Somewhere on the high seas, there’s a 182-foot vessel going head-to-head with whaling ships. It’s named after Sam Simon, the co-creator of The Simpsons, who since 2012 has been on a giving spree to protect animals, including marine life.
The MV Sam Simon is one of four ships in “Neptune’s Navy,” the anti-whaling fleet of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. It’s a fearsome-looking vessel, in a paint job of grey camouflage and a toothy shark’s jaw, now showing signs of damage since a collision with a Japanese whaling ship. Since 2012, the Sam Simon has been disrupting whaling and other illegal fishing activity with the rest of the fleet, no doubt bringing a smile to the face of its namesake.
Simon is the legendary writer with a long list of credits to his name, best known for his work on The Simpsons. But in the past few years, his reputation has been growing as an aggressive philanthropist, escalating his giving after a terminal diagnosis of colon cancer. His biggest cause is animal welfare, as a major donor to PETA, and the sole funder of his Sam Simon Foundation, which, in part, rescues dogs and trains them to serve the hearing impaired and veterans.
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But he’s also been making some notable gifts to raise hell for those who would abuse animals, fitting for a comedian known for his quirks and passions, among them collecting art, rescuing bears, managing boxers, and playing competitive poker.
His big marine beneficiary is Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Simon in 2012 worked with the group to orchestrate the $2 million purchase of the ship from, of all places, the Japanese government. A front company was set up to make the purchase with funds donated by Simon. The fact that the Japanese government unwittingly sold a ship intended to disrupt the country’s own whaling activities was considered a public relations coup, as well as a psychological victory.
As for what drives Simon’s giving as he attempts to spend down as much of his fortune as possible in his twilight years, he likes seeing the immediate impact of something like a whaling ship. According to Vanity Fair:
The Sea Shepherd is the kind of hands-on, results-oriented charitable organization that has been attracting Sam since he became aware that his personal clock was ticking. “With the Sea Shepherd, you don’t go, ‘What have they done?’ “ he tells me. “They made them stop whaling! They rammed a ship! They shut ‘em down! …”
In contrast, he’s not keen on funding most conservation groups, which he believes are just “treading water,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
I kind of get the impression Simon’s giving is somewhat emotionally driven, as though he likes to see the fallout, or to actually watch a whaling operation shut down. It clearly gives him a lot of joy. But it’s interesting that the results are reminiscent of a funder like Greenbaum, which follows the very reason-based theory of Effective Altruism to make the most concrete amount of good. Interesting how two different scenarios and approaches come up with such similar results.