BSB 106     J. Morris Hicks     (8-2-17) 

Bezos, Gates and Musk. Can They Save Humanity?
by J. Morris Hicks

I think so--and I have an idea for how they can.

First, everyone knows what Bill Gates looks like, so I am just going to provide pictures of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
I have long believed that these two remarkable leaders could accomplish almost anything they set their minds to. Bezos founded Amazon and owns the Washington Post, while Musk founded Tesla and SpaceX and is Chairman of Solar City.

A little background. Two days ago, my BSB featured 1700 concerned scientists who issued a lengthy "warning to humanity" in 1992--about the fact that "human beings and the natural world are on a collision course" and that a great many things must be done to right our ship and save our civilization.

Toward the end of their well-written "warning," they provided this brief conclusion:

A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated." 

Despite their good intentions, nothing much has changed relative to our "stewardship" in the last 25 years--except that almost all of the environmental issues they raised in 1992 have gotten much worse. 

Now, as their "second chance" warning goes out to humanity, I have come to the conclusion that another warning letter of appeal aimed at addressing a plethora of global environmental problems is simply not going to work for many reasons: 
  1. There are far too many issues; making it impossible to organize and execute the many initiatives that would be required to get us back on path to sustainability. 
  2. There is no organized group of leaders, countries  or religious groups that can take responsibility and lead.
  3. Since things have gotten much worse since 1992, actions to correct those many issues are much more urgently needed now than ever.
  4. Since the primary environmental problem is us (and our harmful and wasteful lifestyle), the entire global economy is built on maximizing the consumption of stuff in a world of finite resources; hence, no incentive to change.
  5. Bottom LineThere is no single, critical emergency--necessary to rally billions of people into action. 
Need for Emergency. After reading TEN BILLION in 2013, I was convinced that what we really needed to turn things around with regards to our "stewardship" of the planet, was a good old-fashioned emergency. 

That's because we humans have trouble generating "urgency" without a perceived emergency to bring us all together to fight a common cause. Here's someone that knows a thing or two about that topic:

Stephen Emmott, PhD in Physics, Visiting Professor at University of Oxford and Director of Computational Science at Microsoft.

With regard to the unsustainable way of living that we humans have embraced, he used an example of a real emergency to make his point about the difficulty of rapidly being able to change that way of living:

If we discovered tomorrow that there was an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, and--because physics is a fairly simple science--we were able to calculate that it was going to hit Earth on June 3, 2072, and we knew that its impact was going to wipe out 70 percent of all life on Earth, governments worldwide would marshal the entire planet into unprecedented action.

Every scientist, engineer, university, and business would be enlisted: half to find a way of stopping it, the other half to find a way for our species to survive and rebuild if the first option were unsuccessful. 

We are in almost precisely that situation now, except that there isn't a specific date and there isn't an asteroid. 

The problem is us.
Emmott's Conclusion. At the end of his book, he used an expletive to describe our longterm chances for survival. They weren't good. During my meeting with him in 2013 in London, I told him that I still had hope that he would someday want to revise his grim forecast with a tad more optimism. 

Climate Change, our Most Urgent Emergency . Emmott talked about one single problem (an asteroid). Following his lead, if we try to get people to rally around more than one emergency, we'll be likely to fail in all of them.  

Conveniently, if we all work urgently on the single biggest threat to our future (climate change), we'll simultaneously be addressing many of the issues that drive water shortage, species extinction, ocean acidification, deforestation, etc. 

I see climate change as the "elephant in the room" when it comes to global environmental issues. Not only does it exacerbate most other issues, I believe that we're much more likely to radically change our way of living if we limit ourselves to just one emergency. In this case, a  rifle has a much better chance for success than a shotgun.

Keep it Simple. Get it Done! But How?

An Idea that CAN Work. We know from the 1992 warning, that another well-written, widely-distributed warning letter of appeal focusing on dozens of issues--is not likely to work any better the second time around. 

But what could actually work is if three of the world's most recognized, wealthiest and successful leaders (Bezos, Gates and Musk) became fully enlightened to the grim realities of climate change--then joined forces, providing vision, leadership, global team building and funding toward urgently undertaking bold initiatives to save Mother Earth before she destroys our civilization and the human species. 

In a short period of time, they would ensure that almost every person in world knows all about the most important project in the history of humanity--and our need to work urgently together to save our species. They would also figure out a way to enlist the support and active participation of every nation, academic institution, corporation and religious organization on Earth.

With enough conviction and a combined net worth well over $200 billion, I would not bet against their success.

Engaging Bezos, Gates and Musk. We find a way to get a legitimate hearing with at least one of them. According to the six degrees of separation idea, someone reading this BSB may know someone who knows someone who knows one of these three leaders. If we have a meaningful engagement with just one of them, then he will bring in the other two--and many others. 

I said that I had an idea that could work. But it will only work if a few powerful people (like Bezos, Gates and Musk) become fully enlightened about what's at stake--then make addressing that emergency their #1 priority for the rest of their lives. 

I recognize that that's a big "IF," but sincerely believe that it's the kind of  essential urgent action required if we're going to have a decent chance of saving our civilization.

At our first meeting with Bezos, Gates and/or Musk, we'll bring in a few of my previously identified "big picture" scientists and big picture thinkers like Peter Wadhams, T. Colin Campbell, Stephen Emmott, Bill McKibben and James Cameron.

Keep it Simple. Get it Done. The Clock is Ticking.

Credit Due. I would like to thank the Union of Concerned Scientists  for providing the inspiration for this idea. 

Have Message, Will Travel. Please contact me (by return email) if you'd like to discuss scheduling a presentation at a venue near you. I have given variations of this talk at mainstream universities, and, while it's alarming to some extent, the message seems to resonate with conscientious people of all ages. Recent BSB describing my talks

To view all 48 slides  in my latest presentation, click here. Other upcoming talks include Ithaca, NY, in September, Ontario (Canada) in October, Rochester, NY, in November, Fort Myers, Florida, in January and Honolulu in April.

Be well,  J. Morris (Jim) Hicks

Promoting health, hope and harmony on planet Earth

Moonglow J. Morris Hicks

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