By Mayukh Saha
Tim Sweeney, known in gaming circles as the founder of Epic Games, has just taken the first step towards conserving 7000 acres of wilderness in his home state of North Carolina. The plot lies in Box Creek in the western part of the state.
While still owned privately, the lease has been bought by Sweeney, which will limit human activities on the land. The contract, a ‘conservation easement’, has been purchased from the US Fish and Wildlife Services.
The Box Creek Wilderness, as the land is called, has been under constant threat from a powerful corporation’s want of clearing up the land for power wires. But this $15m is going to save this stretch.
He did it, as he spoke to a local newspaper, to save the wilderness before the real estate boom, which would have made the task, well, nigh impossible. This is because about 5000 acres of the land is still owned by developers.
This buying of land by Sweeney had started about a decade ago, in 2008, when he started buying off ecologically important pieces of land for conservation all in and around North Carolina State. This was further instrumented by the fall of the real estate market. The consequence was that Sweeney became one of the largest owners of land in North Carolina, with his purchases amounting to about 40,000 acres.
Sweeney is already a stalwart in his field, having created ZZT and founded Epic Games, which created the most used video game engine in the world, the Unreal engine, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
And though this is a commendable gesture, environmentally speaking, he is not the first techie billionaire to turn towards conservation efforts.
The pioneer was Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma, the quirky tech guru who is known for his progressive and never-give-up strategies of life.
Records show that he has already spent around 0.3% of Alibaba’s income of $12.2bn for conservation efforts, which amounts to a figure of around $36m.
In 2015, he took his land-buying efforts outside of the PRC for the first time, with his buying of Brandon Park, an estate of about 28,000 acres in New York, in the Adirondacks.
It would be wrong to term these gestures as benevolent. Benevolence is always uttered from a privileged point of view, like a god doing the right thing for his subordinates. And though the comparison might seem fit for these billionaires, it really isn’t.
With economic strength comes equally great responsibility: that of doing the right thing.
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We are at the crossroads of extremely trying times. Natural beauty, animals, plants and even indigenous people are without the required tools to make their plight known.
So it is high time that we all, with our known and unknown privileges, do our little bits in order to save the same Nature that has nurtured our world, civilisation, culture, and lives. We owe it to not only ourselves and the natural world, but also to our next generation.
IMAGE CREDIT1: Flickr
IMAGE CREDIT2: Piotr Zajda