NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – A Rutgers University group is asking fellow students to pledge 10 percent of their lifetime income toward fighting worldwide poverty.

In response, at least two students are pledging half their lifetime earnings toward providing adequate food, water, shelter, education and healthcare to the world’s impoverished population.

Nick Beckstead, a graduate student studying philosophy and a member of the group Giving What We Can: Rutgers, noted that while students’ current income may be minimal, even small contributions would be beneficial.

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Beckstead was among students who attended a recent lecture given by Peter Singer, an Australian philosopher specializing in ethical issues, who said more than 1 billion people around the world cannot afford life’s basic necessities, such as food, clean water and shelter.

An estimated 8.2 million people die annually from avoidable causes, said Singer, who compared the estimate of 240,000 people who died from this year’s earthquake in Haiti to the number who die from poverty every week. 

A mere $2 a day could provide their basic needs, he said.

``It’s not that you can’t do anything about it,” Singer said. ``We can make a difference. It’s not like this is an insoluble problem.”

The amount needed to eliminate extreme poverty would be 1 to 2 percent of the average income, he said.

Singer proposed donations to such organizations as Oxfam International, which seeks solutions to global poverty, and other groups that focus on protecting resources and the environment through fishing and agricultural projects.

Beckstead and student Mark Lee pledged half their life’s earning to anti-poverty programs. ``At this point, it’s hard to say how many students will choose to step up,’’ Beckstead said.

Lee, who cited efforts to halt the spread of TB in Third World countries, said if the average college graduate eventually earns $60,000 a year, a 10 percent pledge will amount to $240,000 over 40 years, money that could save an estimated 500 lives.