Notre Dame fire donations put other causes in the shade

The massive pledges for the restoration of Notre Dame has really highlighted just how much wealth is held by the few.

We have endangered species being wiped out and a planet that is in a health crisis.

We have elderly people unable to access the healthcare and support that they need, refugees desperately fleeing war-torn countries and a welfare system that feels like it is designed to keep our most vulnerable people in poverty.

My grandmother always said the rich stay rich because they don't spend the money they have. It looks like she was right.

And yet, within hours of Notre Dame going up in flames, 650 million Euros was donated for its restoration. Money poured it while it still burned.

As a history major, I get it. Notre Dame is a treasure.

It was built by hand almost 800 years ago, before cement mixers, electric drills, computer design programs, digital levellers... it is an incredible monument to humanity's capabilities.

Those walls have withstood every European conflict since Philip VI sat on the French throne.

It predates Joan of Arc, Johann Gutenberg, Leonardo DaVinci, Shakespeare. It is worthy of restoration.

What I don't get, is why other things aren't. So I did a bit of research.

The World Bank announced a $200 billion investment over five years to support countries to take climate action in December last year.

In 2018, WWF reported over $28million revenue from fundraising receipts.

Australia's largest charitable group, World Vision, reported a 2018 income of $398.1million.

People do care about all of these other important issues and there IS money going to them.

However, where is the billionaires' outrage about the plight of the soft shell turtle that became extinct on the same day as fire engulfed Notre Dame?

For the first time ever, Forbes introduced a Forbes 400 Philanthropy Score aimed at measuring billionaires' generosity last year rather than just ranking them based on their wealth.

Only 29 out of the 400 members of this elite club, headed by Bill Gates, were given the highest possible score of five out five, meaning they had made charitable donations of $1 billion or more and/or 20% of their total net worth.

My grandmother always said the rich stay rich because they don't spend the money they have. It looks like she was right.

This last week has really got me thinking about the route to earning such enormous sums of money and how we, as a society, value different jobs differently.

We seem to value people who look after our financial and legal health, more that we value the people who are responsible for our education, our safety and security, and even our daily healthcare.

However, this doesn't include the 'filthy rich.' The sort of rich who could solve world poverty with change. They really are a category all on their own.

For self-made billionaires such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, they seem to stand out as icons that buck the trend.

They don't have a university degree, they didn't work in an industry that was particularly 'statusy' like law or medicine, so what did they do?

The key seems to lie in entrepreneurship, risk and a willingness to take a chance on an idea and follow through.

For all of the Bill Gates, Richard Bransons and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, there are likely a thousand or more people who have tried, and not made it like this holy trinity of entrepreneurship.

Hard work, a willingness to bet on yourself and a little bit of luck seems to pave the way for mega success at this level.

It has been famously said that money is power, but in reality, it is the conduit for power.

We can have all the ideas in the world, but without money, it is considerably more challenging to enact them.

Having money also changes us, as much as we like to believe that it wouldn't.

If you had $1 billion at your disposal which worthy cause would you choose to support?

Or more perhaps more importantly, which causes would you choose to neglect?

At the very least, the Notre Dame tragedy has highlighted that we, as citizens of this earth, have the means of resolving many of the world's problems.

The greatest challenge comes from the fact that so many of the world's problems are what is making the rich, richer.

As Carl Sandburg said, 'Money is power, freedom, a cushion, the root of all evil, the sum of blessings.'

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers writer and coach at impressability.com.au