96. Climate Action Is the Adventure of Our Lives with Bertrand Piccard and Dee Caffari
This week, the climate solutions are here, and they’re neatly labeled.
You may have heard of Bertrand Piccard, the explorer, balloonist, and ‘inspioneer’ who was the first to circumnavigate the globe in a solar powered aircraft in 2016. Well, since then, he’s been on a mission to support climate friendly technologies. With his Solar Impulse Foundation, he is close to having found, assessed and labeled 1000 cleantech solutions that have a positive impact on both the environment and the economy. Now he’s making sure that they get used. In our interview with him this week, we discuss his commitment to create and nurture innovative new ways of thinking that reconcile ecology and economy, providing a compelling argument for business and governments to act today to achieve planetary health and profit with his ‘Tao of Economics’.
And with Tom taking a well earned break away from hosting, we are delighted to introduce a special co-host for this episode, Dee Caffari, MBE! Dee is the first woman to have sailed single-handed and non-stop around the world in both directions and the only woman to have sailed non-stop around the world a total of three times! Yes, you read that right. Having witnessed personally the problem of single use plastics on ocean health, she uses her platform to raise awareness on Ocean health, sustainability, and a new danger – microplastics. Her fascinating first-hand experience and deep thinking on climate change makes determined ambition a reality.
Our adventure awaits!
Hang tight after the interview for a live musical performance from Easy Wanderlings!
Christiana + Tom’s book ‘The Future We Choose’ is available now!
Subscribe to our Climate Action Newsletter: Signals Amidst The Noise
Paul Dickinson: [00:00:13] Hello and welcome to Outrage and Optimism,
Christiana Figueres: [00:00:16] I’m Christiana Figueres.
Paul Dickinson: [00:00:17] I’m Paul Dickinson.
Christiana Figueres: [00:00:19] And Paul, this week we don’t have Tom. So what do we do without Tom?
Paul Dickinson: [00:00:27] Well, we improvise in the most spectacular and fantastic fashion. I am so delighted to introduce a special co-host for this episode, Dee Caffari, the first woman to have sailed single handed nonstop around the world in both directions. Hello Dee.
Dee Caffari: [00:00:42] It’s wonderful to join you, and I feel privileged to take the hot seat from Tom. I hope I do him proud and I’m just keeping it warm of course until he comes back.
Christiana Figueres: [00:00:54] Wonderful.
Paul Dickinson: [00:00:55] You are most welcome. In this week’s episode, we also talk with another explorer who has circumnavigated the globe in a solar powered aircraft, the inspioneer Bertrand Piccard. And we have music from Easy Wanderlings. Thanks for listening.
Christiana Figueres: [00:01:17] So we are so delighted to have you here joining us, Dee. As Paul has already said, your reputation precedes you as being the British female sailor who has achieved global recognition for your sailing achievements. And you’ve also dedicated so much of your microphone capacity to awareness on ocean health, which has been a topic that we have discussed frequently on this podcast. But Dee you also mentioned to us that you have a very interesting connection actually to Bertrand Piccard, whose interview we will be including here in this episode. So summarize that for us. Tell us what your connection is there.
Dee Caffari: [00:02:09] Well, he’s such an inspirational figure of a man. I just wish it was a personal connection. But back when I was starting my sailing career because I was a school teacher for five years, I changed careers. And one of the big names in sailing at that time was Steve Fossett, an American guy who sadly passed away now. But he was a massive adventurer. He was known for his sailing, record breaking, fast sailing, around the world sailing. But he also was the first person to go solo circumnavigation in a hot air balloon. And I was thinking, how on earth are you going to get round the world in a hot air balloon? And I learned then when I kind of did a little bit of investigation all about Bertrand Piccard’s adventure back in 1999 when he did it as part of a team that he went around the world for the as the first hot air balloon to do it. So I have a kind of tenuous link that I knew all about Bertrand Piccard’s adventures and his crazy antics. And that was just through the world of sailing. So there’s a little bit of a synergy there between the two, although I don’t think you’ll be finding me going very far in a hot air balloon to be honest.
Christiana Figueres: [00:03:16] Well, we found you going pretty far in in your sailing. That is really quite impressive. Have you not broken all kinds of records? You made it around the world in both directions, you’re the only woman to have sailed non-stop around the world a total of three times. Is that correct?
Paul Dickinson: [00:03:41] Three times!
Dee Caffari: [00:03:42] Yeah. So that is six laps in total. And three of them have been nonstop, which can be a lonely, pretty isolated place to be at times. I can assure you.
Paul Dickinson: [00:03:53] To hold on a minute, you go round the entire world non-stop on a boat on your own?
Dee Caffari: [00:03:59] Yes. And that doesn’t sound as crazy as it may seem initially. There’s many people that do it, but there’s actually only five of us that have gone what’s considered the wrong way round the world. So four gentlemen, and myself and it’s the wrong way because it’s against the prevailing winds. And so everything is trying to work against you. I mean, that took me one hundred and seventy eight days. That’s six months. Just hanging out with yourself.
Paul Dickinson: [00:04:24] So Dee I once went on a boat from England to the Isle of Wight. It’s four miles. And it was extremely dangerous. It was very traumatic. And I fell off the boat because I had my legs on the wrong way when we got to the harbour. And I basically thought I could never go in a boat again. Now, our sometimes co-host, Nigel Topping told me he went on a boat from Canada to Iceland and he called it beating. And you did that around the entire world, is that right?
