I have heard some conservationists lament that Bill Gates and his philanthropic foundation don’t “get it” when it comes to the environment — because they focus on vaccines and agricultural development, but not on environmental protection that also contributes to human well-being.
I think Mr. Gates has already “gotten it.”
In his 2009 Annual Letter to the Gates Foundation, Mr. Gates observed:
“It is interesting how often the impact of climate change is illustrated by talking about the problems the polar bears will face rather than the much greater number of poor people who will die unless significant investments are made to help them.”
Maybe if more of us “got” Mr. Gates’ point, there would be greater political will to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and to take the actions necessary to help those who will be victims.
I don’t mean to diminish the value and importance of saving polar bears — that is the mission of conservation organizations, after all.
But climate change will have life-or-death consequences for people — especially poor people — that demand attention too.
Climate change threatens to dry up water supplies, diminish crop yields, and compromise the sustainability of ecosystems and natural resources that people depend on for survival.
Millions of people may become environmental refugees with few places to turn.
Conservationists know how to protect, restore and manage lands and waters so that they can continue to deliver the valuable services that nature provides.
Perhaps the imperative of helping people who might otherwise be victims of climate change will get conservationists and Mr. Gates working together.
But in attitude, Gates is already there.