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These Billionaires Tried and Failed To Save The World

Darren RydingDecember 23, 2022

There are 3,111 billionaires in the world with more money than they know what to do with. Yet to their credit, many of these people want to do something positive with their incredible resources. That’s why some of them pour their dollars into projects to help the planet. But many of these billionaires tried and failed to save the world.

Some of them did their best but didn’t realize how difficult it is to challenge governments and conventional attitudes. Others had messiah complexes and thought that they were smarter than everybody else. It’s not a surprise that their ideas collapsed and burned because they were stupid in the first place. Check out how these billionaires tried and failed to save the world right here.

Mike Bloomberg

Bloomberg is one of the most notorious billionaires in New York. He has a bit of a messiah complex and seems to believe that he’s all-powerful. However, the population of the U.S. didn’t agree with him because they didn’t vote for him to become the nation’s president (via The Wall Street Journal).

Bloomberg

The billionaire thought he could save the world by running against Donald Trump in the 2020 election. But his late campaign crashed and burned as he failed to capture the imagination. Bloomberg also has environmental concerns and gave away $11 billion. Many people loathe him but at least he’s trying to do something positive for the world.

Oprah Winfrey

Winfrey is the only black female billionaire on this list and one of the most famous faces in America. The talk show host possesses enormous wealth and even considered running for the presidency. Most people agreed that she has fewer qualifications than a regular city hall member.

Deadline

Meanwhile, she is a dedicated philanthropist with an educational foundation. However, she rubs some people up the wrong way when she discusses class privilege from her pedestal. She came from difficult circumstances but she’s too rich to convince everybody that she’s talking sense now (via ET).

George Soros

Hungarian billionaire Soros has a reputation for being one of the most generous men in the world. He gives away millions of dollars every year to different charitable causes. The U.S.-based entrepreneur cares about the environment and wants the planet to become a better place.

Open Society Foundations

This is noble but it’s advisable to start fixing the problems at home first. Soros attended the Davos summit where he criticized Google and Facebook. He labeled them as menaces to society but conveniently failed to mention one crucial aspect. Soros has shares in both of these companies (via Fox News).

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou

This Cypriot billionaire also likes to give money to different causes. That’s great because he has plenty of it but this isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card. Ironically the best thing that he could do for the planet is to shut down his most lucrative company. We’re talking about EasyJet, one of Europe’s most popular low-cost airlines.

The Times

They have a massive aircraft fleet that covers thousands of miles each day. Unsurprisingly, they pour pollutants into the atmosphere and affect climate change. Some of the billionaires on this list attempt to compensate for their business flaws. But it doesn’t always work for them (via Farmer’s Journal).

Bill Gates

Gates was the richest man in the world for many years but lost that crown to Jeff Bezos. However, the Microsoft founder leads one of the most powerful charities on the planet. He’s one half of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While he divorced from Melinda in 2021, they maintain a working relationship.

The New York Times

Some people think that Gates is a hypocrite when it comes to environmental concerns. That’s because he has a fleet of powerful private jets. The tech billionaire loves air travel and tries not to mention this when he’s advocating the green movement. That’s why his critics don’t take his dream to save the world seriously (via Simple Flying).

Kanye West

It’s difficult to believe but West made positive headlines in 2020 when he fought fast fashion. He signed a deal with GAP that promised the use of natural materials. The Yeezy shoe used algae as its core material and is biodegradable. But everything went wrong for West in 2022.

Vox

In short, he began to demonstrate increasingly erratic behavior. West spoke in support of Hitler and made many more hateful comments that shocked his fans. He also lost many endorsements because nobody wants to associate with him. This reduced his ability to improve the world (via Hollywood.com).

Yang Huiyan

Huiyan was Asia’s richest woman after she amassed her fortune in a few days. But she lost over half of her wealth in a nightmare of six months. This was because China experienced a massive property crash which affected her holdings. She made her money in real estate and this left her vulnerable.