Dee Caffari: [00:04:54] Yes. So you’re literally zigzagging your way to make any progress forward. So you spend an awful lot of your time sailing in completely the wrong direction. So it’s very demoralising.
Christiana Figueres: [00:05:04] So you tack in both directions in order to go forward?
Dee Caffari: [00:05:09] So you’re kind of sailing at an angle to the wind to try and move forwards, but because I’ve spent so much time in the middle of our planet’s oceans, I feel the responsibility to educate people about them. I’ve seen things firsthand. And when you’ve been there, seen it, done it, it allows you to have a voice that gets listened to out of context. And it’s just a genuine passion for what I’ve seen firsthand. And I’m hoping that’s what makes the difference.
Paul Dickinson: [00:05:42] Ok, so no more childish questions except for just this one. How do you sleep when you’re beating against the wind on your own for 40000 kilometres?
Dee Caffari: [00:05:50] Well, you have to sleep at some point. You can’t function under endless pressure, but it’s a little bit like being a new parent. So I don’t have children, but I have seen it happen where you go from sleeping through the night like the dead to suddenly being responsible for this other human life. And you hear every single sound, every gurgle, every rustle, and it goes on until they’re 21, 22 and telling you what time they came in at night. And it’s not quite true. And this is what you do as a sailor when you’re on your own. You’re listening to the sounds of the boat and you’re resting more than sleeping. And as soon as those sounds change, you’re in tune with your boat, you know what it means and it’s your life in your hands. You’ve got to get up and do something about it.
Paul Dickinson: [00:06:35] It is absolutely amazing. Well, what an honor to talk to you about this amazing thing. But you’ve got incredible experience of essentially ocean pollution and plastic, which has become a platform for you, is that right?
Dee Caffari: [00:06:50] Definitely. I realized that I had a voice and I had an opportunity to use that voice for good. And we see the macro plastics, you know, the big stuff, the nets, the helium balloons that are my pet hate recently. But the trash that’s in the ocean and it affects our performance. So as a racer, it is quite apparent. But it’s also people talk about it and it’s a million miles away from them because they’re never to go to the middle of an ocean and see it firsthand. So it’s this hypothetical gyre that people talk about are the effects, this marine life that they don’t see. So when you’re out there as a sailor and you can video it and speak from experience, it just adds a bit more gravitas. And then my most recent round the world was leading Turn the Tide on Plastic and we for the first time captured the micro plastics. The stuff you can’t see. That blew my mind. I did not know we had the problem as big as we did. So I was in the Southern Ocean, the furthest point from land you can get, at point Nemo. So the closest person to you is in the International Space Station. And we’ve got micro plastics president, the water we were making into fresh water to use for food and drinking. We then tested and sampled and it had micro plastics present. So we’ve now mapped all the way around the world every day that we were sailing. And that’s kind of groundbreaking data that we could now build on and see if we’re getting better or worse, but when there’s not really much traffic down there, there’s no real excuse for it. It really made me realize how big a problem it is.
Christiana Figueres: [00:08:24] And it gets down there because of the currents taking all of that junk from where we put it in the ocean.
Dee Caffari: [00:08:30] That’s right. And it’s waste. It’s blown out of trash cans at the seaside. It’s discarded overboard. It’s bad habits. And over time with UV and wave action, it gets broken down and then it’s those micro plastics in suspension that are confused as food. But now we can talk about it coming back in a circular way back to the food we’re eating. So we tell people to eat sustainable fish because it’s good for our health. And then you go, oh, you’re now eating that plastic. Yeah, because people relate to it, I think because it then affects them personally, they then grasp the picture because I think what we talk about climate change or climate crisis, climate emergency, it’s such a huge topic. People struggle with it. And I think it’s quite nice sometimes to make it tangible for every single person interacts with plastic every day so they can make an informed choice.
Christiana Figueres: [00:09:24] Well, you know, my daughter and I, we live right on the ocean. And so two things that I can relate to. One is we celebrated Easter just a few days ago, as you know. And when they were young, the girls we used to go out on Easter Sunday and hunt for eggs. And this Sunday we went out and hunted for plastic on the beach. And it was just amazing. Amazing, because I go out on the beach every day and after a while you get a little bit blind to this. It’s a very clean beach relative to others. But even so, when you put on plastic hunting eyes and walk along the beach, it’s a very different beach, so we were just so, so upset about how much we found and we also watched Seaspiracy, Dee. That is such a well done movie. And if any listeners have not watched it yet, I highly recommend it will change your relationship to the oceans. It will change your relationship to fish, and it will definitely change your diet.
Dee Caffari: [00:10:36] Yes, scary. It is scary. I mean, what a fantastic way to bring the topic to the forefront, in a way.
Christiana Figueres: [00:10:42] Yes very brilliant movie. Right. We were supposed to be talking a little bit about news, Paul.
Paul Dickinson: [00:10:50] Well, every week we bring in some climate news we’d like to discuss. And this week I’m going to kick us off.
Christiana Figueres: [00:10:56] Go for it.
