At a time when concerns about climate change and environmental degradation are heavily discussed around the world, two major art patrons have announced a massive donation to fund climate change research and solutions for the crisis. Lynda and Stewart Resnick, who are well-known for their art patronage and board memberships at major institutions, will be giving $750 million to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
The billionaire philanthropist couple have made several important donations to museums in Los Angeles, but certainly nothing of this size. They famously donated $45 million in 2008 to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that went to create a new building as well as an additional gift estimated at $10 million in art. More recently, they gifted the Hammer Museum, also in Los Angeles, $30 million for an expansion project. Despite some criticism over how they made their fortune as the owners of brands like Fiji Water, POM Wonderful, and Wonderful Pistachios among others, it seems that they have now turned their attention to combating climate change.
Their brands were recently consolidated under one name: The Wonderful Company, a portfolio that spans several businesses that are considered to be particularly damaging to the environment. Whether its single-use plastic for their water and beverage bottles, or the resources required to ship their products across the world, they have become prime examples of corporate pollution. Other businesses like Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds, which is the world’s largest vertically integrated pistachio and almond company, have faced increased scrutiny for their unsustainable business practices like the massive amounts of water they require to grow their crops.
“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,” Stewart Resnick explained in a statement. “Science and bold creativity must unite to address the most pressing challenges facing energy, water, and sustainability.”
Stewart Resnick is a trustee at Caltech, the prestigious California institute, and along with his wife, has donated $20 million in 2009 to establish the Resnick Sustainability Institute. Their new gift, ten years later, will look to expand on the institute’s research efforts and increase the collaboration between experts in physical sciences, life sciences and engineering at the university.
The core research focus that the gift aims to fund are solar energy infrastructure, measuring climate change and different solutions for offsetting carbon emissions. They also announced interest in water treatment solutions and engineering biological tools that could help different organisms adapt to the changes in the environment.
The donation is said to be the largest ever in Caltech’s history and the second-largest ever given to an American university. Around $100 million will go to the construction of a new building: the Resnick Sustainability Resource Center, $250 million will immediately begin funding research and the remaining $400 million will go into the university’s endowment to support future research efforts.
“Sustainability is the challenge of our times,” Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum said in a statement. “The Resnick Sustainability Institute will now be able to mount efforts at scale, letting researchers across campus follow their imaginations and translate fundamental discovery into technologies that dramatically advance solutions to society’s most pressing problems.”