SCMP

The Chinese billionaire donated millions to charities but was no longer in a position to be as generous. This was outside of her control because the market shifted and left many people in a tricky position. Even billionaires can’t take their fortunes for granted because everything can change in a moment (via Hele Brown Group).

Kjell Inge Rokke

Most people reading this won’t know Rokke but he’s one of Norway’s richest billionaires. He promised to donate half of his earnings after he died as part of the Giving Pledge. This is a nice thought but there’s one glaring problem. It’s difficult to save the world if they have already contributed to destroying it.

IntraFish

Rokke’s conglomerate is involved in the oil and gas industries. He also has a hand in fisheries and is a controversial figure in his native Norway. Farmed fish usually suffer from diseases and don’t have the same flavor as their wild counterparts. This doesn’t bother Rokke he made his money from them (via Ocean Decade).

Warren Buffet

Buffet is one of the world’s richest investment billionaires. The generous philanthropist attempts to make a positive impact on the world. He generously supports many causes and donates more money than most people can comprehend (via Bloomberg).

CNBC

In 2018, Berkshire Hathaway was responsible for 189 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. This is an astounding amount of pollution and is directly at odds with Buffet’s vision. He is indeed trying to save the world but he can’t even prevent his business from making it worse.

Sam Altman

Altman doesn’t have the mainstream profile of some of the billionaires on this list. But the tech entrepreneur possesses immense wealth and is a powerful figure in Silicon Valley. He’s the driving force behind Open AI and supported clinical trials during the recent global health crisis.

Inc. Magazine

But he also admitted that he will run away to New Zealand at the first sign of trouble. Altman has a close friendship with PayPal’s Peter Thiel. The pair said that they’ll escape to the Southern hemisphere if the planet deteriorates. He wants to save the world but puts his selfish interests first (via The New Yorker).

Elon Musk

Everybody knows that Musk had a child with singer Grimes but they don’t realize that he’s the father of 10. The Tesla owner believes that genetically modified children will help to save the world. He thinks that they will be more intelligent and make better decisions for the future of our planet (via Business Insider).

CNN

However, eugenics is a very controversial area of study and most people don’t want billionaires to control it. Musk can’t run Twitter properly never mind teach people about family planning. He’s also a terrible communicator and it remains to be seen if his children grow up to be decent members of society.

Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg claims to support green fuel and backed the Breakthrough Energy Initiative. This was the brainchild of Bill Gates but received support from many other billionaires. It doesn’t take a lot of analysis to see that Zuckerberg is a massive hypocrite. That’s because the tech industry is one of the biggest electricity consumers on the planet.

People

Furthermore, Zuckerberg is pushing the Metaverse in everybody’s faces. But this will increase energy demands as more people use it. Perhaps, Zuckerberg wants to make the planet greener so that he can run ethical businesses. But it’s safe to say it won’t stop him from pushing his agenda (via Earth).

Akshata Murty

Murty is one of India’s most powerful businesswomen. However, Western hemisphere residents know her better as the wife of U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. She courted controversy because she paid taxes off-shore but resolved this issue. Many Indians praise her generous and charitable spirit.

CNN

That’s fantastic but it’s too bad that her husband doesn’t care. He’s happy to open new coal fields in the U.K. despite intense condemnation. Meanwhile, the country attracted a lot of criticism because it agreed to send migrants to Rwanda. It’s a wild world but they’re making it even worse (via Tatler).

Helena Helmersson

Most people reading this will know the Swedish clothing giant H&M. Helmersson became the brand’s CEO in 2020 and has a thankless task ahead of her. The brand is one of the least sustainable fast fashion chains in the world. H&M appointed Herlmersson because they must change this.

Drapers

However, the signs aren’t positive because they have many problems. The brand has appalling working conditions in its factories. They use dangerous chemicals in their clothing and overproduce their lines. That’s why it’s impossible to recommend them as an ethical brand (via Eco-Stylist).

