Billionaire wilderness The ultra-wealthy and the remaking of the American West

Justin Farrell, 1983-

Book - 2020

"Billionaire Wilderness offers an unprecedented look inside the world of the ultra-wealthy and their relationship to the natural world, showing how the ultra-rich use nature to resolve key predicaments in their lives. Justin Farrell immerses himself in Teton County, Wyoming--both the richest county in the United States and the county with the nation's highest level of income inequality--to investigate interconnected questions about money, nature, and community in the twenty-first century. Farrell draws on three years of in-depth interviews with "ordinary" millionaires and the world's wealthiest billionaires, four years of in-person observation in the community, and original quantitative data to provide comprehensive... and unique analytical insight on the ultra-wealthy. He also interviewed low-income workers who could speak to their experiences as employees for and members of the community with these wealthy people. He finds that the wealthy leverage nature to climb even higher on the socioeconomic ladder, and they use their engagement with nature and rural people as a way of creating more virtuous and deserving versions of themselves. Billionaire Wilderness demonstrates that our contemporary understanding of the relationship between the ultra-wealthy and the environment is empirically shallow, and our reliance on reports of national economic trends distances us from the real experiences of these people and their local communities"--

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Subjects
Published
Princeton, New Jersey : Princeton University Press [2020]
Language
English
Main Author
Justin Farrell, 1983- (author)
Physical Description
xii, 376 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 357-367) and index.
ISBN
9780691176673
  • Introduction: setting off into the wilderness
  • Part I. How we got here and what it feels like
  • New nation of the ultra-wealthy
  • Mount billionaire
  • Part II. Using nature to solve economic dilemmas
  • Compensation conservation
  • Connoisseur conservation
  • Gilded green philanthropy
  • Moneyfest destiny
  • Part III. Using rural people to solve social dilemmas
  • Becoming rural poor, naturally
  • Guilt numbed
  • Part IV. Ultra-wealth through the eyes of the working poor
  • No time for judgment
  • Cracking the veneer
  • Epilogue: the future of wealth and the west.
Review by Choice Review

Teton County, Wyoming, is both the richest and most unequal county in America. In recent decades it has seen an influx of the ultra wealthy drawn by both its natural beauty and its unusually favorable tax laws. What better place to study the peculiar ways of this highly influential group? Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews with local residents both rich and poor, Farrell (Yale Univ.) renders a picture of how the ultra wealthy live, protect their wealth, and handle the stigma associated with being unbelievably rich. They try to fit in by adopting the locals' style of dress (flannel shirt, jeans, cowboy boots, and Carhartt jackets), decorating their homes in Western motifs, contending that the locals who work for them are their "friends," and giving generously to local causes. On this last point, however, Farrell demonstrates that this generosity is often overhyped and concentrated in safe areas, such as environmental protection and the arts, as opposed to more needed social services. In fact, many good works unwittingly or wittingly disadvantage the working poor. While wildlife may be saved, the poor are being driven out of the county in search of affordable housing. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. --Robert Scott Rycroft, University of Mary Washington

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

An examination of income inequality through the lens of Teton County, Wyoming, which is "both the richest county in the United States and the county with the nation's highest level of income inequality."Teton County has become the primary or secondary home for a large influx of multimillionaires and billionaires, who are attracted by the breathtaking natural beauty and the absence of a state income tax. A similarly large populationperhaps 30% of the countyconsists of low-income families who live in Teton County to fill jobs that serve the wealthy residents. Farrell (Sociology/Yale Univ.; The Battle for Yellowstone: Morality and the Sacred Roots of Environmental Conflict, 2015), a Wyoming native, found that the bulk of the low-income families are immigrants who speak Spanish as their first language. The author also writes about how he was raised by a mother who depended on rich people for income as a house cleaner. Farrell eventually moved away, becoming a first-generation college student and an academic researcher. In his chronicle of his return to where he grew up, he examines both sides of the divide. The book contains some sections packed with academic jargon, including one about the research methodology underlying the 200-plus in-depth interviews of the wealthy and the working poor who serve them in various capacities. Farrell learned that the wealthy tend to view themselves as sensitive, generous philanthropists, part of a county where everybody gets along and where distinguishing between the rich and the poor is mostly irrelevant because they are all friends. The laborers, on the other hand, do not perceive the relations as friendships. While the author found little overt hatred among the laborers, he did uncover puzzlement about why the wealthy seemed to lack empathy and self-awareness. "The working poor," writes the author, "called into question many of the positive perceptions ultra-wealthy people have of themselves.They pointed out the irony and false virtue of affluent environmentalism, and link it to the ongoing suffering of the working poor."An eye-opening look at a specific element of economic and social inequality. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.