The chilling effect the Notre Dame fire may have on crowdfunding

Or I should say “an OVERDUE effect?” I am not sure, really.

As almost everybody already knows, three days ago a fire destroyed spire and roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Personally, I am devastated by this loss. But I must confess that, just while I was watching live broadcasts of this tragedy, I had a weird thought. It happened the very moment in which, with the spire and roof still collapsing, the TV announced that French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault will donate 100 millions Euros to rebuild the cathedral.

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I instinctively thought: “Very good. If this guy and other billionaires can give so much for this, without problems, then I really do not need to contribute personally” (*)

News of other billionaires and companies joining the contest, collecting so far over 700 millions Euros only reinforced that thought.

Let’s hope that all of them, not just Pinault will also have the good taste of not claiming any fiscal discount that may apply for such donations.

Oh, and of course the renewed awareness that Notre Dame has been short of maintenance funds for a long time should fuel more releases and constant usage of another topic of my work: Open Data, in this case about preservation of the world history and cultural heritage. But these are other topics.

What I am talking about here is only one thing: in this age of web-based activism it is easier than ever to donate and aggregate money for whatever cause. But the reaction of the 0.1% to the fire of Notre Dame may make many, many people stop altogether their crowdfunding of whole classes of causes. On one hand, this may lead to more awareness of structural problems. Quoting a piece on Notre Dame and the world we live in:

“If two men in a world of more than 7 billion people can provide 300 millions Euros to restore Notre Dame, within six hours, then there is enough money in the world to feed every mouth, shelter every family and educate every child. The failure to do so is a matter of will, and a matter of system… The money is there at a click of a finger. It just isn’t in our hands."


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At the same time, seeing money-powered superheroes “rescue the world” without breaking a sweat may make everybody else even more passive, and more reliant of them. Remember when everybody was preaching that in “Web 2.0” everybody would be an active citizen online, and we ended up with Facebook? Something like that. But aren’t Super Pinault and Wonder Hayek lovely?

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Super Pinault and Wonder Hayek