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Gravity may seem to work differently in outer space, but space still has a lot of pull these days. That’s especially true for billionaires.
The world is bearing witness to a billionaire space race among some of the richest men on the planet. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson are jockeying to get to space first with their competing space tourism ventures. Tesla Founder Elon Musk has also turned his eyes, and significant fortune, to the stars.
Nothing against space travel, but we have to wonder whether these and other mega-rich people could be doing more with their out-of-this-world fortunes to help improve the situation here on this planet.
Another billionaire, MacKenzie Scott, has grown into a philanthropy star and has been outshining her former husband Bezos by donating more than $8 billion over the past year, according to the New York Times. She has committed to giving the majority of her fortune, which Forbes says is over $60 billion, to philanthropy and is already off to a good start. Several nonprofits in Maine are benefiting from these efforts, including arts, community development and hunger relief organizations.
“She still has a long way to go in her stated intention of giving away all the wealth. But she’s now made two bold moves, putting to shame the other 650 U.S. billionaires who haven’t figured out comparable ways to boldly share,” Chuck Collins, who leads the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the progressive Institute for Policy Studies, wrote last year for CommonDreams.
We’re not suggesting that people like Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Elon Musk aren’t doing anything philanthropic. Bezos has recently committed $10 billion to fight climate change. Branson and Musk, like Scott, have signed the “Giving Pledge” to commit more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charity. As another example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just announced this week that it is committing $15 billion in new resources to “fight poverty, disease and inequity.”
What we are suggesting, however, is that some of them could be a little less focused on racing each other to space and a little more focused on making life better for people here on the ground. And we’re not the only ones thinking that they and other billionaires could be doing more.
Last year, for example, U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley implored billionaires to “step up” and help fund the fight against hunger worldwide. Beasley also took to Twitter in June to specifically encourage action from Bezos, Branson and Musk.
“Hey, @RichadBranson, @elonmusk and @JeffBezos, so excited to see you compete on who gets to space first! BUT, I would love to see you TEAM up together to save the 41 million people who are about to starve this year on Earth,” Beasley tweeted. “It only takes $6 Billion. We can solve this quickly!”
This isn’t solely a problem in other parts of the world. According to Feeding America, one in six Maine children face hunger. Where is the race among billionaires to meet that need?
“Worldwide, there are over 2,000 billionaires with a net worth of $8 trillion. In my home country, the USA, there are 12 individuals alone worth $1 trillion,” Beasley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina, said last September. “In fact, reports state that three of them made billions upon billions during COVID. I am not opposed to people making money, but humanity is facing the greatest crisis any of us have seen in our lifetimes.”
We’re not opposed to people making money, or to people going to space. Both are great. We just think that billionaires could commit more of their astronomical wealth to do more good here on Earth.