Paul Dickinson: [00:10:57] OK, so I’m totally shocked. Horrified, actually, that about a fifth of global food output has been lost to climate change. According to Cornell University’s recent report, 21 percent of agricultural output since 1960 is lost due to climate change. And that is absolutely shocking with 34 million people globally on the brink of famine, completely consistent with what we might expect from a warming world and and the degradation of soils, but still just completely horrifying. And yet in the same week, we’ve got the EU saying it wants to become a leader in battery technology, putting in six billion euros, that they’re looking to 10x that from the private sector, dwarfed, in fact, by the Biden administration, putting 350 billion directly into clean energy and extending 400 billion on tax credits for renewable energy. So horrific stories of climate change and yet quite inspiring stories of investment in response makes me feel a bit giddy, to be honest with you.
Christiana Figueres: [00:11:59] Well, I wanted to add this new very brand new read, a report that has just come out. The International Renewable Energy Agency, headquartered in Abu Dhabi in the UAE. And they have just come out with this amazing report that despite the COVID crazy pandemic, we actually added more than two hundred and sixty gigawatts of renewable energy capacity around the world last year, beating the 2019 already record by almost 50 percent. That is just amazing. We have been saying on this podcast how renewables and increasingly electrification of transport is actually no longer on a marginal curve of improvement, but actually exponential. And here we are with yet another data point that confirms an exponential curve. So very exciting to know that the costs continue to fall, that installed capacity continues to go up, and that finance is really, really rushing toward these opportunities in order to both avoid stranded assets and in order honestly to get on this wave of opportunity of especially wind and solar that is being installed all around the world is actually very exciting.
Paul Dickinson: [00:13:31] I think that you’ve got all these jobs disappearing with automation and robots and software and computers and all the rest of it. And yet you have the most massive explosion in jobs in terms of insulating all our homes, building all the renewable energy we need, laying the fiber optic cable in the car charging stations and then thinking of these really different business models. I mean, agriculture, we’ve had people producing plant based alternatives to meat and biosequestration and it is all about flux. It is all about change. But I believe I’ve met someone who’s been around the world three times entirely on renewable energy. Is that correct?
Dee Caffari: [00:14:12] You’re not wrong there, it’s interesting because there’s now definitely a trend with the boats these days proving that we don’t need the fossil fuel that we carry for charging and that just in case we’ve got really good solar technology now, we’ve got hydro generators that we’re now confident in. There’s even solar material on the sails and solar paint going on the decks. So we really are moving away from even needing that fossil fuel carried for those emergencies. So we have to meet certain safety requirements with our engine and our thrust capacity. But actually the electric engine technology is getting us there. So it really will be the ultimate in renewables. As you say, at the moment, we’ve still got that safety net of fossil fuel, but it’s reducing rapidly and there’s more and more confidence going into the new technology.
Paul Dickinson: [00:15:06] I think there was something very graceful about those old sailing boats, you didn’t have something the size of the Empire State Building blocking the Suez Canal when sailing across the oceans to take tea from India, but –
Christiana Figueres: [00:15:20] Not that taking tea from India is a good thing, by the way.
Paul Dickinson: [00:15:24] Oops. Well, India’s tea crop is extremely important to the world and India in particular.
Christiana Figueres: [00:15:31] Yes. Well, paid for.
Paul Dickinson: [00:15:33] What can I say? The less the better. That’s often the quick way out of a situation like this. I have a friend who runs Resonance FM, which is the most wonderful radio station, and he has long wanted to broadcast around the world a sole yachts person entirely on their own in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. His dream is that you by satellite talk to the thousands and thousands of people across London in the world that listen to his radio station. So perhaps I can connect you afterwards and we can all get this unique experience of hearing from someone who’s closest human is in the International Space Station, which is an image I will never get out of my mind.
Dee Caffari: [00:16:12] And that’s so doable. Now, honestly, technology is so good. We were getting better connections with the sailors in the Southern Ocean in this most recent round the world that they were doing over the winter in the globe than we were with people in remote parts of the countryside. So it really is incredible. They were communicating with each other on WhatsApp. It really has moved that far, so there’s no excuse.
Paul Dickinson: [00:16:36] So it’s practical for someone to follow the example of Greta Thunberg, and travel internationally transatlantically by boat to save the greenhouse gas emissions?
Dee Caffari: [00:16:45] It is, although I would say that the time constraints for people’s lives and meetings may restrict you a little bit. That Mother Nature doesn’t always play by the same schedule that the rest of us are on.
Christiana Figueres: [00:16:59] But we now know that we don’t have to travel, actually.
Paul Dickinson: [00:17:03] Oh, yes, indeed. Video. And also hearing that it was like camping on a roller coaster. That was a phrase that I thought, OK, maybe it’s not entirely as comfortable as some other ways of getting around.
Dee Caffari: [00:17:16] It’s not for everybody, that’s for sure. And you’re right, if the last 12 months have taught us anything that we can do, really good, powerful meetings connect probably more than ever just from the comfort of our own homes without all the travel and the paraphernalia that goes with that,
Christiana Figueres: [00:17:33] Including the emissions. True, true, true.
Paul Dickinson: [00:17:37] Ok, let me just thank a listener who’s given a message on social media, Nita Schmidt, who tweets from Bavaria, Germany, says, I’m catching up on my podcasts with @GlobalOptimism. And the idea of living under a white sky is so striking. But beyond that, with sulphate aerosols, geoengineering, would we ever be able to see the stars? Now I don’t know the answer, but this is referring to a recent episode with Elizabeth Kolbert, which questioned whether it’s right or fair that humans induced climate change should be tackled by that technology. But anyway, thank you very much indeed for that thoughtful question.
