• Billionaire Wilderness

  • The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West
  • By: Justin Farrell
  • Narrated by: John Chancer
  • Length: 12 hrs and 26 mins
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 3.9 out of 5 stars (42 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A revealing look at the intersection of wealth, philanthropy, and conservation

Billionaire Wilderness takes you inside the exclusive world of the ultra-wealthy, showing how today's richest people are using the natural environment to solve the existential dilemmas they face. Justin Farrell spent five years in Teton County, Wyoming, the richest county in the United States and a community where income inequality is the worst in the nation. He conducted hundreds of in-depth interviews, gaining unprecedented access to tech CEOs, Wall Street financiers, oil magnates, and other prominent figures in business and politics. He also talked with the rural poor who live among the ultra-wealthy and often work for them. The result is a penetrating account of the far-reaching consequences of the massive accrual of wealth, and an eye-opening and sometimes troubling portrait of a changing American West where romanticizing rural poverty and conserving nature can be lucrative - socially as well as financially.

Weaving unforgettable storytelling with thought-provoking analysis, Billionaire Wilderness reveals how the ultra-wealthy are buying up the land and leveraging one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world to climb even higher on the socioeconomic ladder. The affluent of Teton County are people burdened by stigmas, guilt, and status anxiety - and they appropriate nature and rural people to create more virtuous and deserving versions of themselves. Incisive and compelling, Billionaire Wilderness reveals the hidden connections between wealth concentration and the environment, two of the most pressing and contentious issues of our time.

©2020 Justin Farrell (P)2020 Princeton University Press

Critic Reviews

"Justin Farrell explores a bold new understanding of nature and people in America's wealthiest county. This startling, provocative, and respectful analysis of conservation and the Teton community will ignite important future scholarship. A must-read." (Thomas E. Lovejoy, George Mason University)

"A Yale sociology professor documents the class divide in Teton County, Wyo., where ultra-wealthy tech CEOs, financiers, and political figures are buying up land and romanticizing rural poverty in order to improve their own socioeconomic status." (Publishers Weekly)

"An eye-opening look at a specific element of economic and social inequality." (Kirkus Reviews)

What listeners say about Billionaire Wilderness

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Incredible! An accurate, insightful look at Teton County, Wyoming and the very wealthy in America. Scathing!

He interviewed people I’ve known and have met and worked for In Teton County over the past 37 years, almost stereotypes of the the wealthy who started trickling in after “Teton Pines” was developed and then greatly worsened, with the self important (better people”) in 3 Creeks and and now totally ruined by the ( “Special People” ) in Shooting Star. Those that wanted that community and equality missed it by 25 years when the hospitality businesses became unwilling to pay livable, decent wages to their workers and found a source of workers in illegals and drove down the wages to a point wherein few can have a secure life. Greed and the drive to keep it all at the top have put us here! The capital sourced income keeps growing and properties are purchased by those that can’t relate to working for wages. It’s been a national trend the last 40 or more years as we continue to elect a professional and corrupt political class in this country. Justin Farrell nails it!!!

4 people found this helpful

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Very good well researched book

I am not finished with the book yet but so far I am very impressed! The author did extensive research and actually "lived with" the individuals he was studying. I am doing this right now for my book on the other side of the spectrum, the poor and less fortunate. One has to really get out there and meet and interview subjects for such a manuscript. Farrell has done this and the accompanying PDF really helps and thoroughly outlines his research and interviews. The book has given me ideas for how to go about this kind of research into a world few realize exists. I hope to learn more about the working poor from his book as I personally see, in Phoenix, such gentrification. The poor are evicted from affordable housing and MHPs to make way for high-end condos and homes. Many end up becoming homeless. Goof narration also...

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Author states he does not have an agenda - Wrong

The author states in the beginning of the book that he doesn't have an agenda one way or another about the ultra wealthy (which I am nowhere near being). It is very evident that is not the case. I wished I would have researched Justin Farrell before I began the book so I could have an understanding not where he was coming from. While I agree with many of his points with the wealth separation occuring in Teton County and it's affect on the working class, Justin's opinion of the ultra wealthy is very evident as is the narrator's.

1 person found this helpful

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Enlightening Look at a Secretive Enclave

As a native Wyomingite, I am glad someone took the time to actually talk to ultra-wealthy Teton County residents, instead of merely complaining about them. In their own words, this group at times upholds and at other times bucks the stereotypes. Thank you to everyone who participated in the study! I see numerous other parallels within my home state, including Saratoga and Sheridan. I hope that this book can help everyone realize the plight of the working poor, that not all ultra wealthy people are crooks, and that our communities are suffering.

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Journalism that presents as scientific study

The author creates a study with two focus groups. Group 1 has three variables: 1) lives in Teton County, 2) high income and 3) identifies as environmentalist. Group 2 has two variables: 1) lives in Teton County and 2) low income. Any study with this parameters will necessarily create the impressions that 1) most ultra-wealthy individuals identify as environmentalists and 2) only ultra-wealthy individuals identify as environmentalists. From my perspective in Cheyenne, WY, there are plenty of low or middle income individuals in the state who identify as environmentalists, and plenty of ultra-wealthy individuals who would shudder at the thought of being characterized as an environmentalist. Any grad student in the country would be castigated by their thesis advisors for proposing a survey study without a randomized control group. Further, the author admits repeatedly that Teton County had the greatest wealth disparity in the country, and yet, even without a random survey of the environmental attitudes of these citizens, goes so far to suggest that his research can and should be applied to counties across the country. The book is incisive and witty at parts. If you are looking for amusing anecdotes about "those a-holes in Jackson Hole," by all means listen on. But, please don't acquiesce to the author's suggestion that his findings should be used to characterize environmentalism in general.

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Another Bolshevik Professor

This could have been an interesting topic but for the authors totally biased leftist agenda

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  • JP
  • 03-05-20

Fascinating & excellent! :-)

It may come as no surprise, but I think it is an excellent study! :-)

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Justin believes that the immigrant Mexican population is being taken advantage of by the wealthy migrant population

Each chapter state “as I have show” but only a few anecdotal phases from those interviewed are repeated, infinitum. Justin believes that the immigrant Mexican population is being taken advantage of by the ultra wealthy migrant population at the cost of the lower middle class. He proves this by eating breakfast at the Bunnery (although he does protect their name). A Yale education isn’t what it used to be.

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interesting but repetitive

content good but narration irritating/could have used edit for redundancy/rich should pay taxes to support their communities!