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Robert_Wiblin comments on Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 22 December 2015 12:50:23PM *  4 points [-]

I also support renaming this the 'rich meat eater problem', or something like that. It's absurd to have to focus be on the very poor in this regard when the problem is on what happens when people are no longer poor.

It is also bizarre to focus on only this one long-term effect when there are so many others that seem as significant, or more so. To start with, a richer world means more researchers working on better meat-replacements, and a bigger market for any business that succeeds in developing such a novel product.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 22 December 2015 01:02:47PM *  5 points [-]

Impacts on developed society's economic progress are a long way removed from economic development in the developing world, and impacts on developed society's research progress from economic growth constitute another leap entirely. I can come up with countervailing scenarios too - "the expansion of high intensity, high efficiency African agriculture will lead to net exports that will outprice meat replacements." And so on and so forth.

It's totally disingenuous to shut down a discussion by claiming that the issue in question is less significant than something else. If you wanted to apply that strategy then you could find plenty of other discussion topics to be equally 'bizarre.' I'm not sure what to make of that accusation except to hope that you simply misinterpreted my original post where I said that I wasn't evaluating other possibly greater issues.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 22 December 2015 04:37:16PM *  1 point [-]

I'm not trying to shut down the discussion, I just think the concern about 'more meat eating' should be put in the context of a more comprehensive list of positive and negative flow-through effects of economic growth, in which it wouldn't particularly stand out.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 22 December 2015 03:33:29PM 4 points [-]

It is bizarre to focus on only this one long-term effect when there are so many others that seem as significant or more so. To start with, a richer world means more researchers working on better meat-replacements, and a bigger market for any business that succeeds in developing such a product.

The causal connection between making people wealthier and them eating more meat is pretty strong. It's much less clear that donating to GiveDirectly will lead to better meat-replacements (or pretty much any other technological benefit).

Comment author: tomstocker 30 December 2015 06:58:07AM 0 points [-]

You say its strong but doesn't development also reduce fertility? I hate to bring another argument that is positioned in a hypocritical farm owner mentality to wonderful and often downtrodden people,, but within your frame, how do you know that this doesn't just bring forward a bit of raised meat consumption while reducing the eventual human numbers after 20 years on a permanent basis, reducing total animal suffering?

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 30 December 2015 03:47:08PM 1 point [-]

Development reduces fertility, but developed countries still eat way more animals than developing countries do. According to Wikipedia, rich countries eat about ten times as much meat per person as poor countries, which overwhelms differences in population size. Also consider that rich countries use factory farming more than poor countries do, so the animals they eat suffer a lot more.

Comment author: Mac- 22 December 2015 03:15:58PM *  2 points [-]

I also support renaming this the 'rich meat eater problem', or something like that. It's absurd to focus on the very poor in this regard.

Most EAs who care about human and non-human animals are donating to humans in "poor" countries and/or donating to promote animal welfare. Therefore, meat eater behavior in "poor" countries is an important "problem" for these EAs.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 22 December 2015 04:44:08PM 8 points [-]

The problems are a) it looks bad to have a bunch of rich people blaming the 'poor' for a problem created by the wealth they already have and others don't; b) the problem isn't about 'poor meat eaters', it's about 'no-longer-poor meat eaters' so in that sense it's a misnomer .

Comment author: Mac- 22 December 2015 06:54:41PM *  -1 points [-]

a) it looks bad to have a bunch of rich people blaming the 'poor' for a problem created by the wealth they already have and others don't;

We shouldn’t really care if it looks bad. We should only care about what course of action leads to the most good. If it looks SO bad that the efficiency gains from rationality are outweighed by people repelled from the EA movement, then we’ve got a problem. Personally, I don’t think this is likely.

b) the problem isn't about 'poor meat eaters', it's about 'no-longer-poor meat eaters' so in that sense it's a misnomer

Disagree. The problem will still be about “poor meat eaters” because the unfortunate likelihood is that they will remain poor for some time.

For example, AMF operates in Malawi and DRC.

Malawi’s nominal GDP per capita is only 6% of the median country's measured by the IMF. DRC’s is only 8%.

To increase each country’s nominal GDP per capita to the median country for just one year, Malawi would need a cash donation of $88B and DRC would need $428B. It’s safe to say these countries will remain extremely poor for the near future.

Sources: GiveWell, Wikipedia - IMF, Wikipedia - Malawi, Wikipedia - DRC

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 22 December 2015 08:25:42PM 3 points [-]

"We shouldn’t really care if it looks bad."

I give up.

Comment author: Gleb_T  (EA Profile) 24 December 2015 01:13:54AM 1 point [-]

No need to give up. I think it's beneficial to calculate the costs of "looking bad" and have it as a factor that we make in our analysis of the situation. Only by weighing "Bad PR" as a cost can we make a thorough analysis of the situation.