Christiana Figueres: [00:18:12] And we also this week heard from James Bradbury, who is a regular listener in the UK who periodically sends helpful suggestions to our executive producer, Sharon Johnson, on LinkedIn. Heaven forbid I should ever get into LinkedIn. He says, I was a little bit disappointed. The hosts let Alok Sharma (he is the incoming president of COP 26) present his government as climate positive when they certainly are not. I thought they all did a great job of respectfully but skeptically interviewing Vicki Hollub. I know it must be a fine line to tread. Well, James, thanks very much for that comment. Yes, a very difficult line to tread. We do want to have people such as Vicki Hollub, who are very courageous leaders, but with whom we don’t fully agree. We want to have them on the podcast. So we don’t want to scare them away, but we do want to have a frank conversation. So that was definitely a difficult line to tread there. Thanks for appreciating that. And with Alok Sharma, we do have to and I believe that we said this on our episode with him, but we do have to separate Alok Sharma is a UK citizen and a member of the UK government. But in his role as the COP President, he actually has to distance himself from UK government policies and regulations and be a completely neutral president open to all countries. It is very different what the Prime Minister of the UK does or doesn’t do with his policies and his regulations. But Alok Sharma needs to be exempted, if you will, from the responsibility of internal politics in the U.K.
[00:20:08] So there again, a difficult line to tread between Alok Sharma as incoming COP President and I would say Boris Johnson and the rest of his government as being responsible for UK government policies and incentives and regulations. So thanks very much to our listeners. We really love your comments. We read them and we would love to get some more reviews on Apple podcasts. So if you are listening on Apple podcasts, please drop us a little review there. And if you are not there, then do continue to message us on @GlobalOptimism on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. So Bertrand Piccard, a good friend of all of us, a fantastic, as we now know, a balloonist. He is a psychiatrist and inspioneer. He is a brilliant public speaker if any of you have had the chance to listen to him otherwise, look him up. Does fantastic, inspirational public speaking, using his experience with our Solar Impulse and the first successful around the world solar powered flight with his co-pilot, Andre Borschberg. Both are Swiss, delightful, inspiring, really wonderful people. And we are quite delighted to bring you today a conversation with Bertrand Piccard.
Christiana Figueres: [00:21:55] Bertrand, thank you very much for joining us on Outrage + Optimism, we seem on this podcast to be having an interesting stretch of lineage personalities of people who have a legacy. We’ve had Stella McCartney. We just recently had Philippe Cousteau, and now we have you.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: And Christiana Figueres has been on as well.
Christiana Figueres: And Christiana and Tom Carnac. We can’t we can’t get away from our ancestors. And Bertrand, your grandfather was a balloonist and undersea explorer and your father was an undersea explorer. You are an explorer and much more. But I have to tell you, I’ve watched you several times, and I think the most courageous person in your entire clan is your wife, because for her to stand there and watch you go off in the Solar Impulse and not know whether she would ever see you again or watch you do any of your other crazy adventures and just wave you off with a huge kiss and a big hug. I honestly wouldn’t want to be in her shoes. So what does she think about your crazy, adventurous spirit?
Bertrand Piccard: [00:23:14] Well, the best would be to ask her. But I heard her answering this type of question, and she always says that when I come back, I have such a big smile on my face that she’s always happy that I can do these adventures.
And additionally, she works with me. She’s not behind me. She’s next to me. And sometimes in front of me showing me the way, showing me how to do, encouraging me and knowing also why I’m doing that. It’s not to break a record. It’s not just for fun. It’s because we feel, Michelle, my wife and I, we feel that we can contribute to being useful to the world by flying with a solar powered aeroplane, by working on the environment, by showing new solutions. So basically, it’s our passion for the evolution of humankind that makes us do what we do. And she contributes on the ground. I’m just the one flying, actually.
Christiana Figueres: [00:24:15] Well, you’re such an eloquent communicator. You really give just riveting presentations in public. But she also does a lot of the communication, for the two of you. And it just seems to me as you say, you’re demonstrating, but are you not communicating in a way that seeks to inspire? To kick people out of our status quo thinking and invite us to join you in a very different world that you have imagined and that you know is possible?
Bertrand Piccard: [00:25:00] Yes, you are absolutely right. All my adventures always have the goal of showing what is possible and what we can take from it to have a better life. So when I flew around the world with the Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon, it was more of a dream, but it showed to the people that it’s worth dreaming. It’s worth working hard to fulfill what we really like to do, go beyond all the failures, because I failed twice before succeeding. For Solar Impulse, it was really a demonstration of what we can achieve with clean technologies and renewable energies. And when I started that project, when I initiated it, we were in a situation where the protection of the environment was considered to be very boring, very expensive. Nobody really wanted to commit to all the sacrifices that were asked to protect the environment, less mobility, less comfort, less growth and less consumption. And they wanted to show that actually you can be very clean with new technologies, with renewable energies, and they wanted to bring passion for the protection of the environment. Solar Impulse was really something that was created to bring enthusiasm to the people about the future, about the solutions, about clean technologies and renewable energy.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:26:27] And do you feel that’s happened Bertrand? Because I think it’s such an interesting point that actually we need to embrace this kind of exciting future and we still kind of feel like climate change is a bit of a burden and we don’t want to have to deal with it and our lives are going to get worse. And that hasn’t really come through yet into the collective consciousness that our lives can be better if we deal with this. Do you think that’s right and why not?