Leonard H. Ainsworth

Ainsworth is one of the richest men in Australia and is also a dedicated philanthropist. He directs most of his charity toward children and education. This is noble because they are the future and not everybody receives equal opportunities. But the problem is that Ainsworth made his wealth through a dubious industry.

The Australian

His company is one of the world’s biggest producers of slot machines. The gambling magnate ruins many peoples’ lives and it’s difficult to accept this. Perhaps he feels an element of guilt and that’s why he engages in charitable acts. But they don’t cancel each other out despite his best intentions (via Financial Review).

You Zhonghui

It appears that Zhonghui genuinely wants to make the world a better place. But this isn’t easy when she has the Chinese government breathing down her neck. In 2017, the became the first mainland Chinese billionaire to sign the ‘Giving Pledge.’ Meanwhile, she wants to expand access to education in her nation.

CBS News

The philanthropist wants to help ordinary citizens but there is a limit to what she can do. She must take care not to aggravate the Communist Party because they don’t discriminate when it comes to dissent. This restricts her abilities and makes it more challenging for her to help to save the world (via China Developmental Brief).

Jeff Bezos

Bezos features a couple of times on this list. The Amazon founder is supporting efforts to find rare minerals under Greenland. The polar island is melting but this exposes minerals that can help the green energy transition. Bezos and Elon Musk are two billionaires who claim they’re trying to save the world.

AP

But they’re also involved in one of the most ludicrous vanity projects in history. They’re trying to win the billionaire space race and colonize the galaxy. This is creating a lot of extra carbon waste because of the fuel requirements. It’s hypocritical of them to preach from their high castles (via Reuters).

Jack Ma

Ma became one of the most popular billionaires in China. The Ali Baba founder is also a committed philanthropist and donated millions to environmental causes. He stepped away from his company because he wanted to focus on his charitable efforts. But it’s difficult to save the world in one of the most repressive nations on the planet (via Tech In Asia).

Bloomberg

The entrepreneur made a crucial mistake when he criticized the Chinese government during the pandemic. Suddenly, he disappeared from the public forum and left people worried about his safety. Eventually, a chastened Ma emerged and he changed his attitude. But the Communist Party blocked his application for a new company and curtailed his power.

Roman Abramovich

Most British people didn’t know what a Russian oligarch was before Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003. Then he poured billions into the team and made them one of the most successful of the 2000s. However, he lost control of the club after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022 (via Times of Israel).

Forbes

The U.K. government linked him to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Abramovich played a role in peace negotiations between the warring nations but didn’t help. It’s difficult to do so when he has a vested interest in Russia’s gas industry. The former Governor of Chukotka is a dangerous hypocrite.

Dong Fangjun

In 2022, Fangjun signed the Giving Pledge and agreed to donate half of his fortune. He said that he believes philanthropy should be a natural part of life. It would be nice if every billionaire agreed with this viewpoint. Unfortunately, many of them are selfish and greedy individuals.

Peak Visor

However, Fangjun is a complicated figure because he is a member of the Shandong People’s Committee. This region makes up half of China’s rubber tires and produces a lot of pollution. But Fangjun doesn’t say anything about this because it doesn’t suit his agenda (via Reuters).

Bernard Arnault

Arnault leads LVMH, one of the biggest luxury conglomerates in the world. The group says that it is pushing for a greener future but they’re sending out mixed messages. One positive is that they reported a 37% reduction in emissions. This is great but they refused to join the Fashion Pact.

Sky News

Then there are Arnault’s personal views. These are controversial because he insulted Swedish teen Greta Thunberg in a scorching attack. It’s fair to disagree but it’s harsh of one of the world’s richest men to target a girl who is trying to save the world. Money doesn’t buy class (via Euro News).

Melinda French Gates

Melinda is the other half of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The pair wanted to save the world but they engaged in many hypocritical investments. We spoke earlier about Bill’s private jet fleet but there’s more. They preach about children’s nutrition but have shares in McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.

Fortune

Meanwhile, they said that they’d never invest in companies they find egregious. But they were happy to pour money into private prison and detention facilities including the GEO group. They also support military contractors and fossil fuel producers such as Shell (via Mother Jones).

