Posts Tagged ‘Gates Foundation’

Gates Foundation strategy raises key question:

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

– I know a young lady who works at the Gates Foundation and who is the daughter of a friend of mine.  I’ve posed pretty much the same question to her as this excerpt from an article over on the Climate Progress Blog poses.

– The essence of the question is:

“Isn’t helping people in the third-world to have a happy and productive life kind of like arranging the deck furniture on the Titanic?  Given that Global Climate change will ultimately undo and destroy whatever brief good you do?”

– I Applaud their idealism but I decry where they choose to put their efforts at improving the world.

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Can the problems of the developing world be solved by ignoring global warming?

Salon has published my article on the biggest flaw in the strategy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I’m going to expand on that article in a two-parter here.

The timing could not be better with the Tom Friedman “Ponzi scheme” discussion. For while the the richest foundation in the world certainly has taken on the noblest and greatest of challenges — to help billions of people who “never even have the chance to live a healthy, productive life” reach that opportunity themselves — its efforts are ultimately doomed to fail if we don’t stop catastrophic warming.

Also, the two men who have donated much of their vast wealth to make it possible, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, are Exhibits One and Two of the “very serious people who are perceived as essentially nonpartisan opinion leaders” who must speak out on climate change if we are to avert the worst (see “Is 450 ppm (or less) politically possible? Part 7: The harsh lessons of the financial bailout “).

Yet when we saw them together last summer, they were touring the Ponzi Canadian tar sands, as The Calgary Herald reported (see here):

A source said Gates and Buffett, who in recent months said he favours investing in the Canadian oil sands because it offers a secure supply of oil for the United States, visited the booming hub to satisfy “their own curiosity” but also “with investment in mind.

The tar sands are an environmental abomination that require huge amounts of natural gas to produce fuel with far higher life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than oil. They have rightly been called by Greenpeace the “biggest global warming crime ever seen.” The Catholic bishop whose diocese extends over the tar sands posted a scathing pastoral letter in January that challenges the “moral legitimacy” of tar sands production.


Letter to a young idealist

Sunday, July 20th, 2008


A few more thoughts along the same lines I talked about previously.

All of humanity’s history has been a series of incremental advances along multiple paths; business, social organization, military, agriculture, technological, etc. In all of this, the thought has primarily been to advance, empower and grow.

Now, for the first time in humanity’s history, we have filled the planet and have begun to hit various unyielding limits; water, food, oil, pollution, as well as limits having to do with how much impact we can have on the biosphere without causing huge shifts in the demographics of various species and even causing their extinctions.

It is clear, if humanity wants to continue to live indefinitely on this planet, that we are going to have to shift from a growth and advance strategy in all we do to one predicated on establishing a steady-state and sustainable balance with the biosphere around us.

We cannot use renewable resources faster than they can regenerate. We cannot occupy more of the planet’s surface than is consistent with allowing the rest of the planet’s biology to exist and flourish. These both imply that our population has to come down to some sustainable number and be held there. We have to come up with ways to govern ourselves that are consistent with establishing and maintaining these essential balances. Nation against nation, system against system is not compatible with long term survival. The ultimate goal and purpose of government in an enlightened world should be to secure all of our futures (we and all the rest of the planet’s biology) and maintain the balance.

We could, if we cut our population to sustainable levels and learned to live within a sustainable footprint on this planet, exist here for tens of thousands of years and maintain a decent quality of life for all those who are alive at any specific point in time. We do not have to give up comfort or technology – we just have to dial our impact on the planet back to sustainable levels and stay with in those levels.

Anything that the Gates Foundation or any other forward looking organization works on that does not include long term goals like these is likely in the big picture to just be a shuffling of our problems from one place to the other rather than a real indefinite-term planet-wide solution to how our species is going to solve the problem of learning to live here without fouling our nest for ourselves and all the other species that depend on this planet’s biosphere.