Here is a handy calculator for you to play with!
It’s no secret that Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is the richest man ever. As of today (November 26, 2018), the Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimated his net worth at $125 Billion. Tomorrow this will change, as, according to a Time article, Bezos’s fortune increases at an average rate of $260 Million per day. For context, a Quartz article points out that what his lowest paid employee makes in a year, Bezos makes in 11.6 seconds. This is in stark contrast to the US household median income of $61,372; Bezos is making ~1.6 million times the average American every year. As of last year, a CNBC article pointed out that the 3 richest men in the World, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet, have more money than half the US population combined. Obviously, there are ethical problems with this, but let’s speak a moment about the environmental factors.
America is not set up with sustainability in mind. We encourage people to drive cars, we subsidize gas prices, planes are everywhere, and all of this is built on fossil fuels. We glorify the consumption of cheap and disposable commodities with little regard for where they end up, or for the resources they require. An article from The Guardian states that the richest 10% of the world is responsible for half of the worlds emissions. Compare this to the 10% of world emissions that the poorest 50% are responsible for. Compared to Bezos, most Americans have nothing, but this is not the comparison that truly matters; compared to the rest of the world, Americans have a lot. According to an Investopedia article, you only need to make $32,400 to be part of the richest 10% of the world, which is only slightly above the median US income of $31,099. This is mostly a societal issue, and no one person is responsible for this disparity, but also no one person is responsible for the solution. All Americans need to keep this global income inequality in mind.
Increased global wealth comes with increased consumption. Another Times article shows examples of the cost to feed different families in a week, and wealthier countries consume huge amounts of food compared to poor countries. For example, according to the article, a US family consumes $341.98 a week in food. Contrast this with a family from Chad eating only $1.23 a week in food. Jeff Bezos may be able to feed over 365 million American families, which is crazy, but the median US household can still feed almost 50 thousand families from Chad. There are systemic reasons why a US family spends on food 263 times what a Chadian family does, but that’s more than just price inflation. That’s the Global Rich consuming far more than it needs at the expense of the Global Poor. We are part of the problem, and we must be part of the solution.
For more comparisons, here is that handy calculator again.
Afp. (2015, December 02). World’s richest 10% produce half of global carbon emissions. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/02/worlds-richest-10-produce-half-of-global-carbon-emissions-says-oxfam
Cannon, C., Halford, D., & Harris, B. (n.d.). Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from https://www.bloomberg.com/billionaires/
Clifford, C. (2017, November 09). Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett have more wealth than half the population of the US combined. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/09/gates-bezos-buffett-have-more-wealth-than-half-the-us-combined.html
Estimated Annual Cost of Attendance for First-Year Undergraduates. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://opb.washington.edu/annual-cost-of-attendance-first-year-undergrads
Kurt, D. (2018, October 29). Are You in the Top One Percent of the World? Retrieved from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/050615/are-you-top-one-percent-world.asp
Real Median Personal Income in the United States. (2017, September 13). Retrieved from https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MEPAINUSA672N
Residential Student Dining. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://hfs.uw.edu/Eat/Residential-Student-Dining
Using the average UW dining plan weekly budget.
Stolzoff, S. (2018, October 02). Jeff Bezos will still make the annual salary of his lowest-paid employees every 11.5 seconds. Retrieved from https://qz.com/work/1410621/jeff-bezos-makes-more-than-his-least-amazon-paid-worker-in-11-5-seconds/
Tuttle, B. (2018, September 04). Amazon Hit $1 Trillion: What Is Jeff Bezos’ Net Worth Now? | Money. Retrieved from http://time.com/money/5386380/amazon-1-trillion-jeff-bezos-net-worth/
US Census Bureau. (2018, September 12). Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the U.S.: 2017. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2018/income-poverty.html
US Census Bureau. (2018, September 06). Data. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/historical-poverty-thresholds.html
What the World Eats. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://time.com/8515/hungry-planet-what-the-world-eats/