Elon Musk hit back at a suggestion that he and other billionaires should “step up now” to help solve world hunger, pointing the finger instead at a prominent global food program.
Musk lashed out after David Beasley, director of the United Nations World Food Program, told CNN that just a sliver of Musk’s and other billionaires’ wealth could help solve world hunger, saying, “$ 6 billion to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don’t reach them. It’s not complicated.”
Musk responded on Twitter: “If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $ 6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it.”
Musk added, “Please publish your current & proposed spending in detail so people can see exactly where money goes. Sunlight is a wonderful thing.”
Beasley later clarified that he hadn’t said $ 6 billion would solve world hunger altogether — “but it WILL prevent geopolitical instability, mass migration and save 42 million people on the brink of starvation.”
Though Musk seemed to be calling for more transparency around the U.N. World Food Program, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020, he and his companies aren’t known for being particularly communicative. Tesla TSLA, +8.49% shut its press office in 2020, and Musk’s charitable foundation interfaces with the public through a barely-there website.
Beasley pointed out in his CNN interview that, while billionaires like Musk have seen their fortunes swell to new heights during the pandemic, daily life has worsened for the world’s poorest people. Musk’s personal net worth is currently around $ 289 billion. It jumped by $ 36 billion in a single day last week following Hertz’s HTZZ, +10.09% announcement that it would buy 100,000 Tesla vehicles.
Meanwhile, an estimated 155 million people were pushed into acute food insecurity in 2020, a condition in which a person’s inability to consume enough food puts their life or livelihood in danger, according to UNWFP. The number of people facing acute food insecurity hit a five-year high in 2020, and the global hunger crisis is growing more dire as climate change eats away at humans’ ability to grow and catch their own food, UNWFP noted in a separate report.
Musk in 2012 signed the Giving Pledge, a public promise to give away at least half his wealth in his lifetime or when he dies. Compared with some of his wealthy peers, he has been relatively quiet about his philanthropy until this year. Musk announced a $ 100 million prize aimed at helping to solve climate change, and he has made several other donations in 2021, including a $ 1 million contribution to a Texas food bank, Vox reported.
Musk sometimes announces his philanthropic activities on Twitter TWTR, +2.93%, including a September message about a $ 50 million donation for children’s cancer research.
Ben Soskis, an expert on the history of philanthropy and a research associate in the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, said Musk has distinguished himself from his ultra-wealthy counterparts in at least two ways.
“After insisting on right to give privately, Musk is developing a public philanthropic persona unlike any we’ve seen from a mega-donor: it lacks coherent framing principle (other than interplanetary ambition) & seems focused as much on trolling as winning praise, defining mission,” Soskis tweeted.