Jeff Bezos's $10 billion climate change donation is a boon for the planet—and for billionaires

Over the weekend, Jeff Bezos—founder of Amazon and literally the richest man on Earth—announced on Instagram that he's launching the Bezos Earth Fund to fight climate change. More significantly, he's donating $10 billion to it as a start, stating, "This global initiative will fund scientists, activists, NGOs — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world."


Before delving into the pros and cons of this donation, I'd like to acknowledge that Jeff Bezos's $10 billion pledge to tackle climate change is huge. Massively, stupendously huge. Since few of us are able to wrap our minds around how much money that really is, here's a comparison.

If you were to count $10 million at a dollar per second, it would take a little more than 115 days to count.

Change that to $10 billion, and it would take a little more than 115,000 days—or 316 years—to count.

Any time we're talking billions of dollars, we are in unfathomable-amount-of-money territory. By anyone's standards, $10 billion is an incredibly generous donation. As someone who has written about how little Jeff Bezos has given to charity in comparison to his wealth and rolled my eyes at people fawning over donations that are the equivalent of the average American giving pocket change, I give Bezos credit for loosening his giant-sized purse strings and putting his billions to use for humanity. Applause and kudos.

However...

We should all be wary about what the richest man in the world—or any multi-billionaire for that matter—does with unfathomable chunks of cash. The economics of the billionaire class impacts us all. Enormous wealth equals enormous power, so we shouldn't simply giving Bezos a thumbs up because he's offering up billions for a cause we all should care about.

Yes, this donation is historic and worthy of praise. And yes, we should also scrutinize it, unless we all feel comfortable letting a handful of elite billionaires wield their wealth in ways that will impact billions of people who have zero say in it.

THE PROS

Let's start with the positives here, because overall this donation is a good thing.

$10 billion is far more than Jeff Bezos has ever donated to anything, so yay him.

According to Vox, this pledge is approximately 7.5% of Bezos's net worth. Compared to the 0.1% he's donated in the past, this is a big step forward. (And yes, I'm one of those people who thinks billionaires owe the world a significant amount. No one becomes a billionaire without climbing on the shoulders of average people to get there, and

We need powerful people to take the climate crisis seriously, and this donation lends weight to it.

Jeff Bezos could throw $10 billion at any cause—medical research, hunger, education, what have you—but he's chosen climate change. That's a big deal. Not only will it hopefully help scientists and innovators do the research and development needed to solve environmental problems, but it also sends a message to the leaders of the world that this issue is where we need to be investing enormous resources. All of the world's problems will grow exponentially worse if we do not address the climate crisis now.

This amount of money might actually be enough to make a difference.

While it remains to be seen how this money will actually be used, Bezos's description of supporting scientists, activists, and NGOs that have proven to be effective sounds fantastic. Real solutions demand real funding, and $10 billion can go a long way toward innovative problem-solving.

THE CONS

While a generous donation overall a good thing, $10 billion is a powerful amount of money. Looking at it from various angles, there are some issues it brings up that we all should reflect on.

A handful of unelected billionaires shouldn't be in charge of the future of our planet.

I honestly find this donation as terrifying as it is exciting. I happen to be totally on board with mitigating climate change, but what if the world's richest man decided to throw his enormous wealth behind something nefarious? The fact that any one individual can put that much money behind anything that impacts the entire world should give us all pause. And especially on the climate change front, we need global, governmental action, not a single donor swooping in to save us all.

Such donations make it easier for the wealthy to argue against paying their fair share of taxes.

Let's not forget that Amazon itself not only paid $0 taxes in 2018, but actually received a $129 million federal tax refund from the government. Billionaires already pay less in taxes than the working class, and this kind of donation makes it far too easy to say, "See? It's okay for billionaires to not pay their share because they can be more generous with their money that way." Nevermind the fact that we're relying on the generosity of people who have already proven to be money hoarders.

The argument that governments can be inefficient with funds is totally legitimate. But is really better to have unelected individuals who have no responsibility or accountability toward the masses funding our global issues?

A wildly generous donation may tempt us to overlook problematic practices that made him a billionaire to begin with.

Many people have found it ironic that Bezos is putting all this money toward climate change when his own company has greatly contributed to it with its shipping practices. However, to its credit, Amazon has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2040, and has started by investing in 100,000 electric delivery vans. Bezos does seem sincere in wanting to tackle this issue.

But that doesn't negate the company's exploitation of its workers or its cutting off of long-standing employee health insurance after acquiring Whole Foods. The image of Amazon as a growing, monopolistic behemoth run by an uber-rich individual whose hundreds of thousands of employees relentlessly toil away, exponentially increasing his personal wealth is objectively accurate. A $10 billion donation doesn't change that.

Let's hope that this pledge really does the good that it has the potential for. But let's also maintain a healthy wariness about celebrating the power that a multibillionaire has to impact the world, for better or for worse.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Emily Vondy's mom fail.

Sometimes, we have to just laugh at our failures.

“Here’s a little story to allow all the moms of littles out there to maybe feel a little better about yourself,” Emily Vondy told her 1.3 million TikTok followers.

In a TikTok video that has now garnered more than 500,000 views, Vondy shared perhaps one of the most hilarious “mom fail” stories of all time: forgetting her son’s actual birthdate.
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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Images from Denver Animal Shelter's Facebook page.

Imagine rummaging through secondhand finds in your local thrift store, only to find that some items include a bonus feline at no extra charge.

Montequlla the orange tabby had somehow not gotten the memo that he and his family were moving. As they dropped off furniture, including a big recliner chair, to the Denver Arc Thrift Store on New Year’s Eve, they had no idea that poor little Montequlla was tucked away inside.

Luckily, the staff began to notice the chair meowing.

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Peter Dinklage in 2013.

Disney has taken another step toward diversifying its iconic princesses by casting Rachel Zegler to play Snow White in its upcoming live-action version of the Grimms’ fairy tale. Zegler’s mother is of Colombian descent and her father has Polish roots. The 20-year-old actress recently wowed audiences in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”

Disney has also announced that Halle Bailey, a Black actress, will play Ariel in its upcoming live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.”

Disney’s big push toward inclusivity in the casting of its princesses is definitely a welcome move, but according to actor Peter Dinklage, the Mouse may be missing the forest for the trees.

Dinklage, who was born with a form of dwarfism named achondroplasia, criticized Disney on the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast for being hypocritical for focusing on race while completely missing the ball when it comes to people with disabilities.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Maron.

"Really? Like what?" Maron asked. "What do you see?"


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