Caltech receives $750 million from bottled water industry billionaires

Being that their business is a large consumer of water and plastic, many environmentalists and activists are criticizing the intent of this donation.

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Billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, who own The Wonderful Company which produces Pom Wonderful and Fiji Water, just announced they will be donating the second-largest donation ever to an American university for environmental studies on climate change. 

The money will be used to build a research center and support many projects Caltech plans to research in regards to Earth’s climate. According to the university press release the funds will go toward the following initiatives:

  • Sunlight to Everything, which will focus on building smarter electricity infrastructure and converting the sun’s energy into fuels and other chemicals;
  • Climate Science, which will advance efforts in measurement and modeling meant to identify the largest effects of climate change, and efforts in mitigation and adaptation to offset some of the impact of carbon emissions;
  • Water Resources, which will ensure that this vital resource is managed most effectively through the mapping and monitoring of surface and sub-surface water, together with improvements in water treatment and reuse; and
  • Global Ecology and Biosphere Engineering, which will consider the biosphere and its response to climate change, engineering ways in which microbes may help plants adapt to the changing climate and how best to use biological tools to improve water and nutrient use.

Being that their business is a large consumer of water and plastic, many environmentalists and activists are criticizing the intent of this donation. 

According to the New York Times, Mr. Resnick, who described himself as a moderate who currently leans Democratic, said he did not see the donation as political. He said he and his wife were committing money to protect future generations — including their own children and grandchildren — and because they had seen the devastating impact of climate change in their own business, growing fruits and nuts.

“If we had an alternative to plastic we would use it,” Stewart Resnick stated. “In order to comprehensively manage the climate crisis, we need breakthrough innovations, the kind that will only be possible through significant investment in university research.”

The Resnicks’ business practices, however, have frequently been questioned by environmental activists. The company, for example, continued to be California’s largest water consumer to grow and sell their almonds and pistachios during the 2106 California drought. 

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