Sunday, December 5, 2021

Should Elon Musk Try To Solve World Hunger With $6 Billion? 5 questions answered

Elon Musk hinted on October 31, 2021, perhaps jokingly, that he might be willing to donate US$6 billion of his fortune to pay for hunger relief. But there was a catch: The United Nations had to prove it could solve world hunger “right now”. His comments answered a challenge David Beasley, director of the United Nations World Food Program lobbied on Jeff Bezos and Musk – to “move now on a one-time basis” to help solve world hunger. “$6 billion to help the 42 million people who are really going to die if we don’t reach them. It’s not complicated,” Beasley said in an October 2021 CNN interview, a year after he called on billionaires to pitch in with $5 billion. Here, social scientist Jessica Eise, who edited the book “How to Feed the World,” offers some context for this clash.

1. What attracts you about this exchange?

Musk, the world’s richest man by the end of 2021, is a revolutionary entrepreneur. The United Nations is the largest international organization in the world, and its World Food Program won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020. Naturally, there is going to be some tension, as their ways of thinking and working are completely different.

Musk’s ethos is about innovation and individualism, while the United Nations is based on diplomacy and pluralism. Musk is accountable to his shareholders. The United Nations should pay attention to and respect its 193 member states. This responsibility can bureaucratize many of its agencies.

The battle between Trump, Musk and Beazley, the former South Carolina governor elected to a UN job, represents a clash of these two worlds. Their public talk may seem modest, but it also highlights humanity’s most urgent and challenging task – defeating global hunger. About 10% of everyone on Earth was malnourished by 2020, a rapid increase from 118 million people in 2019.

In my view, the world needs the mix that both Musk and the United Nations have to offer to help everyone on Earth get enough to eat.

2. Why is it so difficult to end world hunger?

There is enough food to feed everyone on earth. Millions of people are starving because globally there is not enough food, although this can turn into climate-related disasters, such as extreme heat, drought, floods and hurricanes, reducing agricultural productivity. These effects of climate change will increase if society does not act quickly.

Today hunger is the result of conflict, poor infrastructure, inequality and poverty. For example, in Yemen after years of conflict, more than five million people are on the verge of famine. And as the Syrian conflict reaches its 10-year mark, 12.4 million people – more than 60% of the population there – are struggling to get enough to eat.

I think Musk is justified in challenging the WFP to come up with a plan in return for his $6 billion donation. The United Nations agency, established in 1961, has been striving to end world hunger for decades. It raised a record $8.4 billion in 2020 alone, mostly from countries that volunteer to provide aid, as well as gifts from individuals.

Yet world hunger, which is extremely difficult to solve, still prevails. About 40% of the world’s population cannot afford a healthy diet.

3. Should the international community entrust the super-rich to tackle these huge problems?

The WFP says it needs an additional $6.6 billion from its annual budget to reduce world hunger today. At least in theory, the richest people on Earth could easily accomplish this feat year after year. The wealthiest 1% of Americans alone had a combined wealth of $34.2 trillion in 2020.

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Even if the rich have to pony up, solving hunger requires more than money. The infrastructure is organized by governments, increasing equality often requires mass civil movements, and policy change and reducing conflict requires intergovernmental diplomacy.

Perhaps the best precedent for such a major gift was set by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It has about $50 billion in endowments and has contributed more than $3 billion to global efforts to eradicate malaria, HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis over the past two decades. Despite some success in efforts such as new malaria vaccines, winning these battles has remained elusive – malaria kills more than 400,000 people annually.

All Americans, from the poor to the rich, gave $471 billion to nonprofits of all kinds in 2020, including ending world hunger, among other priorities.

But not everyone cares so deeply about the suffering of the world’s poorest people to devote their fortune to healing them.

Hundreds of malaria scientists and policy makers applauded Bill and Melinda Gates’s massive gifts to fight malaria in October 2007.
AP Photo / Elaine Thompson

4. What is a good way to follow the World Food Program?

Musk sometimes misbehaves on Twitter. It’s possible that he didn’t make any real offers. But, in view of Jeff Bezos used Twitter in 2017 To let the world know that he was about to increase his charitable donations, it is worth noting.

Tesla CEO and WFP director Beasley may put aside his egos and see this as an opportunity to potentially work together. The United Nations could give Musk a plan with open-source accounting, as he demanded on Twitter. If that happens, the public could also hold Musk accountable for the pledge he made on social media. WFP already releases some of its accounting results, so it won’t start from scratch.

5. What can Elon Musk do about world hunger if he decides to adopt this as his mission?

In 2012, Musk signed the Giving Pledge, a public promise to donate at least half of his money during his lifetime. Since hinting at plans to become a significant donor, Musk has donated a relatively small portion of his fortune to charity and hasn’t said much about his philanthropic plans. However, his donation is increasing in 2021.

As of November 2021, his foundation’s bare-bones website indicated interest in funding space exploration research and advocacy, pediatric research, science and engineering education, and “the development of secure artificial intelligence to benefit humanity.” The website does not list any grant recipients or contact information.

If Musk is looking for a challenge, I believe that overcoming hunger is more difficult than going to space. I would invite them to use their money, influence and innovation to tackle the world’s biggest problem. Because ending hunger would first require ending conflicts, eradicating poverty, building much-needed infrastructure and slowing the pace of climate change, and that would be truly revolutionary.

[Understand new developments in science, health and technology, each week. Subscribe to The Conversation’s science newsletter.]

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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