OC

Oisín Considine

173 karmaJoined Feb 2022Pursuing an undergraduate degree

Bio

Hi! I'm a final year undergraduate student at Trinity College Dublin studying Theoretical Physics. I'm primarily interested in animal advocacy as of now, though I'm open to other cause areas too.

How others can help me

I'm still trying to find out concretely what work I'm good at and what I like doing, thus I am looking for opportunities to accumulate some form of career capital (particularly work at some place where I can discover my strengths and aptitudes and improve upon them).

Comments
12

I'd like to see research on methods we could use to effectively and efficiently collect data at large scales with minimal costs.

I'm not sure how much of a bottleneck (high-quality) data collection is in different cause-areas, but since it is super important to so many cause-areas, I think it would be well worth looking into. I imagine that surely there has to be at least some low-hanging fruit in terms of ways we can obtain lots of data for various cause-areas, buy I'd love some proper investigation into these ways.

I would really love to see someone, ideally someone with a background in philosophy, explore what effective altruism (either EA as a whole or various sub-causes of EA) would look like if the Epicurean view of death, namely that death is neither bad nor good (nor "neutral") for the individual who dies since they themselves cannot experience the sensation, and by extension the badness (or goodness), of death[1], were to actually be taken seriously.

I am not a philosopher, nor am I studying philosophy, and thus I believe I would not be able to tackle this project with the rigour and depth I feel it needs. Despite my limited knowledge on the subject, and as unintuitive as this idea of how to treat death may appear, I am as yet unable to rationalise my way out of the overall idea, which seems trivial when I really think about it. Given this, however, I am quite disappointed that it doesn't appear to be taken seriously, or even mentioned, within EA (a few brief mentions of it, most prominently here by the Happier Lives Institute, but unfortunately not much elsewhere).

I have been reading[2] "Epicurus and the Singularity of Death" by David B. Suits[3], through which the author attempts to defend the Epicurean view of death, first in its abstract form and then by testing its implications against real-life cases such as premature death, deprivation, killing and suicide, among others. I believe this book may be of use to some who wish to go down this particular rabbit hole.

Death happens to all living beings, and it is central to almost all ethical theories and beliefs throughout history, and Epicurus' idea of death is, I assume at least, commonly studied in courses on the philosophy of death. An issue as important as death, therefore, ought to be explored and discussed fully and thoroughly, which I do not at all see in the EA community regarding the Epicurean view.

  1. ^

    Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus; translated by Cyril Bailey (1926)

  2. ^

    I had to take a break from it about a third of the way through in order to focus on my studies, but I will return to it once I am able to.

  3. ^

    Get the PDF for free off LibGen if you want

I used the Brussels Effect in the context of the Plant-Based Universities campaign to demonstrate how a university or universities in a particular region transitioning to a fully plant-based catering system would encourage other universities to follow suit at least partly due to wanting to maintain a forward-looking and innovative image and reputation which makes them appear more attractive. However, I admit that I didn’t fully understand the true nature of the Brussels Effect when I first wrote the post, and now after reading back over my post, particularly the part mentioning the Brussels Effect which you highlighted, and after understanding more about how this effect has less of a reputational factor and more of an economical factor which plays the role in encouraging change, I believe that mentioning it has no real use here. I was a little bit naive in the way in which I used (or perhaps misused) the term, so thank you for pointing this out to me. I take your point into due consideration and I have now edited that sentence out. Nevertheless my point about a university/universities going plant-based indirectly encouraging others to follow them due to factors including wanting to maintain a certain image/attractiveness, as well as the inertia of the movement itself, stands as is.

I'm not sure about whether or not some university canteens have asked to remove red meat, but I know that some of the universities which were successful, voted to implement something like 60/70% plant-based catering for the next year, with an increase of 10% each year until they get to 100% to make it more gradual.

Also, even if a university agreed to remove red meat, I still believe this is a more positive move in the long run, even taking this substitution effect into account (though of course I could be wrong as I have no concrete evidence). Just shifting away from red meat (even if not fully/partially replaced with plant-based food) could provide a bit of a momentum boost in bringing about institutional climate action regarding food systems change, and could encourage other universities to go even further and try for fully plant-based. Also it could give campaigners at the now red-meatless university a foot-in-the-door to go further and push for the removal of all animal products. Removing red meat could also get people thinking about the food/drink they consume when thinking about climate change. Of course, all this can provide a bridge for other issues which animal agriculture exacerbates to become gradually more mainstream too. However, yes there could definitely be (short-term) downsides to a university removing just red meat (and further downsides if the removal of red meat was what was initially campaigned for, though even this still has many positives).

