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Why Elon Musk’s $6 Billion Pledge Will Not End World Hunger

Photo: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock
Elon Musk

Director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme, David Beasley, came under fire from comments he made on CNN's "New Day" last Tuesday, criticizing billionaires for not providing aid to humanitarian crises despite their profit margins resulting from the global pandemic.

More specifically, he targeted Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk for their massive net worth increases and asked them to donate a portion of their wealth — saying 2% of Elon Musk’s net worth could help solve world hunger.

But could Elon Musk’s $6 billion really end world hunger?

Musk himself would really like to know. On Halloween, Musk replied to a Tweet that provided commentary on a headline from CNN that said 2% of his wealth could solve world hunger.

“If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger,” he replied, “I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it.”

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However, the answer isn’t quite so simple — especially when CNN minced the words that Beasley said and published a misleading headline.

$6 billion will not end world hunger.

Beasley didn’t say that Musk could solve or end the problem —  that would take a lot more money over several years on end, not a one-time payment.

According to studies done by the International Food Policy Research Institute, the UN, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the problem exists on many different complicated layers that need to take into account several factors that cannot be manipulated like: weather, disease, war, pests, etc.

In short, the range for the amount of money it would take to solve world hunger is anywhere between $7 billion to $265 billion per year.

However, it doesn’t take a political or economical genius to realize that governments around the world have wealth that far exceeds those of American billionaires and could pay those prices.

The U.S. government spent nearly triple the maximum estimate for solving world hunger in 2020 on military spending alone.

The UN believes that global conflict is the reason there’s a lack of progress in the quest to absolve world hunger, but not all hope is lost.

193 countries have signed an agreement committing to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030, called the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development Goals #2.

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Billionaires like Elon Musk could lend a helping hand.

Instead of making a commentary on the massive wealth hoarding that billionaire’s practice, he was really making a commentary on the short-term, one-time problem that’s occurring as a result of the COVID pandemic.

“I’m not asking them to do this every day, every week, every year,” Beasley said. “We have a one-time crisis, a perfect storm of conflict, climate change, and COVID. I’ve got 43 nations with 42 million people in IPC Level 4, knocking on famine’s door. Just help me with them one time.”

IPC Level 4 is an Acute Food Insecurity Classification level that symbolizes a food emergency — just one level off from catastrophe/famine.

Beasley just wants billionaires to be a little more helpful, especially when they make so much money and could do so much good with it.

“This is fantastic news because Elon’s a very, very smart guy,” he said during another interview with CNN, “and for him to even enter into this conversation is a game-changer because simply put, we can answer his questions, we can put forward a plan that’s clear.”

Beasley was ecstatic about Musk’s response — promising that he would do whatever it takes to have him on board to help the World Food Programme, including showing him the organization’s spending process and open books.

While Musk’s $6 billion is unlikely to solve world hunger, it could solve the starvation of 42 million people in 43 different nations and would certainly be a good place to start.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.