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The East Carolinian: Stealing from the future: The double standard of the Bill Gates Foundation

Justin Summers, Opinion Writer
Issue date: 1/17/07 Section: Opinion

Last week an article came out in the LA Times that really grabbed my attention. This particular article investigated the investments of the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation and dug up some rather striking information concerning their motivations.

The Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation is a philanthropy composed of enormous investments from Bill Gates and Warren Buffet; the second richest person in the world.

In total, they have donated over 66 billion dollars in support of global health initiatives, improving U.S. public education, and social welfare programs in the Pacific Northwest.

Like most philanthropies, the Gates foundation uses its capital to invest in corporations and companies to generate a profit and insure the future of the foundation. From that, they donate roughly five percent of the foundations worth annually to avoid tax payment and achieve their initiatives. Last year, this five percent amount to 1.4 billion dollars in donations and grants.

I know you are thinking, what could be wrong with a foundation that donates billions of dollars every year to combat AIDS and improve education? To be truthful there is nothing wrong with the donations and other beneficial attributions from the foundation, the problem is their investment program.

The LA Times discovered that while the Gates Foundation is investing their capital to make a profit, which in turn is going towards positive causes, the companies they have chosen to invest in are actually contributing to many of the health problems they are trying to combat.

The LA Times uses a small town in Nigeria as the focal point of their article. This town, known as Cancer Valley to some, is plagued with AIDS and some of the worst respiratory problems in the world. In local schools, over 50 percent of the children have asthma and many die every year from respiratory complications. The majority of the health problems in the area can be contributed to local oil refineries that spew burning gas and oil hundreds of feet in the air, clouding the sky with thick smoke.

The gases that are emitted from these refineries contain toxic by-products such as benzene, mercury and chromium. These gases not only can cause cancer and respiratory illnesses, but also lower immunity to infections like polio. In addition to respiratory illness, the holes drilled to extract oil later fill with water becoming a breeding zone for mosquitoes and malaria. Also, these oil spills have clogged the rivers causing outbreak of cholera in local towns. In addition to the environmental impacts of the oil industry, oil workers in the Nigerian Delta are the main customers in red light districts in Nigeria and complicate an already beleaguered population with AIDS and teen pregnancy. The main refineries in the Delta are ENI, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France, all of which are companies that the Gates Foundation has invested almost a half billion dollars in.

By supporting these companies, the Gates foundation is contradicting its motives. Currently the Gates foundation is donating money to Nigeria to combat AIDS, polio, malaria, and other health problems, health problems some would say are a result of the oil companies they profit from.

The LA Times found that the Gates Foundation has invested 8.7 billion dollars in companies that are like these are counter to the foundations’ initiatives, questioning the real motives of their charity: Profit or doing good for the world?

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