Stephen Gardiner on accountability in environmental philanthropy

Submitted by Kate Goldyn on

Professor Stephen Gardiner discusses the ethics behind Oceankind’s grants to projects aimed at improving the health of global ocean ecosystems. Oceankind is an incorporated LLC, which recently acknowledged that it is managed by Lucy Southworth, wife of Larry Page, co-founder of Google. One project Oceankind funds is researching geoengineering in the oceans by adding large amounts of ground-up alkaline rock to seawater, which would remove excess carbon-dioxide. 

This lack of transparency worries some experts in philanthropy. “Is it appropriate to put this kind of research into the hands of billionaires for them to be the drivers of it financially?” asks Stephen Gardiner, a professor of philosophy at the University of Washington and author of A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change. “I wonder about what sorts of accountability are in place, what sorts of power they might be exercising over what’s being done and how.”

Page and his family are reported to have spent much of the pandemic in Fiji. Last year, Page was granted New Zealand residency, where one of his eVTOL startups, Wisk Aero, recently completed flight tests.

“I don’t know anything about Larry Page’s preferences,” says Gardiner. “But if he’s in favor of some kinds of interference with the ocean but against others, that could influence the research agenda in a way you might not see if projects were being run through national science foundations or other institutions with more accountability and political legitimacy.”

Read the entire article on TechCrunch: “Inside the secretive Silicon Valley startup trying to save the oceans with tech.”