I posted the other day Bill Gates and environmental leadership on how he is undermining his own attempts at leadership in the environment that anyone would see as blatant if he acted similarly around the pandemic. We excuse his pollution and overconsuming because we want what he gets for them, like travel and mansions.
A friend quoted a relevant passage from his book. I’ll post my thoughts on reading the passage, then the passage.
My thoughts on Gates’s passage
I see Martin Luther King paying others to go to jail in civil disobedience extra to offset his doing what he considers more important.
Gates sees stewardship as a burden, deprivation, sacrifice, distraction. He doesn’t want to do it. He has no idea what he’s talking about. He saw technology as the solution before he learned the problem, blinding him to seeing his attitude in centuries of people like him created the problem. They thought they were making the world better too. He thinks it’s different know because he feel so sincere, but nature doesn’t respond to his fantasies. It reacts to his behavior which pollutes more than anyone at the individual level, but he’s also promoting polluting at a cultural level as a misguided, ignorant influential person. My post Elon Musk and the Environment describes Gates too.
Stewardship is not a burden. It creates joy, fun, community, connection, meaning, purpose, and freedom. He’s supporting the values and beliefs that created our problems and augmenting them.
Finally, it’s true that my carbon footprint is absurdly high. For along time I have felt guilty about this. I’ve been aware of how high my emissions are, but working on this book has made me even more conscious of my responsibility to reduce them. Shrinking my carbon footprint is the least that can be expected of someone in my position who’s worried about climate change and publicly calling for action.
In 2020, I started buying sustainable jet fuel and will fully offset my family’s aviation emissions in 2021. For our non-aviation emissions, I’m buying offsets through a company that runs a facility that removes carbon dioxide from the air (for more on this technology, which is called direct air capture, see chapter 4, “How We Plug In”). I’m also supporting a nonprofit that installs clean energy upgrades in affordable housing units in Chicago. And I’ll keep looking for other ways to reduce my personal footprint.
I’m also investing in zero-carbon technologies. I like to think of these as another kind of offset for my emissions. I’ve put more than $1 billion into approaches that I hope will help the world get to zero, including affordable and reliable clean energy and low-emissions cement, steel, meat, and more. And I’m not aware of anyone who’s investing more in direct air capture technologies.
Of course, investing in companies doesn’t make my carbon footprint smaller. But if I’ve picked any winners at all, they’ll be responsible for removing much more carbon than I or my family is responsible for. Besides, the goal isn’t simply for any one person to make up for his or her emissions; it’s to avoid a climate disaster. So I’m supporting early-stage clean energy research, investing in promising clean energy companies, advocating for policies that will trigger breakthroughs throughout the world, and encouraging other people who have the resources to do the same.
Here’s the key point: Although heavy emitters like me should use less energy, the world overall should be using more of the goods and services that energy provides. There is nothing wrong with using more energy as long as it’s carbon-free. The key to addressing climate change is to make clean energy
Back to me again. That was five paragraphs of his addiction speaking. He’s protecting himself. He’s doing what I call “stepping on the gas, thinking it’s the brake, wanting congratulations as he helps accelerate us off a cliff.”
See this post on addictions speaking for context and more examples.
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