children why there used to be hungry people in the world?

People sometimes wonder why God would allow so much suffering in our world. Maybe instead we should be wondering why we do. – Jim Palmer

I started reading this book 8-17-02016 and finished it 8-22-02016. I had found out about it after listening to the TED talk by the founder of One Acre Fund, Andrew Youn.

You can learn more about the organization (and any other charities) via Charity Navigator. Charity Navigator is great for helping you feel at ease donating to various organizations. You can know so much about a group. You can see the salaries of the top paid people. The tax returns of the charities for the past years. Tons of information. Back to the book.

One Acre Fund is a NGO (Non-Government Organization, charity, non-profit) that works with farmers in rural Africa to provide them productive seeds and planting techniques. Most of these farmers plant .5 acres or 1 acre. The “super farmers’ plant 2 acres. The planting is all done by hand. Sometimes they are able to have their fields plowed by an animal but some just work it by hand also.

The book follows the story of several farmers in Kenya through their year of 2011 working with the new techniques and hybrid seeds provided to them by One Acre Fund. It chronicles their lives, planting season, struggles with money to feed their families, keep their kids in school, deal with illnesses and deaths and skipping celebrations because they didn’t have the money for food.

As an engineer I really appreciated how thorough the book was regarding the inputs, costs of seed and fertilizer, and outputs, what the farmers are paid for their harvest. It also chronicles how the cost of food varies by over 100% over the year and how farmers often have to sell early when the price is low and then buy later when it is high, a double whammy to the net worth (or lack of) of the individuals.

Another thing that was astonishing to me was concept of a hunger season, the “wanjala”. Many times they talked about how they would have tea for breakfast and perhaps nothing to eat during the day.

Money was talked about a lot. Always in Kenya Shillings. I found it easiest to approximate 100 shillings = $1. For example, one of the men’s salaries was 1500 shillings a month, or $15 (Page 34). To be fair, it didn’t say how much he worked, but I suspect it was more than 1 hour. They also shared the price of one man’s bean and fertilizer purchase to plant a quarter acre of beans. 1800 schillings, $18. It also records his returns, 158.8 kg x 80 shillings a kg = 12,704 shillings or $127 on an investment of $18, that’s a 700% return! If we could all get that kind of return wouldn’t we be happy? (Page 65).

The tough decisions these people face each day was eye opening. I could feel a little bit of the weight they felt as they were making decisions to sell a bag of rice to buy some medicine to treat a family member. Or the choice to sell a cow to pay for schooling for a child. While I could try to feel the weight, I really couldn’t even fathom it. How does a person in the USA even consider living on a few hundred dollars a year?

Later it discussed the various companies trying to address the challenge of storing the maize and other grains. Since sitting in air it can spoil easily if it gets wet. There are various companies working on plastic storage bins, about 6 ft tall for some of them. That doesn’t seem like a lot of storage but when you are farming an acre it can be huge! Between those companies and One Acre Fund trying to educate on farming techniques and share new seeds, there is really a lot of improvement coming about in a small time in Kenya and other parts of the world.

After I read this book I decided to read one or two reviews of it. One quote I got from this review was “Africa’s future is not as a continent of happy peasants” pointing to the successful Brazilian model – highly mechanized production and greater urbanization is the answer, enabling the children of smallholder farmers to move off the land.”

While I can understand his sentiment I would have to ask him where he thinks these small time farmers will get the money to buy small enough tractors to till 1 acre of land and make it profitable? Where will be the infrastructure to fix the vehicles when they break? I believe that Andrew Youn and One Acre Fund are doing exactly what is right for the right time in history. He is rolling out something that can be implemented immediately to allow the farmers to literally fight off days that would require them to not eat! The farmers are even doing as the writer of the article suggests and investing in their children’s futures. The children already have a brighter (less manual labor and less likelihood of hunger) than their parents and the parents futures look bright because of the kids. It should be unnecessary to mention but I will anyway, most of these people don’t have much put away in terms of money savings. The do talk a lot about diversifying their businesses as far as getting different animals and planting different crops. They are sharp people doing the best with what they have. One Acre Fund is just trying to get them the tools to do even better.

This was my 2nd favorite book I have read in the last 2 years after “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth” and I would recommend anyone and everyone reads it.
Bringing this back to my opening quote, I wonder how we will be able to explain to children why there used to be hungry people in the world? I say “used to” because “I really hope I am able to look out my window in 02041 and say “There are no hungry people today.” (based on my post “The Last Hungry Person”)

Here is an article with some information about how farmers partnering with One Acre Fund are doing.