This article does not follow the Gates-worshiping herd: “The [Gates Foundation] even reports having a $5.3 million bond holding in Energy Transfer Operating, which is a partial owner of the Dakota Access pipeline —the subject of a very high-profile divestment campaign.”
There is much more, well worth reading, in today’s article by Tim Schwab, The Nation, 16 February 2021, Bill Gates, Climate Warrior. And Super Emitter: The billionaire’s new book, a bid to be taken seriously as a climate campaigner, has attracted the usual worshipful coverage. When will the media realize that with Gates you have to follow the money? See below for where I’m quoted about Gates’ farmland investments. But first, more about pipelines.
As we dug up back in 2016, the same company, Enbridge, is part owner of both the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline that gouged under our Withlacoochee, Suwannee, Santa Fe, and Withlacoochee (south) Rivers in south Georgia and north Florida, destroying farmlands and forests along the way. We held and participated in numerous demonstrations about #NoDAPL, #NoSabalTrail, as well as other actions, including a legal case in Florida and feeding information to the case Sierra Club won in U.S. District Court. We continue to advocate against expansion of Sabal Trail, and to report on its leaks and other damage.
The article does not go easy on Gates or his Foundation, for example referring to the book he just published about climate change.
In his book, Gates several times praises the young people and activists who have energized climate politics—even drawing parallels to successful protests against the Vietnam War and divestment campaigns against South African apartheid. Yet Gates doesn’t seriously engage with these political movements, and seems oblivious to ways that they’ve pushed the mainstream conversation on climate change beyond the technical question of how to reduce carbon emissions—Gates’s narrow focus—to interrogate the political systems and economic models that, for example, channel climate change’s greatest impacts toward the poor and people of color.
Anthony Rogers-Wright, director of environmental justice for the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, notes that even Joe Biden—a “centrist, neoliberal president”—understands that issues like equity and justice are central to climate change, as is evident in a recent executive order that mentions the term “environmental justice” 27 times. In Gates’s 250-page book, the term is completely absent.
“These billionaires, the best they could do, some would say, would be to be stop their foundations and pay their fair share of taxes,” says Rogers-Wright, noting how new tax revenues could help fund democratically devised solutions. “If Gates really wants to be effective and in a way that lifts up equity…[he should be] really listening to people who are being impacted the most and scaling up their solutions, rather than coming in with a parachute and with an air of white savior-ism that actually in some cases causes more harm than good.”
At the end of the article there is a bit about Bill Gates’ other investments in farmland, including in the Suwannee River Basin. He bought those thousands of acres through his investment arm, Cascade Investments, and many of its shell companies, including Lakeland Sands LLC.
According to a 2019 academic study looking at extreme carbon emissions from the jet-setting elite, Bill Gates’s extensive travel by private jet likely makes him one of the world’s top carbon contributors—a veritable super emitter. In the list of 10 celebrities investigated—including Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton, and Oprah Winfrey—Gates was the source of the most emissions.
“Affluent individuals can emit several ten thousand times the amount of greenhouse gases attributed to the global poor,“ the paper noted. “This raises the question as to whether celebrity climate advocacy is even desirable. As some authors suggest, celebrity climate advocates contribute to controversy, undermining efforts to politically confront climate change.”
The study only looked at Gates’s jet travel, but might have also considered Gates’s emissions from his farmland, which includes large tracts of corn and soybeans, which typically goes to feed animals (often on factory farms)—a particularly carbon-intensive model of agriculture.
Gates’s farms have also attracted public criticism over the years for their environmental impacts. A citizens group in Florida in 2016 penned an op-ed about Gates’s impacts on waterways, saying his farms were “compromising the health and welfare of North Florida.”
John Quarterman, a farmer and [Suwannee Riverkeeper of the Suwannee River Basin], which runs through Georgia and Florida, also raises sharp questions about Gates’s environmental impacts. When Gates acquires land, Quarterman notes, he seems to take a business-as-usual approach, keeping the existing—and unsustainable—agricultural production model little changed from previous owners.
“He himself has plenty of resources where he could have tried to fix the problems. Instead, all he did was tinker around the edges.” Quarterman said. “That’s my indictment.”
Dust Storm on Lakeland Sands land in Hamilton County, FL, by Chris Mericle, 2014-12-24.
Gates has sold off much of his holdings hereabouts, mostly to Grimmway of California’s Central Valley. Back on our agenda is updating how much Gates still owns, who bought what he sold, what other big corporations are buying, and what they are doing with their farmland in the Suwannee River Basin in south Georgia and north Florida.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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