James Watt

BrewDog began as a craft beer start-up in Scotland but now it’s a massive empire. CEO Watt became one of the most influential men in the U.K. but he’s also a hypocrite. Watt appears to want to do the right thing but never succeeds. BrewDog tried to produce hand sanitizer during the pandemic but it was useless.

Sky News

Then he created a beer promotion in the U.K. that criticized the Qatar World Cup because of the tournament’s ethical concerns. But he conveniently avoided mentioning that BrewDog agreed to a distribution deal with the Gulf nation. This was ridiculous and infuriated a lot of people (via City AM).

The U.K. Royal Family

King Charles III isn’t a billionaire in the traditional sense but has a vast fortune at his fingertips. In short, he can do whatever he wants because he’s one of the most powerful individuals on earth. He’s also a huge advocate of sustainability and wants his subjects to go back to basics (via Euro News).

AP

Meanwhile, his son, Prince William, criticized billionaires for pursuing a space race instead of trying to save the world. However, they may be hypocrites because the King allegedly accepted money from Saudi oil tycoons. Meanwhile, they have a massive carbon footprint from visiting their colonies.

Francois Bettencourt Meyers

This French billionaire is the richest woman in the world and is the owner of L’Oreal. Meyers maintains a private profile since a dramatic family scandal in the 2000s. But she claims that L’Oreal is moving in a positive and ethical direction. The brand is becoming greener and treating its workers better.

CBS

At least that’s what L’Oreal says because the story on the ground isn’t the same. One transgender activist accused L’Oreal of racial hypocrisy because they fired her for her civil rights views. Meanwhile, L’Oreal continues to test its products on animals and this infuriates the vegan brigade (via SCMP).

Sergey Brin

It’s safe to say that Brin’s heart is in the right place but this doesn’t mean that he always does the right thing. The Google co-founder helped to found Alphabet. This company says that it sources its energy from renewable sources in a positive move. But Brin’s actions deserve criticism because they contradict his message.

AP

He hosted a three-day secretive retreat in Italy for billionaires about how to save the world. This is great in theory but they all arrived in private jets as they increased their carbon footprint. This could have been a Zoom meeting but instead, they pumped carbon into the atmosphere (via The Wealth Advisor).

Sam Bankman-Fried

Bankman-Fried is one of the most controversial billionaires ever. He represents the dangers of trusting the cryptocurrency movement because everything went wrong for him. Bankman-Fried said that he wanted to make as much money as possible because he wanted to give it away.

Vox

This may seem noble but it’s not much help if the IRS intervenes first. Law enforcement hit him with money-laundering charges as well as other financial crime allegations. Now Bankman-Fried is facing several lifetimes in jail and won’t be able to save the world (via Pushkin FM).

Pope Francis

Once again, the Pope isn’t a true billionaire in the traditional sense. But he does have access to immense wealth and wields massive influence. As the leader of the Roman Catholic faith, the Pope preaches a good message across the world. But there are some problems with this (via Finity).

Reuters

First, he has many conservative Christian views and speaks against using contraception. This is very damaging for poorer countries that suffer from high rates of HIV. Furthermore, the Catholic Church covered up many instances of clerical abuse toward children. This was one of the most disgusting episodes in history.

Peter Thiel

The PayPal founder became a massively influential political donor. He also believes that he must try to save the planet from an impending apocalypse. Thiel read a load of philosophy including mimetic theory and applies this to his worldview. He preaches individuals must do their part to save the world.

Politico

But he courted controversy by endorsing former U.S. President Donald Trump. Many critics believed that this was incompatible with helping the environment. That’s because the polarizing POTUS stripped back environmental protections across the nation. It’s easy to see where these people are coming from (via Business Insider).

Elon Musk

Many billionaires have a savior complex but Musk is a special case. He involves himself in many incidents around the world and tries to make people like him. But he inevitably ruins it for himself because of his abrasive personality. In 2018, a team of young boys and their coach found themselves trapped in a cave.

