Monday, February 1, 2010

Do Wealth and Power Exclude Wisdom?

To quote the late comedian Linda Smith, "I don't mean to sound racist, but rich people are weird." The very good climate change blog, has an article about Bill Gates and his maunderings on climate change and related issues. The guy seems to know very little about climate change and all his information seems to come from corporate funded mouthpieces like Bjorn Lomborg.

Gates seems to think most of the current worries about climate change are pointless and that none of the proposals made by activists and experts should be considered. But he thinks that there will be a technological solution or two to the problems of clean energy, energy efficiency, etc (one of those solutions being nuclear, which he thinks is 'as good as' renewable).

This would sound very familiar to Gates-watchers. He advocates technical solutions to health problems, diseases such as HIV, TB, malaria, cholera and rotavirus. He also advocates technical solutions to problems like food shortages, food insecurity and low levels of food production (in the form of biotechnology). And for climate change, he advocates bioengineering. He's certainly consistent, so far.

Despite all his money and his rich and influential friends, Gates seems to be very misinformed and is falling behind on his knowledge of current research, but read the article for the full details. He's into 'altering the stratosphere to reflect solar energy', filtering 'carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere' and 'brightening ocean clouds'. Do we really want this lunatic to be let loose on the only life supporting planet we know of?

There's also a very strange article on purporting to be about poverty eradication that is really about a deal between the richest man in the world (Gates) and one of the richest and most rapacious corporations in the world (Coca-cola). The Gates Foundation is providing most of the capital, over 10 million dollars, to allow 50,000 Kenyan and Ugandan farmers to sell fruit to Coca-cola for 'fruit-juice' production.

The article is very short on detail and I don't see why Coca-cola can't get these farmers to sell fruit to them without the help of Gates. But is it really a good thing that these farmers are going to sell their healthy food products for what will be a very low price to an organisation that will convert them into an unhealthy and very expensive beverage?

Coca-cola is better known for covering otherwise beautiful areas with their revolting logos and other excrescences, for marketing harmful products to people who are starving and in need of fresh water, for polluting water supplies and using up water supplies in areas where water is scarce and for maintaining a very poor record of corporate social responsibility (see for further details).

Rich people and organisations are weird, but they can also be sinister, completely undemocratic and downright inhumane. I'm not calling for a law against being rich or even curbs on how rich people can be. But I think rich people and organisations should be subject to the same laws as other people and organisations. And poor people should be protected from the excesses of the rich and powerful. Why should a handful of very rich people and organisations be able to dictate the future of the planet and the futures of all its inhabitants?


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