You should give with your head, not with your heart — this is the underlying philosophy written about by Dan Kaldec for, in “Philanthropists of the World: You’re Doing It Wrong!”  and the book by Eric Friedman, Reinventing Philanthropy: A Framework for More Effective Giving.  If a donor is to give money in the most effective way, he or she should identify charities that do the most good in terms of human lives saved for the least amount.

While this is a neat theory, appealing in its simplicity, it does not seem prudent to shun all other charitable action for its sake.  There are many nuanced challenges that deserve attention—from human health to environmental degradation and the intersections in between.

Consider the challenges of the marine world.  The ocean is the life support of our planet.  It is our food, water, oxygen, global temperature balance, and our best carbon sink.  One of the most pressing threats to the seas, ocean acidification (OA), is not just about the shells of marine snails dissolving — it is about food security.  When one in seven people rely on seafood for their main source of protein, but OA is damaging food webs and larval fish development, ocean health directly impacts human health.  Sea level rise will not only affect our insurance rates — it will increasingly cause migrations of human populations and add pressure to already volatile refugee situations. When the U.S. Department of State and others recognize the implications of a changing ocean for national security, direct action for ocean conservation becomes a direct action to save lives.

With this in mind and after reading and reflecting on the theories of effective philanthropy, we asked, can we identify strategies that are more effective than others for saving the ocean?  This question moves beyond standard metrics of cost effectiveness, overhead ratios, and other financial calculations into the ability to connect results achieved to specific actions.

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