On Feb. 17, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced that he was pledging $10 billion of his own wealth to start the Bezos Earth Fund, a non-profit organization founded to combat climate change. As he says in his Instagram post, the money will go towards “scientists, NGOs … any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world.”
In addition to the Bezos Earth Fund, Amazon has created “The Climate Pledge,” in which the company will meet the requirements for the Paris Climate Agreement 10 years early. According to their website, if they are successful, Amazon will have net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. They hope to use 10,000 electric vans for deliveries starting as early as 2022 and hope to have 100,000 in use by 2030. Another goal is to use 80% renewable energy by 2024 and 100% by 2030. Tucked away in a weird corner of Amazon’s website, a person can learn all about Amazon’s sustainability efforts through fun graphics or not-too-long articles. With only the information they provide, a person might believe that Amazon is a pretty green company.
Despite the mountain of information Amazon willingly provides, what is more concerning are the few topics on which there is no information. Most damningly, there is nothing on their website about the environmental impact their company has on the world. However, I think we can all agree that the amount of shipping they do (five billion items in 2017) cannot possibly be good for the world.
Jeff Bezos is worth more than $100 billion. His ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, became one of the richest women (the third, or fourth,richest, according to Forbes) just by divorcing him. His company is worth nearly a trillion dollars. Bezos is never going to use all of his money, even if he had 10 lifetimes to live.
So while $10 billion may sound like an outrageous amount to the average person, that number grows smaller in the scope of Bezos’ wealth and his trillion-dollar company. Moreover, I would bet my pocket change that this $10 billion will be parcelled into countless smaller packages, grants, charities and research across years, which would create more feel-good headlines for Amazon while simultaneously lessening its overall real impact.
Here is the main problem I have with this donation: Bezos and Amazon will receive brownie points in the press with every donation this foundation makes for years to come. while Amazon continues to operate in ways that directly harms the earth’s health via their packaging, distribution and proliferation of rampant consumerism. Additionally, Bezos, one of the few people in the world who has enough money to make a real difference in combating climate change, chooses not to. He gives a lot, but not enough. He has left himself $90 billion in capital (that we know of), which I am sure will continue to grow.
Call me a cynic, but I do not have the faith that Bezos will work to find a real solution to the imminent threat of climate change because doing so would drastically disrupt his business model.
United Nations (UN) scientists claim that $300 billion is needed in order to halt climate change for 10 or 15 years while we transition into renewable energy. This could be achieved largely by reforestation efforts, which would trap carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. That number seems insurmountably large to most people, but Bezos is one of the few who can make a dent and still have enough to live happily for centuries.
Yet, Bezos chooses not to invest his money in ways proven to help the Earth. This Earth Fund is for the benefit of people, not our planet.
He also has the freedom and liberty to do with his money as he pleases. Any responsibility he has towards the rest of us plebeians is a moral question, not a government or business one. And I say, how dare he not do more for his fellow humans, on the levels of morality, soul, and generosity.
I am happy that Bezos has pledged a portion of his money and I am excited to see what technologies and discoveries might come from it. But while he calls for “any effort to help preserve and protect the natural world,” he stops himself at only some effort: I call bullshit.