The aim of the initiative is to get all university catering services to transition to serving 100% plant-based options, so the plan is to remove beef and chicken, along with all other animal-based food/drink products

In relation to the proportion of students who would/would not be in favour of this, the most I could find for now are the percentage votes for and against the motion in some of the universities in which a vote was held. As far as I am aware, along with University College London, Queen Mary University of London and Universities of Cambridge, Kent, Stirling and Birmingham (all at which the motion was passed), votes for the motion were also held (which failed) at Universities of Edinburgh and Warwick. I could only find data on the votes at Warwick (846 total votes, 320 (38%) for, 497 (59%) against, 29 (3%) abstentions),[1] Cambridge (total vote unknown, 55% for, 21% against, 24% abstentions),[2] UCL (total vote unknown, 75% "for" in general vote, 86% "for" in SU executive meeting)[3] and Birmingham (total vote unknown, 54% for).[4] Also in Kent, although I don't have any exact figures to hand, the vote for the motion (which passed) had the highest voter turnout (over 450) for any Kent Union election in the university's history.[5]

There was also a YouGov poll which found that 55% of students want more plant-based options at their university, and it also showed that 47% of students were either flexitarian, pescetarian, vegetarian or vegan and that 49% would like to eat less meat and/or dairy (I can find these articles (here and here) which mention these results, yet I can't seem to find the raw published data or the survey results themselves, though I could have simply missed them). And one YouGov survey (December 2022) showed that 31% of 18-24 year-old Britons described themselves either flexitarian, pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan (53% described themselves as a meat-eater, and 15% as none of the above), and 12% of non-vegans of this age category would like to attempt Veganuary (going vegan for the month of January) in 2023.[6]

Additionally, I found this interesting study (summary) which investigated the consumer effects of university dining halls serving plant-based meals as the default option. It studied three US universities (Tulane University, Lehigh University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute). It found that

On Control Days, only 26.9% of dishes served were plant-based. In comparison, on Plant Default Days, 57.6% of dishes served were plant-based. At Tulane and Lehigh, the proportion of plant-based dishes served on Plant Default Days jumped to 81.5%

and

We calculate that food-related greenhouse gas emissions declined by 23.6% on Plant Default Days.

They also say that spillover effect is also taken into account, whereby a proportion of students who would have visited an intervention station on a Control Day decided to avoid the intervention station on a Plant Default Day in search of meat options elsewhere in the dining hall.

Other key findings of this study include:

  1. With incorrect implementation, the impact of the default on dish choice vanishes
  2. Students—including meat eaters—are open to plant-based options
  3. Dining hall staff found a plant-based default easy—and enjoyable—to implement
  4. Eating and serving meat continues to be the social norm in campus dining, despite openness by students and staff to shift toward plant-forward choices, which indicates a considerable untapped opportunity for effective interventions, like defaults, to change consumption behaviour[7]

So I guess that yeah there may be some who would be disgruntled about this but the last study mentioned (which was partly commissioned by Sodexo North America by the way), shows that students—including meat eaters—were significantly more likely to express satisfaction with plant-based meals on days when plant-based meals were the default. And Sodexo have also publicly committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by making its college campus planned menus 50% plant-based by 2025.[8] So I do believe that shifting behaviour on an institutional level can force a shift in behaviour on an individual level in the same or a similar direction.

  1. ^

    https://www.instagram.com/p/CZjw2QIgbSJ/

  2. ^

    https://www.instagram.com/p/Co7TvEGqNS5/

  3. ^

    https://www.plantbaseduniversities.org/post/un-goodwill-ambassador-supports-plant-based-universities-as-university-college-london-votes-yes

  4. ^

    https://www.plantbaseduniversities.org/post/birmingham-university-students-vote-for-a-plant-based-student-s-guild

  5. ^

    https://www.plantbaseduniversities.org/post/record-breaking-vote-as-students-at-the-university-of-kent-say-yes-to-100-plant-based-catering

  6. ^

    https://yougov.co.uk/topics/society/articles-reports/2022/12/29/how-many-britons-will-attempt-vegan-diet-and-lifes

  7. ^

    https://betterfoodfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Exec-Summary_Serving-Up-Plants-by-Default.pdf

  8. ^

    https://us.sodexo.com/media/news-releases/landmark-sodexo-study-in-college.html

Currently I see that GWWC is registered in the US, UK and the Netherlands, and there exist country-specific regranting organisations in 11 other countries where one can also avail of some sort of local tax deduction. Do you plan on (if you are able to) expanding the number of countries whose donors can avail of tax deductions, either by getting GWWC registered in those countries or by helping to set up, or link to GWWC, regranting organisations in more countries?

Is it possible to edit the title so it says "Deadline June 5th" instead of "Deadline 6/5" as many people who could potentially be interested in this might look at the title and think the deadline was the 6th of May and thus scroll past the post? Most of the world uses the DD/MM/YY (sometimes also YY/MM/DD) format, so I would imagine that this small change could help a lot and attract more potential applicants.

This seems like a really fantastic opportunity and it would be a great pity if some were to ignore it who otherwise would have been interested in applying simply because they misinterpreted the deadline as being the 6th of May instead of the 5th of June.

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