Saturday, February 10, 2007

I Have This Problem

Virgin Airlines tycoon Richard Branson is offering 25 million dollars to anyone who solves the problem of global warming.

The winner will have to think of a way to cleanse the atmosphere of one billion tons of carbon gases a year for 10 years. Over 200 gigatons of carbon have accumulated since the industrial revolution.

"Man created the problem and therefore man should solve the problem," Branson said. "Unless we can devise a way of removing CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the earth's atmosphere we will lose half of all species on earth, all the coral reefs, 100 million people will be displaced, farmlands will become deserts and rain forests wastelands."

Scientists predict that global average temperatures will rise between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century due to human activities like burning fossil fuels. This will put millions at risk from rising sea levels, floods, famines and storms.

Al Gore, whose film "An Inconvenient Truth" has helped to spread the message, claims that although something is drastically wrong, Armageddon is not inevitable.

"We are now facing a planetary emergency. The planet has a fever," he said. "This is an initiative to stimulate someone to do something that no one knows how to do. This is right at the cutting edge."

It doesn't seem right that nearly everyone in our society drives SUV's while small villages in Africa lack food, medicine, and other basic supplies. I am not implying that oversized vehicles are the only reason we are going down, but they do hasten the end significantly. Everyone will ultimately pay for our vanity unless we wise up NOW.

The distribution of the world's wealth and resources has become so lopsided that it's hard to imagine a solution. But we must, because the future affects us all. Our vast wealth, which has caused these dire circumstances, will not protect us in the end.

I want to believe that the collective conscience is stronger than the collective ego.


Stewart Sternberg said...

I would love to be the one to collect that money.

It is amazing to me that global warming has become a political issue. When I was younger, the idea that we need to care for our environment was a "no brainer". Now, people who care about the environment are branded "tree huggers" and "Environmental terrorists". Strange. Sad.

An explosive said...

I wish I could wave a magic wand like that... but I am sure there is a plausible answer and a way to end this. With a 25,000,000 payout I am sure someone will figure it out. The problem is, will people follow through? How many people really recycle, or cut down on energy or not drive an suv? All the best! ~M

heartinsanfrancisco said...


You're right. It should just be a "life issue." If we want to preserve life, we make changes. Apparently, not enough of us care about these things, but feel the need to demean those who do.

We are a sad and miserable species.


It's too bad that so many other things are more important than protecting our environment because it's Showtime. Our world is shrinking daily as more and more species die out, and we won't get another chance to do over our mistakes.

urban-urchin said...

last month when it was 68 degrees in New York city, I think even the extra large SUV folks were seeing that our days are numbered if we don't do something. It is really freakin' scary. Nice post Hearts.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


The problem is that everyone expects Someone Else to do something. Until we all take responsibility, there is no hope for any of us.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks for highlighting this important issue. Americans can do a lot by changing the position of the U.S. government on issues affecting Climate Change.

Pickled Olives said...

Let me say - I completely agree with you.

I have a friend whose husband is an oil trader and she used to be a chemical engineer at a refinery in Houston. I tell you their background because as Texans, they are convince that what they drive and what they do has no effect whatsoever on the world. They believe that we poison the world with other sources of energy aswell because none of it is clean, not electricity, none of it.

What are we to do and how are we to change the stale point of view others maintain - when their point of view is tied to their personal economy. I've been having the same discussion with her for years - it doesn't help.

Veronica said...

Great message that the world needs to hear. I've been taking the bus for the past year to help the environment and have been recycling for years. I also work with a couple of guys that ride their bikes snow or shine to help the environment. It will obviously take more to solve the proplem, but if a few more million people would make some major changes in their lives to help the environment, we could possibly be on our way to a better life on earth.

I am not Star Jones said...

when confronting global warming, it is very easy to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem.

what i find helpful is breaking the problem down into manageable, realistic goals by class, job and/or age maybe.


because a 7 year old second grader who lives at home with her parents can't make the same contribution to a solution as the head of an oil refinery who owns two homes and five SUVs.

maybe mr. branson should use a little of his fortune to host a website and/or create PSAs to clearly outline what each of us can do to help combat global warming, according to our resources.

It is possible that a lion's share of the burden will fall on the most powerful, wealthy and consumerist obsessed of the world.

And if these people (or governments) don't feel like sacrificing for the greater good,

that doesn't mean the rest of us still can't do our part.

Lee said...