Bertrand Piccard: [00:26:51] I think that a lot of people have understood. But of course, there is still a lot of work to do and maybe people have understood that we can do it. People have understood that it’s a fantastic adventure to protect the environment and protect humankind in the 21st century. But what people have maybe not understood enough is the fact that it is profoundly profitable, that if we want to push the economy, if we want to make industrial profits, if we want to give shareholders some dividends, if we want to create jobs, even new professions, new industrial opportunities, there is nothing like the protection of the environment because we have to go today from a world that, I would say a world before COVID, that was unstable, fragile, dangerous, unfair, polluting to a world that will be safer, more efficient, even more profitable, and that will escape from the recession. So what can we do?
Christiana Figueres: And more just.
Bertrand Piccard: [00:28:01] Absolutely and get out of these inequalities that are also so dangerous for the world, not only morally unacceptable, but also very dangerous in terms of social stability. So what can we do in that field? We can become more efficient. The world before the COVID crisis was inefficient, we were wasting 75 percent of the energy that was produced, half of the food, more than half of the natural resources. And we were even wasting 95 percent of the waste that can become a resource and are wasted. So can you imagine all these industrial opportunities that we have today to replace what was polluting with something that will protect the environment? This is, I believe, the only way to push the industry forward and at the same time get rid of climate change and pollution.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:29:01] And when you said it out like that, it’s so compelling. And we all know the numbers of the possibility to drive the next generation of great new jobs, et cetera, but it feels like it reminds me, a while ago we had Wangari Maathai on this podcast, who I’m sure you know, the brilliant conservationist from Kenya. And she said, she came with a brilliant phrase. She said, we are facing a serious courage deficit in the world. When people are not facing the big challenges that we have in front of us with a degree of determination and a deep courage. And it feels like it’s that courage that will enable us to take those risks, because failing is going to be a part of that. And we as individuals need to embrace that failure. The talk I saw you give in Davos a few years ago, was called around the world without fuel and without fear. Can you talk about the role of being willing to fail and courage? Because we know the numbers. We know that this can be more profitable, but we need individual humans to take risks in their own lives. And at the moment, it feels like they’re not doing them at the scale that they need to.
Bertrand Piccard: [00:29:59] The problem is that in this world, you don’t have every human being who is an explorer and the pioneer, you have a lot of people who are followers. They don’t want to take risks. They just want business as usual as long as they can. And even big industry leaders, they are followers. They are called leaders because they are big and rich, but they are not real leaders. So I try to work more on motivating people about the profitability of fighting climate change and protecting the environment than by trying to teach every human being to be courageous. This would be such a huge task. Can you imagine? You have to educate so many people and even if you educate children today, it will take 30 or 40 years before they are in power in this world and become decision makers. So I prefer to work with the fear of the people, the laziness of the people. Sometimes I’m sorry to say the stupidity of the people and tell them if you don’t want to change your habits, if you’re afraid about being a pioneer, at least look at what is profitable. And today the protection of the environment is fortunately more profitable than destruction of the environment. And how to prove that? Because of course, if I say it like this, they will listen to this podcast and they will say, it’s not true can he prove it? Yes. Today I have 670 proofs that protection of the environment is more profitable than the destruction of the environment.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: And these are on an individual basis, not just on a collective economy wide basis, but on an individual investment basis?
Bertrand Piccard: [00:31:53] Yes, exactly. And the 670 proofs are a 670 technological solutions that the Solar Impulse Foundation has already identified, assessed and labeled as efficient solutions. So there are solutions that are in the field of technology. They can be systems, they can be programs, material products, and they are assessed by our experts. And there the angle of credibility has to work today. It’s not a vague idea for the future. It must work today. Then it must be profitable. The company producing it has to earn money with it and the consumer has to save money because it’s more efficient. And then it needs to protect the environment over its entire lifecycle. If the three criteria are met, we give the label. They come into this portfolio.
The goal is to have a thousand of them and they will go around the world again, not with a balloon or a solar powered airplane like Solar Impulse, but with this portfolio of solutions and go to all the heads of states that are already met and all the others that I want to meet and show them, which are the tools that they can use to have much more ambitious energy policies and environmental targets and show them that if they want to get out of the COVID crisis, if they want to recover, economically speaking, if they want to develop their economy, increase their GDP, they have to go through these efficient technologies to protect the environment because that will create more jobs and make much more profit than these old industry that was inefficient and losing a lot of energy, making a lot of ways just for nothing.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:33:37] Yeah. What I like about what you just said, which is interesting, is that in environmentalism there can be this vein of, humans are not enough. This problem that we need to somehow become better humans. What I like about what you just said is it sort of meets humans where they are and says humans are lazy, stupid, but actually that doesn’t need to be a precursor to us solving this challenge. And we don’t need to perfect human beings in order to solve this challenge.
