Jeff Bezos just had his “best day ever” after traveling 60 miles above Earth’s surface in a spaceship designed by his company Blue Origin, according to the Guardian.
For roughly four minutes of weightlessness in suborbital space, the richest man alive spent around $5.5 billion. Bezos is worth approximately $205 billion, so paying for an exclusive space flight didn’t really affect his day-to-day budgeting.
But outside the luxurious world of billionaires with their private jets, mansions, and super yachts, that kind of money would have extraordinary impacts. It could save millions of people from starvation, help to vaccinate the world against COVID-19, and deliver urgent aid to humanitarian crises.
As part of the Give While You Live campaign, Global CItizen is calling on the world’s billionaires to give 5% of their wealth annually to charitable causes that will help to achieve the United Nations’ Global Goals. Bezos could eliminate more than half of the world’s extreme poverty and achieve the goals in low-income countries by himself.
But redirecting Blue Origin expenses is a good place to start. Here are seven problems that Bezos’ space flight money could have helped solve.
1. Save 37.5 million people from starving
The World Food Programme recently challenged the billionaires competing to fly in space — Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson — to commit $6 billion to prevent 41 million people from starving this year. With $5.5 billion, Bezos could have saved 37.5 million people from starving.
2. Fully fund COVAX, securing vaccines for 2 billion people in low-income countries
COVAX is combating vaccine inequity by securing COVID-19 vaccine doses for vulnerable communities in low-income countries. Because of its status as a humanitarian effort, COVAX is able to secure doses for $1.60 each, compared to the market rate of up to $7.
The initiative aims to secure 2 billion doses by next year, and needs an estimated $2.6 billion to get there. Bezos could have funded this amount two times over, ensuring that people are protected from a deadly virus during a pandemic, instead of going to space.
3. Fully fund humanitarian efforts in Nigeria, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Yemen, and Horn of Africa
There are dozens of humanitarian efforts underway around the world and nearly all of them are underfunded. Bezos could single-handedly work with the United Nations to fund every humanitarian effort in the world, preventing untold suffering in the process.
With the money used on Tuesday’s space flight, he could have funded urgent humanitarian interventions in Nigeria ($1 billion), The Democratic Republic of Congo ($2 billion), Afghanistan ($1.2 billion), Venezuela ($.7 billion), Yemen and the Horn of Africa ($.6 billion).
4. Fully fund the International Fund for Agricultural Development
The International Fund for Agricultural Development helps rural communities improve crop yields, develop entrepreneurial opportunities, increase incomes, adapt to climate change, and empower young people and women. The organization is currently $350 million short of its fundraising goal for its next period of programming, an amount that Bezos could have covered within the first 30 seconds of his suborbital flight.
5. Fully fund Education Cannot Wait
Education Cannot Wait provides education to children displaced by conflict, natural disasters, and other crises. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 3 billion children worldwide were displaced from the classroom and many of them risk never returning unless interventions are made. That’s why ECW is campaigning to close the $8.5 billion global education funding gap.
Bezos, who has donated to his alma mater in the past, could have funded ECW’s personal fundraising target of $1.8 billion nearly three times over instead of going to space, perhaps fostering a new generation of astronauts in the process.
6. Help countries adapt to climate change
Bezos’ space flight had an enormous environmental impact, causing extreme air pollution and contributing to global warming. The recently retired founder of Amazon could have used the $5.5 billion to help countries invest in renewable energy, restore ecosystems that can act as carbon sinks, and make buildings more energy efficient.
To his credit, Bezos’ Earth Fund has previously supported green organizations tackling environmental issues around the world. But the climate crisis demands hundreds of billions of dollars annually on a global scale. Bezos could set an example among his fellow billionaires by showing he cares more about the fate of this planet than others that have shown little to no ability to host life.
7. Plant up to 5 billion trees
Planting a tree can improve air and groundwater quality, absorb greenhouse gas emissions, reduce heat, provide food and shelter, and play a therapeutic role in people’s lives. Trees are magical and they only cost around $1 to $3 to plant, according to Nature.
Assuming scale brings down the cost, Bezos could have theoretically paid for 5.5 billion trees and helped a lot more people feel “unbelievably good.”
Disclaimer: IFAD and ECW are partners of Global Citizen.
You can join the Global Citizen Live campaign to defeat poverty and defend the planet by taking action here, and become part of a movement powered by citizens around the world who are taking action together with governments, corporations, and philanthropists to make change.