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December 2015

'Tis the Season for Shopping Sharing

I find the shopping season to be one of the most stressful times of the year. My personal torture derives from a bit of procrastination combined with a hint of perfectionism, i.e. finding something clever yet practical, beautiful yet unique, desirable yet inexpensive,... But the giving part is fun! Sharing with family and friends is a (mostly) positive experience. Ultimately, I find that the pleasure of sharing (usually) outweighs the pain of the shopping.

While on the subject of sharing...

In my experience, ASHRAE people are a sharing-minded group. I often marvel at their willingness to share their time, share their knowledge and share a commitment to "serve humanity and promote a sustainable world". Some of our members have contributed years of time serving on chapter boards, technical committees, and standards committees (but still I haven't found an old-fart engagement committee chair!). And right now we have a few dozen volunteers contributing valuable time to our chapter to educate our members, support students and raise funds for research. Sure, we all have our selfish episodes (don't expect me to share any of mine with you), but mostly we're happy to share our time and our ideas. And many also share their money through donations to ASHRAE research.

(If you're interested in joining this joyful ASHRAE sharing fest, then come to the next chapter meeting and chat up a board member or committee member. Or send me a note at erik@kolderupconsulting.com. For ASHRAE research donations see http://ggashrae.org/content.php?page=Research_Promotion.)

So much sharing! It's totally tubular (kids, ask your parents). And yet, for all the sharing we do, many of us, myself included, can do so much more. In so many ways!

Here's an example that's very dear to me. In September my partner Jennifer donated one of her kidneys. She didn't know the recipient, but she knew that this act would transform the life of a person who was suffering. In fact, the donation helped several people by kicking off a chain of donations. Giving can involve some pain, and in her case it was actual physical pain. But for Jennifer the knowledge that her act helped save another life makes it all worth it.

I doubt I have the courage to share as Jennifer shared. Fortunately, there are many ways to help save lives that don't involve surgery.

But just like shopping for the right holiday gift, finding the right path to helping others can be a challenge. Who do you give to? How do you know your donation is effective? How much should you give?

If you’re not sure where to start, I suggest checking out an organization called The Life You Can Save (www.thelifeyoucansave.org), which was founded by Princeton philosophy professor Peter Singer. They target helping people in extreme poverty. They help us by providing information on who to give to and how much to give.

Where do we give? Singer promotes the idea of effective giving, and The Life You Can Save identifies a list of charities shown by evidence to make effective use of donations. It’s even better than Amazon’s customer reviews.

How much do we give? Singer has some compelling ideas, and the website has some good explanations (and a video with Stephen Colbert here: http://www.thelifeyoucansave.org/Take-the-Pledge). The bottom line is he’s suggesting that we each donate a pretty significant amount, or really a pretty insignificant amount depending on your perspective. By his reckoning, if we all contribute these modest amounts for effective interventions, then we can almost eliminate extreme poverty. Here are a few examples.   

Income

Percent of Income

Donation

$50,000

1.9%

$950

$75,000

3.0%

$2,250

$100,000

4.6%

$4,600

$125,000

5.0%

$6,250

 

Can we do this? When I think about what I’d have to give up, I realize it’s a lot less than a kidney. And when it’s gone, odds are I won’t even miss it.

Happy holidays to one and all!

-Erik Kolderup, President, ASHRAE Golden Gate Chapter

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