The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer

by Peter Singer, author of The Life You Can Save

The Life You Can Save will challenge your students to think about what they should be doing about one of the great issues of our times. For the first time in history, it is now within our reach to virtually eradicate world poverty and the suffering it brings. Yet around the world, a billion people struggle to live each day on less than many of us your students too—pay for bottled water that we don’t even need. And though the number of deaths attributable to poverty worldwide has fallen dramatically in the past half-century, nearly nine million children still die unnecessarily each year. We in the developed world face a profound choice: if we are not to turn our backs on a fifth of the world’s population, we must become part of the solution.

I wrote The Life You Can Save to show that our current response to world poverty is not only insufficient but ethically indefensible, and to help change our views about what is involved in living an ethical life. To help us play our part in bringing about that change, I offer a seven-point plan that mixes personal philanthropy (figuring how much to give and how best to give it), local activism (spreading the word in your community), and political awareness (contacting your representatives to ensure that your nation’s foreign aid is really directed to the world’s poorest people).

If we do this, we will make a huge difference in the lives of others, without diminishing the quality of our own life. The book is a source of information on world poverty, on giving and the psychological barriers to giving, and on making aid more effective. Its associated website,, offers further up-to-date information and an opportunity to exchange ideas with others.

The book is a spur to thinking hard about ethics, the state of our world, and our obligations. It is also a call to action that students can take today.