A "Famine, Affluence, and Morality"
for Climate Change?
by Avram Hiller
Peter Singer wrote his landmark paper "Famine, Affluence, and Morality"
(hereafter FAM) in 1971 in response to the refugee crisis facing Bengal at the
time, concluding that affluent people are obligated to contribute a large portion
of their wealth to help those in need throughout the world. The core of FAM is
a now-famous example: it would be wrong not to save a drowning child even if
it means ruining one's clothes, and Singer argues that our obligation to people in
need in developing countries is no different than our obligation to the drowning
child nearby. This example is easy to grasp, and although Singer's argument has
certainly not been universally persuasive, it is hard to doubt that it, rephrased in
books and in major newspapers and magazines by Singer and others, has had
significant effects on many people.