Paul G. Allen is not a name that is easily recognizable, but let’s put it this way — if Microsoft were a band, Bill Gates would be the lead singer, and Allen would be the drummer. Aside from being co-founders of one of the biggest companies ever, Allen and Gates still share a lot in common: They are philanthropists who have foundations that address environmental and health issues that plague the world, they are both bajillionaires and, like most other celebrity-philanthropists, they have extremely hypocritical positions relative to environmental concerns.

Allen owns an $18 million private yacht, the M/V Tatoosh. Even though the M/V Tatoosh is only the 49th largest yacht in the world, it’s actually smaller than Allen’s other yacht. His. Other. Yacht. Which, I guess, is a good thing, considering the anchor to this “smaller” yacht damaged 14,000 square feet of coral reef off of the coast of the Cayman Islands on Jan. 14 of this year. It is important to note that this yacht comes equipped with a helicopter and landing pad as well. Because every environmentalist knows the importance of reducing their carbon footprint by purchasing multiple yachts and private helicopters.

Although Allen was not on board at the time of the incident, this irresponsible and reckless behavior was a bit disconcerting, considering Allen advocates to stop ocean acidification and recently awarded Ruth D. Gates a $10,000 grant for her ideas to “increase the resilience of critical and highly vulnerable coral reef ecosystems.” While I commend the Allens and Gates of this world for putting money into programs that help conservation efforts, I find it ironic that the organizations they are putting money into address environmental issues occurring as a direct result of their lifestyles of excess.

Allen is not the only Microsoft guru who has been outed for his hypocritical environmental stewardship. Allen’s brother-from-another-mother Bill Gates is also guilty. The Gates foundation claims that “climate change is a major issue facing all of us, particularly those in developing countries,” yet the foundation invested $662 million dollars into EXXon Mobile gas and $17.8 million dollars into BP. Yes, the very same BP that leaked 130 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Let us also not forget Al Gore, who won an Oscar for “Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary that sought to bring light to climate change. At the time of the documentary, Al Gore had a 20-bedroom/eight-bathroom mansion that consumed 12 times the energy of houses in the area.

Money can buy you a lot of things, like fancy yachts, but it cannot buy you an environmental conscience. Environmental philanthropy should not be a “get out of jail free” card that gives permission for the privileged to pollute even more. Although I commend philanthropists for their monetary contributions to environmental change, it’s time for these polluters to actually live the lifestyles that they so outspokenly and lavishly advocate for.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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