The Times

Musk wanted to help and flew a submarine to the scene. However, a British rescue diver said that the high-tech equipment wasn’t suitable for the situation. Then Musk flew into a rage and described the man as a ‘pedophile.’ It was a ludicrous and petty reaction from a man in his position (via The Guardian).

Larry Ellison

Ellison made his money from Oracle and is a major proponent of sustainability. However, he cut back his charitable efforts because he thought that they weren’t making a difference. “Philanthropy is the definition of not sustainable,” Ellison told Forbes. “Business is the definition of sustainable.”

Business Insider

This is a very cynical perspective but it could be true. Sadly, many people are more about making a profit than helping to save the planet. Ellison is turning his business interests in a sustainable direction. He wants to incite change through inspiration rather than giving away a lot of money.

Mark Zuckerberg

The Facebook founder believes that the way we communicate will change the world. He says that he wants to prevent misinformation and ensure fairness across his platforms. Zuckerberg observed that it’s usually the person with the loudest voice who comes first (via The Guardian).

Wired

However, it’s difficult to trust him because he’s pushing people toward the Metaverse. Meanwhile, Congress forced him to answer their questions because of Facebook’s problems. Many of Zuckerberg’s critics think that he is a power-hungry narcissist and they don’t like him.

Larry Page

Page is the co-founder of Google but one of the most perplexing characters on this list. He doesn’t give as much to charity as some of his fellow billionaires. But he did donate $400 million to various causes in 2022. However, this doesn’t change the reality that Google is a massive polluter and churns out carbon dioxide into the environment.

Larry Page Fast Facts | CNN
CNN

Meanwhile, Page notoriously has a bunker in Australia in case the world ends. He’s more interested in saving himself than the planet. This is a shame because billionaires have a massive opportunity to guide us in a positive direction. But some of them don’t care that much and Page is one of them (via New York Post).

Elon Musk

Musk features again on this list because he’s determined to drag humanity to space. The idea of colonizing Mars has become an obsession for him and he wants to make it happen in the 2030s. Perhaps he thinks that he will have a little kingdom on the red planet. But the reality of making it happen is more challenging than he imagined.

Sky News

Humanity is indeed placing too many demands on the Earth’s resources. But the financial and environmental cost of moving people to Mars is excessive. He wants to save the world but his engineers face limitations. It may happen eventually but it won’t happen anytime soon (via Euro News).

Richard Branson

Branson is one of the most recognizable billionaires on the planet. The Virgin founder began his career as a dyslexic dropout but became one of the richest men in the world. He also wants to help the environment and created the Virgin Earth Challenge in 2007 (via The Guardian).

CNBC

This plan promised $25 million to anybody who could devise a plan to remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. That’s great in theory but Branson never delivered. Furthermore, one of the main sources of his wealth is Virgin Airlines. Everybody knows that the aviation industry is a massive source of pollution.

Elon Musk (Again)

These days most people love Teslas because of their unique driving experience. However, Musk wants to take this away from potential customers because he believes in a driverless future. He thinks that this will save lives because humans are fallible. But this remains a polarizing perspective and faces many challenges.

NPR

Musk’s plan isn’t working because several fatalities terrified prospective investors. There are plenty of people who don’t want to put their lives in the hands of a machine. Furthermore, federal regulators believe that these fears are justified. Musk disagrees but he doesn’t get to make these calls (via Vox).

Jeff Bezos

The Amazon founder is one of the most powerful men on the planet and possesses the most wealth. He promised an eye-catching one billion dollars in donations to conversation projects. But there is a serious issue with this dedication. Bezos is also trying to win the billionaire space race (via Tribune Mag).

Sky News

This makes him a massive hypocrite because he is more interested in his image than in reducing carbon outputs. Furthermore, Bezos promised money to regions like the Congo Basin and Central America. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that these donations won’t line the pockets of warlords and corrupt politicians.

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