I've posted a couple of times on this issue and surprisingly, one of my close friends attacked me as a zealot, saying that I was just buying into terrorist propoganda. Mind you, I was just suggesting that SUVs are overkill, recycling is a good idea and voting in politicians who support green initiatives would be a good start. I was so shocked that ANYONE could beleive we aren't responsible for the damage caused to our planet, much less my intelligent, young artist friend with 2 small children. I'm still kind of reeling. If someone like him doesn't beleive, seems like we've got a LONG way to go.

Anonymous said...

With no harm meant, there are many respected scientists who believe that the global warming we are currently experiencing is a natural cycle of the planet, much like the ice age, not caused by man but by natural phenomenon. This, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that mankind still needs to learn to stop being so wasteful, to share resources more equitably, and to tread more lightly upon our home. One philosophy does not necessarily rule out the other.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Americans not only could do a lot more than we do, in conscience we SHOULD do more because we are among the biggest wasters of natural resources on the planet.

Unfortunately, we keep installing politicians who do not stand for anything but election.


And it won't help because your friend, like so many other people, does not care for the inconvenience of changing her habits.

If they don't acknowledge the problem, maybe it will go away and they won't have to actually DO anything about it.


You are doing more than most of us to help the situation. And riding bicycles is also a good way to stay healthier, except for all the exhaust fumes one breathes in, of course.


Your plan makes so much sense. Any problem is less overwhelming if it is broken down into smaller parts, and you are also right that nearly everyone can do something.

It's kind of interesting that Branson owns an airline, which seems hypocritical. When asked about that, he said that he could ground his planes tomorrow, but that British Airways would fill in the gaps.

Still, I have to respect him for trying to do something. And he probably does have a website - I haven't checked. He has done a lot of good with his money, and that is so refreshing, sadly.


It's easier to attack you and others of conscience than to rethink his ways and make changes. I think that such people are either amazingly stupid, or entirely too trusting that the world we have always taken for granted will continue, no matter what we do to it.

I believe they are wrong.


Even if those doubting scientists are right, which I doubt, with all respect as I am not a scientist, our disposable lifestyle cannot help but hasten the demise of many species.

Since all species are interconnected, the extinction of one affects all others to some degree. The ecosystem is out of balance, and that is because humans seem to believe that we are above all the other inhabitants of the planet, and are therefore entitled to rape the earth for our immediate gratification without caring about the far-reaching, long-term effects.

I understand your point that different philosophies are not mutually exclusive, but I prefer to cover my butt as much as possible by believing the worst and trying to remedy it.

djn said...

Hiya Hearts! This is a very confusing topic for me. I do believe we need to be accountable and good stewards of what we have earthwise but I also believe that this may be a natural cycle -- not to mention surges from the sun itself. I wish I knew more -- I'm working on it. I'm not denying global warming -- I just don't think we have all the facts just yet. Anyhow, there's one thing for sure and that is that any attention to this topic is worthwhile, especially if it leads us to a solution at some point. So, kudos to you for talking about it!!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Hi, Djn,

I don't think we have all the facts in yet, either. But if we wait until we do, it will probably be too late. So anything we can do to try to keep the planet running surely can't hurt, and it might even help.

In any event, ignoring problems never helps to solve them, so if we each do even one small thing to preserve life, we CAN make a difference.

And kudos to ALL of us!

Crankster said...

Maybe we could start with affordable, decent cross-country public transportation?

A modest proposal, I know.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It's a wonderful idea. I would like to see something like the French train system in our country. They're fast, clean, and affordable.

Bob said...

believe me, if someone can figure out how to make a lot of bucks by being green, it'll catch on like a house on fire. At least, that's the viewpoint of the current administration. being environmentally conscious is not sound business practice - it doesn't contribute towards this quarter's earnings.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Sad, isn't it? Nothing is quite as profitable as war.

The Law Fairy said...

It is so refreshing to see a bazillionaire using his bazillions to actually do something GOOD, rather than selfishly hoarding it a la The King of Doofuses (Donald Trump, for whom my contempt knows no bounds). (The Gates are another example of Awesome Rich People (tm).)

That said, $25M is just a drop in the bucket. It won't be enough to arrive at a solution for global warming, because the solution (or at least a huge part of it) is to force the multi-billion-dollar oil industry to take some goddamned responsibility for the damage it's doing to the planet. And doing that takes a hell of a lot more than $25M. Still, Branson's got the right idea. Now if only more billionaires would jump on the bandwagon.

