from the world's big
The Difference Between 'Volunteering' and Volunteering
For some years now I've been involved with a small community group. It's a shoe-string organization that depends entirely on volunteers. These curious creatures have a predictable life-cycle. It begins when someone shyly asking if the group needs help, then hanging about trying to be useful and not get in the way. This is followed by more and more engagement in work that needs doing, until one day you notice that your work for the cause is taking up a significant amount of your life. It's an old American story. But lately we've been approached by an entirely different kind of volunteer.
A corporation, school or club will send an email saying it wants to help us. The corporation wants good publicity for a "day of service" for the community. The school wants its college or high-school students to punch their community-service ticket. The email explains that there are 20, or 30, or 40 people available, and that they can come on one of two or three dates. Gee, we explain, we're too small an outfit to make use of 20 people all at once. And by the way we aren't working on the dates proposed. Might the group send fewer people, at a different time?
Nope, and nope. Take it or leave it, says the group that supposedly wants to help.
Now, I don't blame anyone for wanting to find volunteer opportunities that match their resources. If you have 34 college students eager to work hard for one day, you should find someone who needs a barn raised and not a tiny soup kitchen that can fit three people in front of the stove. But what strikes me about these offers of "our way or no way" volunteering is how inflexible they are, and how indifferent to the supposed beneficiaries of the good works. These proposals say, in effect, "we want to do the work that suits us, in the way that suits us, when it suits us." The contrast with the way individuals approach a group is pretty stark.
Volunteer organizations function only because their members let their efforts be shaped by the needs of the group. In contrast, the brute-force "volunteerism" I see from corporations and universities is about getting good publicity and the cheap high of telling yourself you did good, without putting yourself to much trouble. Granted, there is an element of self-congratulation in many volunteer experiences. But there's also an element of self-sacrifice. Experiences that lack that element ought not to be called "service" or "volunteering."
As recently as two or three years ago, our particular group didn't get these kind of self-serving offers. This may be because we weren't yet on the map. But I wonder instead if it's because this kind of corporate, ticket-punching approach to "service" is becoming more common.
I hope not. It would be a shame if an experience that has always been tied to individual passions and interests should be turned into a systematic factory of insincere token efforts.
So, I'm curious. Readers, have you seen an increase around you in "non-volunteer" volunteerism? Does your office nudge employees to do community service—but only while wearing company t-shirts, and only on a day during the slow season when it won't affect business? Does your local bird club or history society get requests from high school students who barely know what the group is about, and just want to put in their time? Do we need a new word for this ersatz form of "community service"?
Illustration: An old-fashioned barn-raising. Note absence of corporate logos.
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Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Got $55 million lying around? If so, you might be able to score a spot aboard the International Space Station starting 2024.
- NASA awarded a contract to startup Axiom Space to attach a "habitable commercial module" to the International Space Station.
- The project will also include a research and manufacturing module.
- The move is a major step in NASA's years-long push to privatize.
Image: Axiom Space<p>But first, space-tourist-hopefuls would have to pass through physical and medical exams, and 15 weeks of expert training. After that, the trip sounds pretty comfy:</p><p>"There will be wifi," Suffredini <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/style/axiom-space-travel.html" target="_blank">told the New York Times</a> last year. "Everybody will be online. They can make phone calls, sleep, look out the window. [...] The few folks that have gone to orbit as tourists, it wasn't really a luxurious experience, it was kind of like camping. [...] Pretty soon we're going to be flying a butler with every crew."</p>
A render of the ISS tourist experience.
Image: Axiom Space<p>In a blog post, NASA wrote:</p><p>"Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-opens-international-space-station-to-new-commercial-opportunities-private" target="_blank">five elements</a> of NASA's plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit."</p>
NASA's push to privatize the ISS<p>When a Russian rocket launched the first module of the ISS into space in 1998, NASA expected the space station to operate for about 15 years. But the agency has extended the life of the ISS twice, with funding currently set to expire in 2024. NASA spends between $3 and $4 billion per year operating and shuttling astronauts to and from the station. That's a decent chunk of the agency's $22.6 annual budget. What's more, the "major structural elements" of the ISS are certified only through 2028.</p><p>Meanwhile, NASA has been eyeing other projects, namely: putting humans back on the moon in 2024 and establishing a lunar presence. So, to save and redirect money, the agency has been starting to hand over the aging space station to the private sector, which could use it for commercial research and space tourism.</p><p>But some have questioned the move to privatize the ISS, including NASA's own inspector general, Paul K. Martin.</p><p>"An obvious alternative to privatization is to extend current ISS operations," Martin wrote in a <a href="https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/CT-18-001.pdf" target="_blank">2018 report</a>. "An extension to 2028 or beyond would enable NASA to continue critical on-orbit research into human health risks and to demonstrate the technologies that will be required for future missions to the Moon or Mars."</p>
Image: Axiom Space<p>Martin noted that "research into 2 other human health risks and 17 additional technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2024," meaning that any slip-ups in the process would mean such research might go uncompleted. He also wrote that it's "questionable" whether the private sector could turn a profit on the ISS without "significant" government funding. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, <a href="https://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20180517/108302/HHRG-115-SY00-Wstate-LalB-20180517.pdf" target="_blank">also found</a> that it "is unlikely that a commercially owned and operated space station will be economically viable by 2025."</p><p>The implication is that, if the ISS is handed over to the private sector, taxpayers could end up indirectly supporting space tourism for the ultra-rich. Whether that's worth any of the research benefits that might come from the ISS post-2024 is anybody's guess.</p><p>As the ISS enters its final years, China <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/17/c_138479514.htm" target="_blank">plans</a> to complete construction of a manned space station in 2022.</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
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Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
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