Christiana Figueres: [00:34:06] No, no, wait, wait, wait, wait. I don’t think we’re trying to think all human beings are lazy and stupid. I think he is saying very gratefully some of us. I think Bertrand is saying there is a subset of humanity that is willing to think out of the box. And what he’s saying is, let’s work with those because we can’t bring the masses along. Which brings me to my question or two questions, Bertrand.
One is those people that fall into the leadership category as defined by you, not because they’re rich and wealthy or the head of state, but those who are really innovative, entrepreneurial, bringing solutions, those would fall into your leadership category. You say that you are taking them and their solutions to heads of state. So implicitly, what I’m deriving from that is that you feel that the threshold that needs to be conquered there in order to take these solutions to scale is policy or political will. Is that correct or is it more financial? Is it investment? Or is it both? Or is there a third component? Because how do we get these solutions to scale at the speed in which we need? Because we know this is it, this is the decade. So scale and speed, how do we do that?
Bertrand Piccard: [00:35:33] I like this question very much because today, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to observe that it is still allowed to pollute. It is legal to put as much CO2 as we want in the atmosphere, plastic in the water, toxic chemicals in the soil or even in the food. So it is legal to pollute. And as long as it’s legal to pollute, you will have big companies who will say what we do is legal. We are just doing what the rules are telling us to do. And this is absolutely not enough. This has put us in the ecological disaster we are in now. So if we say solutions are profitable. OK, it’s one thing, but what I want to tell is not so much to the industry that these solutions are profitable. I want to tell that to the politicians, because if the solutions are profitable, then the politicians can include these solutions in the legal framework. They can be much tougher with the legal framework, with the environmental targets to reach all the standards. I’ll give you an example.
In the solutions that the Solar Impulse Foundation has labelled, there is a startup called Anti-Smog. It has products you can install on the thermal engine car. It reduces the particles emitted by 80 percent and the fuel consumption by 20 percent and it cost 500 euros. So just with the fuel saving, you are profitable after six months. If it is profitable, as I told you, why is it not mandatory? It should be mandatory because if the countries, the governments who dealt with the automotive industry just make cleaner cars, they will answer ‘we’ll go bankrupt if we do that’. But if you tell them you are obliged to use this type of technology to have your cars much cleaner and it is profitable, they cannot refuse. So you see how important it is to have a legal framework that doesn’t consist of having more regulations, but to have modern regulations that are based on the technologies that we can identify today and not based on the technologies that we’re polluting 10 years ago, 20 years ago, and that we are still using today.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:38:00] To a certain degree some of that’s been happening. And it’s so interesting what you said. If smart regulations will enable industries to survive, make more money, conserve more jobs, protect the planet, industry is asking for them, but political leaders are not delivering them. Do we conclude that they’re stupid?
Bertrand Piccard: [00:38:19] Well, it is absolutely stupid not to take the opportunities to make the industry better when it can be cleaner and more efficient. Yeah, but today, you know, we are in the situation where I think we are fighting between the ones who are aiming for degrowth and the ones who are still fighting for so-called unlimited growth. One is leading to social chaos. The other one is leading to ecological chaos. Yeah. And people should understand that there is a third choice. The third choice is qualitative growth. Qualitative growth is when you make money and create jobs by replacing what is polluting, by what is protecting the environment. So what you are increasing is the economical return that you are making money, but basically you are wasting less, you are consuming less, you are producing less, because if you are more efficient, you don’t need to waste so much resources, energy, water or whatever in order to reach your goal. So I think this should be really understood because it’s a little bit like Taoism. I love Oriental philosophies and in Taoism the goal is to take the both extremes and combine them into a unicity. And as long as you are in the extremes, you are in the duality, not in the unicity. So you will fight together. If you can combine the two and find the third way, then you can put everybody in agreement and move ahead.
Christiana Figueres: [00:39:52] Well, sadly, we have to come to the end of this episode Bertrand and we always ask our guests a question that you’ve actually answered throughout the past twenty five minutes. And that is, with respect to what we need to do, at the scale of what we need, and the timing of what we need to do, are you more outraged or more optimistic?
Bertrand Piccard: [00:40:18] I am very optimistic when I see the number of technological solutions, of new investments, all the profitability we can make out of the protection of the environment. But I am completely outraged to see how many people don’t understand that, how much time it needs to implement it. And I’m outraged by the people who still continue to fight for degrowth, which would destroy the world or for unlimited growth that will destroy the world also. Both try to do good, but both are doing bad. So we really have to get out of these outrageous outcomes in order to go for something that will reunite the extremes into a common action. And am I optimistic or not about the common action? To be honest, all the previous civilizations believed they would live for thousands of years and they all disappeared after five to seven hundred years. Why are we going to be different? If we want to be different we really have to take the problem seriously, otherwise we will disappear like all the others. We’ll have another middle age and something else will come in seven hundred years. That would be such a pity. It would be such a pity to have all these developments that we had in the past for absolutely nothing else. That destruction of the environment and danger of humankind.
Paul Dickinson: The Tao of Economics, thank you.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: That was amazing. Thank you.
Christiana Figueres: [00:42:02] Thank you, Bertrand, thank you very much. Really appreciate you sharing with us today and the time that you’ve invested. And we’re very excited for the solutions that you’re gathering at the Solar Impulse Foundation. And we would ask you to please give our love to Michelle and tell her that we think she’s the bravest one around here.
Bertrand Piccard: Thank you. You know what? You should make a podcast with her. It would be fun because she has so many things to tell. She’s amazing.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: That’s a great idea.