Also, I feel compelled to address the point about this being "natural" -- this is completely beside the point. Let's assume for the sake of argument that this is "natural" or otherwise somehow "inevitable." So what? Just because something is natural doesn't mean it's good. As a species, it's in our interest not to go extinct. It's in our power to do something to prevent or minimize the effects of global warming. Whether or not nature is partly driving the climate change -- why on earth would we be opposed to taking steps to keep our species from dying out? I've never seen a theory of evolution that posits some kind of "end goal" or "fate" that doesn't somehow appeal to God/morality. And when we bring God/morality into the picture, there's a pretty clear picture that we have a responsibility to take care of the environment. If it's just amoral, survival of the fittest stuff -- well, let's make ourselves more fit, then!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Law Fairy,

I totally agree about Trump. He makes me phenomenally ill.

Natural is not always good. Poison ivy, for example, is natural. It is one of my special definitions of bad.

The main reason so many people are opposed to confronting this issue is that they don't want to make any changes in their personal lifestyle. Their me-first attitude will be the downfall of all of us if something isn't done soon.

It seems to be a no-brainer that we are being charged with responsibility for taking care of our planet, whether our mindset is scientific or religious. To do less than that is unconscionable and also incredibly stupid.

velvet girl said...

The majority of the US population is too complacent to even acknowledge that their lifestyle is contributing to this problem. Some people's view of their place on this earth never goes deeper than what shows they watch and what stuff they can buy.

I find it as dismaying as when I read an article years ago about how many people don't recycle because they see it as elitist. Stuff like this is just going to rise up and bite them in the butt someday and by then, it'll be too late. It's sad.


heartinsanfrancisco said...


I agree with everything you said. Unfortunately, it will rise up and bite everyone in the butt, those who recycle and those who don't.

Kind of like when the whole class gets punished for one kid's infraction -- on a much larger scale.

Ryane said...

Hearts, I think you said it best...everyone wants someone else to do something about it. I think folks have gotten waaaay to good at not being responsible for their behaviour and sadly, I'm not sure even the allure of $25 mil will fix that.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


You're probably right. We are a nation of spoiled and arrogant people with an instant gratification mentality. And for most of us, "fixing" things is somebody else's job.

soubriquet said...

The suv thing gets a lot of press and plenty of rage, but is in fact pretty inconsequential. Because we're picking off suv drivers as the culprits whilst ourselves driving unnecessarily.
But road vehicles are not even a major part of the problem
Air travel certainly is, but how about air conditioning? Household and industrial waste contributes far more to global energy use than suvs ever could.But do we stick angry stickers on overcooled buildings?
Or insult neighbours who leave their aircon running whilst they're out?

Good here to see so many comments from people who are concerned
But stop focussing on the suv. It's a distraction.
Use less hot water. Insist on insulation and passive cooling in all new buildings. Don't travel by air.
For the damage your one seat's worth of travel, coast to coast, will do, is more than you'd do in 50 journeys driving there by suv.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you for your well-considered response to my post.

I believe I did state somewhere in it that I do not believe that SUV's are the only reason we're in trouble. I mentioned them primarily because they are a symbol of disposable wealth which contrasts painfully with the fact that many of the world's peoples' basic survival needs are not being met.

Your other suggestions are all excellent, and should be implemented by anyone concerned with global warming or simply, waste of our precious resources. Which should be all of us.

Thank you for your visit here. I checked out your blog and found it charming and thought-provoking, so I bookmarked it for ready reference.

soubriquet said...

Why thank you.
And I appreciated your comment back home.
Truth is , I'm a sinner too. But things which make me mad include cities whose governing bodies preach to the little people about their need to conserve.... Whilst giving prizes to companies for artistically floodlighting office blocks.
I find it hard to feel good about switching my hallway light off at night, as I look out my window at all those brightly lit office blocks.
And the police helicopter clatters about the sky.
We're trying to bail the titanic out with a teaspoon.
Hm. A rare good line... I'll clone it and use it again.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Bailing out the Titanic with a teaspoon reminds me of something my father used to say about trying to put out a 3-story fire with a fire extinguisher. Or maybe it was by spitting on it. Anyway...

Yeah, I already knew that you drive an SUV. The first response that came to mind after reading your comment was, "What kind of SUV do YOU drive?" But then I read some of your blog and decided that mean and nasty was not called for. At all.

And I have to agree that it's maddening to be asked to cut back personally while governments waste on such a grand scale.