Address the problems on earth or go to space?
Updated: 2 days ago
The 3am diaries by CEO & Founder, Lucy Bennett-Baggs
Billionaires Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk spent an eye-watering $25million USD every 60 seconds for their time in space.
Overlay this with just some of the scenes playing out on earth at exactly this time, including; the catastrophic impact of climate change including a series of forest fires raging in over 40 locations around the world; the earthquake in Haiti; the pandemic and the slow global recovery; the unrest in Afghanistan; in Lebanon; in Palestine; in Syria; in Yemen; in the Congo; and let’s not start on the deeper issues at play here like number of people of who go hungry every day, or who live in poverty or who are suffering from illness or disease, or even discrimination…
This week, in an interview with the BBC, Prince William openly criticised the emerging space tourism industry and more precisely threw shade at the billionaire individuals who are championing and funding these programmes. He said,
"We need some of the world's greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live,"
And in principle Prince William, we are right here with you.
In an interview with Jeff Bezos earlier this year, it was put to him that critics were calling such flights to space “joyrides for the wealthy” and that his time, money and energy would be better spent focusing on Earth-based problems.
“Well, I say they’re largely right,” he replied. “We have to do both … we have lots of problems in the here and now on Earth and we need to work on those, and we always need to look to the future — we’ve always done that as a species, as a civilisation. We have to do both.”
But with so much to address in our very immediate lives today as well as the future here on earth, what are the billionaires doing to make a difference here and now? Well, it’s a mixed picture.
Elon Musk has promised to give at least half his fortune to charity, by signing the Giving Pledge, but in order to hit this target he’d have to give away $2.3 million per day for the next 40 years. To date, Musk has donated about $25 million to nonprofit groups through his Musk Foundation launched in 2002. However, beyond the cash donations, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has shown that he doesn't shy away from a crisis and has offered his help on everything from supplying power to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria to creating materials for affordable housing, he's also making strides looking for workable solutions for reducing the planet's CO2 emissions at scale in a "durable and sustainable way."
According to Time magazine, Jeff Bezos has been long on promises, but to date has delivered about $1.5 billion in actual funds, about 0.7% of his wealth to philanthropic causes. He is also one of the few mega-wealthy individuals who has not signed the Giving Pledge, a promise to give at least half of one’s wealth away. However, Bezos's parents founded the Bezos Family Foundation in 2003, fueling grantmaking for early childhood development and education with Amazon stock and he continues to make pledges to a variety of charities and individuals, $200 million to activist and political commentator Van Jones and globe trotting chef José Andrés.
Richard Branson reportedly supports over 28 causes including gender equality, LGBTQ rights, environmental conservation, and climate change. He contributes to about 37 charities including Virgin Unite, which is the nonprofit foundation he created in 2004. Through the Giving Pledge he committed to donate $3 billion of his wealth and all profits from his travel firms over the next ten years, to support the reduction of global warming.
But does all this money represent pure generosity, or compensation for wrongs done? After all, their companies contributed a significant chunk of the carbon emissions driving the climate crisis. Yet on the other hand, they are contributing a huge amount of money to help solve some of the world’s greatest problems.
But we’re not reliant on billionaires. Yes, they can do more - but last year, 2.3 Billion of us gave to charity. The vast majority of charity giving comes from us. Normal people, contributing smaller amounts, but collectively making a huge difference.
The vision for Force for Good is to create a place for passionate people to come together to collectively do more to make a bigger impact on the world we live in. Somewhere, where multiple people giving a $1 donation could do far more than the $25million USD spent per 60 seconds in space. Community-led, transparent, impactful giving is the future of how we can address some of the world’s biggest issues. We’re not reliant on the super wealthy, we’re reliant on us. We say bring it on! Together we can be a Force for Good 💪