Jeff Bezos’ Earth Fund is Good PR for Amazon, but Climate Activists Aren’t Buying It

By Mason Quah

JEFF BEZOS’ $10billion ‘Earth Fund’ is nothing more than a “hypocritical” PR stunt, leading climate activists have told Redaction Politics.

There are many reasons to be dubious towards billionaire philanthropy. Some use it as a method of laundering bad reputation earned through becoming ultra-rich.

Many use it as a means of obtaining tax write-offs.

More still use it as a method of expanding their businesses, obtaining political and cultural power. The Bezos Earth Fund might tick all these boxes.

His declaration was met with mixed responses from both climate activists and Amazon employees.

While all these people accept on paper that such a large monetary pledge towards climate management was a positive, the extent to which this offsets the actions of Bezos and his company are contested.

Credit: Lubasi (Flickr)

Elizabeth Jardim, Senior Campaigner for Greenpeace USA, said: “The Bezos Earth fund is a welcome recognition of the serious threat of Climate Change.

“However, we have major concerns and questions based on Amazon’s environmental track record.
Jeff Bezos is speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

“It’s hypocritical to announce that climate change is the biggest threat to our planet while at the same time boosting the fossil fuel industry by providing advanced computing technologies to the oil and gas industry so that it can discover and drill more oil, more efficiently.”

Redaction Politics followed up with Jardim, asking what the best thing billionaire philanthropists could actually do for the climate.

She said: “It’s not either or —Amazon— along with the rest of the industry—must eliminate its carbon footprint while investing rapidly in renewable energy solutions.

Finally, Jeff Bezos should use his vast wealth to help elect climate-friendly politicians to help move the US towards a Green New Deal.”

Amazon’s web services have obtained multiple lucrative contracts to oil and gas corporations, providing AI systems that act to optimise and automate both the operation of existing wells and the discovery of new ones.

A union of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice concurred with Jardim’s critique, saying: “The international scientific community is very clear.

“Burning the oil in wells that oil companies already have discovered means we can’t save our planet from climate catastrophe.

“As history has taught us, true visionaries stand up against entrenched systems, often at great cost to themselves. We applaud Jeff Bezos’ philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away.”

Following the participation of 3000 Amazon employees in the global climate strikes last September, disciplinary action was taken against those who organised the walkout or made public statements either to the press or on social media.

Credit: Fibonacci Blue (Flickr)

Amazon’s press policy had been changed within a day of the walkout being announced, forbidding them from making these statements.

It is difficult to believe Bezos is genuine in his pledge to protect the climate when he silences discussion of it within his own company.

Scottish environmentalist union, ScotE3 tol Redaction Politics: “It seems likely that Bezos’s Earth Fund will be used in a similar fashion to other examples of billionaire philanthropy channeling resources to large scale technological ‘fixes’.

“At best greenwashing this approach is designed to maintain the power and profits of the big corporations, preserving and enhancing the gross inequalities of our current economic system.”

ScotE3 recently published a report into North Sea oil companies highlighting a £250 billion loss of public money from tax breaks given to the companies and publicly funded decommissioning of disused rigs.

It shows that, in the face of powerful lobbying groups and corporate interests, $10 billion is frighteningly little.

The Bezos Earth Fund, the body which manages the $10 billion fund, is not itself an active charity but a funding body that will invest in other charities and research institutions.

There has yet to be any concrete statement as to what the money will be used to fund, and who will benefit.

If it is used to fund research, the researchers will likely be prevented from criticising Amazon.

If it is used to fund technological development, the donation becomes a tax free investment into Amazon’s R&D department.

If it is used to fund lobbying, the money becomes untraceable, disappearing into think-tanks and political organisations who might just as easily lobby against climate policy using their anonymous donations.

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