Christiana Figueres: [00:42:32] Very good, great suggestion. Thank you. Wonderful. Thank you, Bertrand.
Paul Dickinson: [00:42:37] So, girls there we hear from Bertrand Piccard, what did you make of that?
Dee Caffari: [00:42:54] I love him. I could listen to him all day long. It’s not just the accent is actually what he’s saying. But, you know, I think when you’ve been out there and proven it, you come from such a credible position that people have to listen. And I just love the way he’s just challenging thinking he wants to move it now, let’s not talk about it. Let’s do it and make it happen. And he sees the issues. He’s proved something beyond doubt with the solar powered flight and he’s proved it. But he realizes that people are fearful of change. Everybody hates change. We’re scared of it. And people that have got to take their communities and their countries and their people with them have to take the votes with them to make it so they’re scared of doing anything too radical. So his solution is to go with solutions, literally a thousand solutions, making it even less of an excuse to back away from it. And as you mention entrepreneurs, there’s profit and there’s money to be made and there’s jobs to be had. I mean, he could sell sand to the Arabs and ice to the Eskimos.
Christiana Figueres: [00:44:06] Well, I particularly love that Bertrand chose to do this. Exactly. To put all of this time and effort and thought into drumming up these thousand solutions or into harvesting them, actually, because he’s harvesting them from others. Because, you know, the fact is coming from the family that he comes from his grandfather to his father to what he did himself, he could have just sat himself in a cushy little room and said, right, that’s my contribution to the world. I’ve proven that we can go around the world and with solar flight, that’s it. But the fact that he then takes that platform very similar to what you did Dee. An amazing platform that both of you built for yourselves. And then you were using ad for the health of the ocean and Bertrand is using it to harvest these thousand scalable, profitable, non-polluting solutions. It really is, I’m truly grateful to both of you, actually, Dee to you as well and to Bertrand to be willing to do that because you’re going the extra mile in the face of the fact that we have to go many miles.
Dee Caffari: [00:45:25] It’s true, but I think it really highlights the power of sport or adventure or by associating with a different platform. So it’s not an activist talking. It’s not a politician talk. It’s not ministerial. It is a genuine person who pushes themselves and challenges themselves beyond their limits, just giving their view from a different perspective. And I think it just captures people’s imagination all the better. The platform is just a really nice synergy. And it allows, as I said, I had a voice to speak up and he’s using that for a great good. If he can do another lap taking these solutions to these people that are craving them. It’s going to be a winner. I hope it’s a win.
Christiana Figueres: [00:46:09] Well, what he’s doing right is he’s harvesting these solutions and then he wants to travel around and present them to heads of state and say, look, here is a menu of solutions that you can implement. So he will take the next step, which is fantastic.
Paul Dickinson: [00:46:23] Joking aside, I’m amazingly impressed by your achievements, by his achievements. And I think not only do you have that voice that you describe so eloquently, but also I think you’re very deep thinkers. And I was really struck by what he was saying, because I’ve been dancing around the subject like a lot of people for 20 years. And he talked about how there really is a role for business that business can lead on this. But you absolutely need politicians and governments to enshrine in law different kinds of regulations. You know, he said as long as it’s legal to pollute, it’ll be hard to make a case for business to make a switch. But if you change the law, you can do it. And he recognizes it’s the job of the governments to make these laws. It’s the job of business to lead with it. And this is where it gets super clever for me, avoiding this kind of antagonism between environmentalists that call for degrowth and cutting back an industry that wants to continue with unimpeded growth. And he talked about Taoism, which is a kind of balance. And he’s got this kind of Taoist economics. And I’ve got this theory. I’ve got no evidence for this at all.
Christiana Figueres: [00:47:40] It’s never stopped you before.
Paul Dickinson: [00:47:41] Never stopped me before. My family motto: often wrong, never in doubt. That’s you in the middle of the Pacific, closer to the International Space Station than any other human. Then there’s Bertrand Piccard in a 747 sized solar airplane across some part of the Atlantic or the Pacific and really just kind of solving this deep crisis that’s sort of torn us. And bringing back together a sort of central view of how we collectively as a society can fix this. I find that incredibly exciting and inspiring.
Dee Caffari: [00:48:16] Well, I think the environment we put ourselves in gives us time to think, and that could be scary at times. But I think you’re right that too many people want to tell us what we can’t do. We have to stop this and stop that. But they’re not telling us how we can evolve to make it better. And that’s where he’s going that extra step. And I think your comment on degrowth is too easy to ban this and fight that. And it doesn’t help society. It doesn’t help us evolve and protect the planet and future proof everything. And he’s gone that extra step and found the solutions for it. As Christiana said, harvesting these solutions and putting them out there for people to take on, they’re going to be profitable, provide jobs, and will take us into the next century.
Christiana Figueres: [00:49:10] To take that one step further, I also love the understanding that CO2 emissions or any other greenhouse gas emissions are nothing but the evidence of inefficiency. Yeah, that is such a clear way and refreshing way of looking at this. If we are emitting, it’s because we’re being inefficient with the production of whatever it is that we’re producing and we don’t have to do that. We have been inefficient in our production systems because we had thought incorrectly that we had the space to be inefficient and therefore we have just polluted all of that space, which we actually didn’t have. But we have to come back to realize, whoa, wait a minute, we have limited space here, right? We have a limited budget for greenhouse gas emissions. We have consumed almost everything, all the space that we had and so this is now about how we can be efficient in our transportation, our energy and everything that we do. In our manufacturing, how can we be efficient to produce what we need, not produce what we don’t need, not consume what we don’t need or produce what we need in a highly efficient way? And I love the discipline of thinking about that. CO2 is nothing but inefficiency.
