Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Challenge to Richard Branson

Back in February of 2007 Richard Branson offered a $25 million prize to anyone who can come up with a plan for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. While at first glance this may seem like a noble gesture, some have questioned Branson’s sincerity. Since his airlines, railroads, and other pursuits are responsible for adding significant amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, his offer of a prize to clean it up might be seen as disingenuous. One might conclude that the offer of a prize for cleaning up the atmosphere would benefit Branson by allowing him to continue to pollute. Or, could it be that the offer of a prize was prompted by a feeling of guilt on Branson’s part? After all, Richard Branson is developing the ultimate in pointless travel, space tourism.

Richard Branson has money, lots of money, and he is involved in a variety of business enterprises. If he were sincere in his effort to do something good for the planet, he might have used the $25 million to promote projects that cut the use of fossil fuels. It makes no sense to try to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while continuing to pump it into the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate. Funding wind, solar, hydro, and bio-fuel projects would have been a better use for the prize money.

Perhaps it’s wrong to be critical of someone who claims to want to do something positive for the environment, but then what has Richard Branson done to prove his sincerity? Backing up his words with actions would certainly improve Branson’s credibility. I requested an entry form for the Branson Challenge over eight weeks ago, and I’m still waiting for it. Can you blame me for my skepticism? And Al Gore, one of the contest judges, is concerned that the contest might distract people from taking more practical steps to battle global warming.

If you’re reading this Richard Branson, I suggest that you take the time to consider what a few sincere people are doing for the benefit of the planet. For example: Gary Reysa runs a website that caters to environmentally conscious do-it-yourselfers. John Abbott’s website and forum are great sources of information for those interested in environmentally-friendly alternatives to home heating. William Lord’s website describes the design and workings of his solar-powered home in Maine. These are just a few of the many folks who, at their own expense, tackle environmentally beneficial projects and share their knowledge with others. We’re doing these things now, not simply bragging about what we plan to do. In the long run we’ll do more good than all of the “rich and famous” combined.

If you’re sincere Richard Branson, why not prove it by helping to fund those of us who are involved in projects that benefit the environment? In addition to the technically-minded among us, I’m sure there are plenty of biologists who would like to use their expertise to tackle the carbon dioxide problem. Just imagine how much more we could do with a small grant from you! You’ll know that the money won’t be wasted because we’re already working on environmentally beneficial projects. Come on Richard Branson, you know you want to do it. You've pledged $3 Billion of Virgin Atlantic money to fight global warming. Let's see you back up that statement with action! Get out your checkbook and send us each a couple hundred thousand dollars. I’ll be watching my mailbox.

Thanks in advance,
Solar John


Anonymous said...

You make some great points in your article, and everyone who reads it should follow your lead and those you talked about and start making the necessary changes to help fight the very serious issue of Global Warming. My family and I have, and will continue to do so. However, space tourism deserves to be given more respect. “Pointless travel” as you are so seemingly quick to suggests is how you choose to view it, but you couldn’t more further from the truth. The benefits to humanity as a direct result to space tourism will be felt in every aspect of society, more jobs, new technologies, a thriving economy, more affective pharmaceuticals, and so much more, but no need to say thank you as it’s just a simple by-product – a result of us doing our jobs.

Everyone working to build this industry from the launch & space craft developers, all the way down to the companies offering contests and apparel are working as hard as they are because they realize this. It’s easy to say that people like Richard Branson and Paul Allen are only doing what they are doing for the bragging rights. However, before you continue your bashing you need to invest some time looking into every aspect of their business and this industry as a hole in order to fully comprehend and appreciate the opportunities society will have to address multiple issues that affect everyone on Earth even those that concern you.

Solar John said...

Thanks for your comment anonymous.

I hope that Richard Branson is sincere in his desire to do something to mitigate global warming and that he does so quickly. We need to act soon, before we reach a tipping point when irreversible changes occur. For that reason, I've challenged Richard Branson to act quickly, and I've suggested how he might do that. Those of us who are already doing something have a head start over everyone else, and could put additional funds to immediate use. My concerns about Richard Branson's sincerity are due in part to his failure to send me a contest entry form in a reasonable amount of time.

In addition to the prize, Richard Branson has pledged 3-billion dollars to fight global warming. How soon, I wonder, will that money be applied to worthwhile projects. Is Richard Branson aware of the urgency of the situation? Words alone won't accomplish anything.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.


Anonymous said...

It would be fair to say that MANY entrepreneurs/donors/benefactors have made their mark in society to the dismay of many, because the benefactor did NOT spend their resources on issues that were important to the observer.

While potentially self-serving in the end financially in your probable perception, the advancements we have achieved from space research have been monumental! Private investment in space research will open doors because it will not be hamstrung by government bureaucracy.

Compare the difference between the United States Postal Service and UPS or FedEx. Just as an infantile example, if you compare the 3 systems, you will find that the USPS has been trying to compete with UPS & FedEX, to their dismay, and failure over the past decade. I feel that the lack of performance is DIRECTLY linked to the difference between a “government” entity, and a “private” entity.

As an employee of these entities, if you work for USPS, they cannot terminate you with undue cause even if it includes “lack of performance”. With UPS or FedEx, you can be handed a box for your personal belongings when you show up for work. Union or not,

If I understand correctly human DNA cannot be completely mapped in our atmosphere, as the strand lies flat once it is out of the body because of gravity. In zero-“G”s, it maintains its spiral shape. This is just one of an unlimited number of examples of reasons to pursue space flight.

I feel that the VERY advantageous benefit here is that PRIVATE funds can provide the opportunity for research that could otherwise be crippled by GOVERNMENT red-tape.

While the government needs to monitor EVERYTHING a private entity is doing, by the same token, the technology gleaned from it can provide VERY VALUABLE medical and national defense information.

As far as Richard Branson’s “Prize” goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder”.

I am certain that his intentions are good, investment returns aside. Perhaps he is looking even FURTHER into the future, to create a solution for when we completely destroy the planet. Who knows?

I FULLY SUPPORT the enterprise of privately funded space flight! The people who risk their lives or their assets should be entitled to reap their rewards if everything works well. By the same token, if things do not go well, all parties should understand and accept the consequences BEFORE they step off into the unknown.

It should also be known that I fully support the research and implementation of Alternative Energy. Thus far in my research, it appears that Solar and Ocean are the way to go. Ethanol compromises tillable farm land, and wind upsets home-owners and tree-huggers. The most constant source of AE is going to come from either the sun or the ocean in my opinion.

Solar John said...

I appreciate your comments. I'll be watching to see if Branson's space travel project includes scientific research, or is just a thrill ride for the few fortunate enough to be able to afford it.

I never did receive my contest entry form, so perhaps you can understand why I question his sincerity.


Gary said...

I filled out Branson's form on the website for the contest too. I havent heard a thing either. I am not in academia or R&D corporate, but I am educated in physics and chemisty. Maybe they only take institutions seriously.