Money to watch the world go round
Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have both recently returned from the edge of space. Virgin Galactic took Branson 86 kilometres away from Earth and Blue Origin with Bezos on board went as far as 100 kilometres.
It's all very exciting, and both men have made inspiring speeches on their endeavours, and there have been a few uplifting tweets as well.
I think the impression I get in both cases is that this is rich kids playing with their toys while serious things happen elsewhere.
A very quick round up of stories on the net today yields headlines and snippets such as these:
Flooded London hospitals ask patients to stay away. Israel to cut 85% of emissions by mid-century. Climate scientists begin debate on vital report. Wildfires surge across US. Thunderstorms leave roads and tube stations flooded in London. ‘Everything is on fire’: Siberia hit by unprecedented burning. The family of elephants trekking across China where swift, deadly flooding this week inundated a network that wasn’t even a decade old, highlighting the risks faced by cities globally. The UK and Ireland are experiencing heatwaves. In the UK, the weather office issued its first-ever extreme heat warning. The Bootleg Fire (they've even got names) in Oregon is the US’s biggest wildfire so far this year, and has burned more than 340,000 acres. Forest fires have burned through 3.7 million acres of land in the north-east of Siberia. Funerals have been held for lost glaciers in Switzerland and Iceland. (I guess Iceland is going to become a misnomer before too long)
Yes - that would appear to be serious stuff, and that's only the tip of the (melting) iceberg.
It is true that Jeff Bezos has announced a ten billion dollar fund to be used to tackle climate change. That is good - but is it good enough? I read somewhere that Richard Branson has said that very wealthy people should be spending up to 90% of their wealth on issues such as climate change - although he - well - isn't. Neither is Jeff Bezos; 90% of his wealth is (currently) $192Bn - and it's probably gone up a bit since I wrote that.
To date Bezos has allocated about 8% of the projected 10Bn so he's got a way to go.
So is what these guys are doing right?
I think it's probably OK to develop the technology - that is an advancement of human achievement and knowledge, but I do take issue with space tourism. The idea that rich people should pay upwards of a quarter of a million dollars for a few minutes of weightlessness and a nice view doesn't seem quite right when weighed against the carbon footprint of their joyride. But then I also find it a bit awkward to contemplate the stratospheric wealth of the few alongside the all too common suffering and misery of the many.
How about doubling the price of a space-jaunt and spending half the money on patching up some of the damage caused by it?