Dee Caffari: [00:50:37] And also when he commented, I think, Paul, you mentioned earlier, without the legislation, without the rules being in place, what’s to stop us? So we’re lazy. We are inherently lazy and we just keep trickling along. And the argument is the fossil fuel companies, the oil companies actually have the funds to invest in the renewables and the new technology. So let’s force them to do it, because while we’re still selling the oil, they just carry on because it’s convenient and they’re good at it. But actually they’ve got the technology and the finances to go to the next evolution of energy. And let’s force them into that earlier. I mean, I think we’re afraid we’re afraid to challenge, and afraid to put a hard line. And that’s what we need to kind of encourage to happen. And Bertrand’s leading us that way, which is fabulous.
Paul Dickinson: [00:51:30] People say, oh, you know, it might end up more expensive. Well, if you want to make cigarettes disappear from our society, make it more expensive. And that’s what we’ve done in cigarettes. Goodbye. It wasn’t that good and now you’re gone.
Dee Caffari: [00:51:44] They were expensive and they were going to kill us. And we got told that blatantly. So let’s let everybody know that we’re going to kill the planet and it’s going to affect all of us. And maybe people will act on it, I think until it affects them personally. People find it really hard to understand.
Christiana Figueres: [00:52:01] It is this personalization that we need. So we have a fantastic musical artist, Paul please introduce.
Paul Dickinson: [00:52:08] I just wanted to say, girls, thank you. It’s been a great deal of fun. Thank you so much Dee for being our guest host. I hope you come back soon. I hope Tom takes many more holidays because I find it just amazing to be with somebody with such extraordinary kinds of unimaginable achievements and such an honor for us to be able to spend some time with you. And we are going to finish today, as always, with some brilliant music. And this is from Easy Wanderlings. It is Dream to Keep Us Going. Easy Wanderlings, are an India based collective creating and performing, inspiring, soulful music, rich and empathetic, soothing melodies. They’ve been recognized globally and won awards and played around the world. Now the band are going to tell you a little bit about their song. So it just remains for us to say goodbye and see you next week.
Dee Caffari: [00:52:54] Bye. Thank you for having me.
Easy Wanderlings: [00:53:01] Artists are a powerful medium through which movements can be given light. You’ve got a growing number of followers looking at you or sometimes looking up to you. So it’s important you use this channel to convey the right things and talk about the right things, talk about issues concerning not just yourself, but the welfare of everyone around you and the environment, basically because your creation will live long and so does the meaning it carries. So I think we should use this platform responsibly and convey meaningful messages to your audience. The song itself is kind of like a ball of fresh energy, something to kind of give you a reason to put on your pants and chase your dream because when you follow your passion, the whole world is going to fall on your head. And it’s a reminder to not give up on your dream because having one itself is very special. So just don’t let it go that easy. And this song is just something to cheer you on as you go and grab it.
Clay Carnill: [00:58:13] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism the track you just heard was a Dream to Keep Us Going by Easy Wanderlings. As always, links check out more of their music in the show notes. I put a link to a living room performance they gave in Mumbai. It’s a fantastic Saturday, mid afternoon listen, just throw it on your TV or headphones and let the music work on. So thank you to Easy Wanderlings. Oh, and speaking of music, did you get a chance to listen to our double vinyl-esque, mixtape adjacent, Stubborn Optimist’s playlist? If you’re looking for more music. Check out last week’s episode and bonus episode for a feature of all the artists we’ve had on the podcast thus far. And thank you to our guests this week. Bertrand Piccard. If this episode is the first time you’re hearing of him, please go check out his TED talk, as well as the Solar Impulse Foundation, which on their website you can look at pictures and read of actual climate solutions that you can put in your home. And each solution is tagged with which SDG, which is the Sustainable Development Goal that it addresses. It’s so well laid out and organized.
[00:59:28] This is the antidote to doom growing and it’s all in the show notes. So click away. And thank you to our guest host this week. Dee Caffari, such a pleasure to have you on with us. There is a treasure trove of videos on YouTube to watch of Dee sailing and tell some incredible sea tales so all of her social media and links are in the show notes. I just want to take a second. We have really cool people on this podcast, people have done incredible things. It’s really a privilege. And yeah, speaking of incredible people, Outrage + Optimism is a Global Optimism production Global Optimism is Sara Law, Katie Bradford, Lara Richardson, Marina Mansilla Hermann, Sophie McDonald, Freya Newman, Sarah Thomas, Sue Reid and Jon Ward. Our executive producer is Sharon Johnson and our producer is Clay Carnill and our hosts are Christiana Figueres, Paul Dickinson and Tom Rivett-Carnac. Tom, we missed you this week. OK, that is a wrap. There’s a few more things in the show notes that are surprises. So go check them out. And next week, we have Jojo Mehta on the show. It’s going to be tremendous. So hit subscribe. We’ll see you then.