Entrepreneurs: With Great Technology Comes Greater Responsibility
by Rafael Aldon and Yasanhalari Kharkongor
We love entrepreneurs that think BIG, and when it comes to big thinkers, it’s impossible to ignore anything from Elon Musk. So, we all watched in awe at the latest Space X launch of the Falcon Heavy. A rocket capable of delivering over 60-ton cargos into low earth orbit, and in time, 17 tons of cargo to Mars.
Astropreneurs are front of mind at VenturesOne. We backed a space-tech company last year called Geospatial Insight, who are pioneering the analysis of satellite images to transform all kinds of industries. So, we are used to seeing images from space but not usually Tesla roadsters being thrust into orbit.
Queue the memes:
The launch got colossal media coverage but you could be forgiven for missing the announcement last year from Musk on what comes next- the “BFR”.
(Yes, BFR stands for what you think it does!)
Elon says these rockets will fly people to most places on earth within approximately thirty minutes at a similar cost of a full price economy flight on a passenger jet.
The world is getting smaller.
Reaching new heights
As the rate of technological advancement accelerates, the scope for using technology in improving the quality and ease of life is enormous. Thanks to medical advances, average life expectancy has almost doubled over the past 200 years. But are we equally committed to improving the longevity of our planet?
Last year prominent scientists labelled our planet Earth as a ‘toxic planet’.
It’s estimated that by 2050, if we do not curb our astronomical use of plastic, roughly 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will be in our environment (which is more than the weight of all the fish in the oceans) contributing to the death of uncountable ocean creatures and toxic substances in our food chain.
The broadcaster and naturalist, Sir David Attenborough has passionately voiced his grievous concerns:
“It is one world. And it’s in our care. For the first time in the history of humanity, for the first time in 500 million years, one species has the future in the palm of its hands. I just hope he realises that that is the case.”
Enter the Ecopreneurs!
Teams all over the world are working vigorously to develop new methods and technologies to address these vast environmental challenges.
Image: Business Insider
Dutch innovator Boyan Slat has an audacious plan to remove floating plastic from a marine area commonly known as the “great Pacific garbage patch”.
His non-profit The Ocean CleanUp develops advanced technologies with the aim of ridding the world’s oceans of plastic. They estimate that a full-scale deployment of their systems will clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years and their first array is set to launch this summer.
VenturesOne in conjunction with our pro-recycling partner Saltrex has been fundraising in support of this great initiative.
This clean-up and many more are needed as the problem won’t go away, but as the saying goes “prevention is better than cure”
Ecovative is a US company who agree with this philosophy and have developed innovative biomaterials that can remove the need for packaging plastics. Using agricultural waste materials and mushroom, Ecovative culture non-toxic packaging materials and other products. Once they have served their purpose, instead of ending up in landfill or the ocean can simply fertilize your garden.
Image: The Earth Times
While we’re driving progress on some fronts like ocean clean-up and creating eco-friendly alternatives, there is still huge progress needed on how we improve plastic production and its disposal. It’s a global problem that is likely to have a ‘tipping point’ in 2018, due to the recent changes occurring in China.
From Waste to East no more
In January this year, China effectively banned the import of plastic waste. This is a big deal because they have been taking over 50% of the global market for these materials. You may be surprised to learn that until now the single-use drinks bottle, milk container or yoghurt pot that you conscientiously placed into the ‘recycling bin’ could easily end up being burnt or placed in a landfill in China or other parts of Asia.
“Corporate recycling is in for a reality check as China raises its standards,” says Martin Bourque, executive director of the Ecology Center, a leading zero waste non-profit and recycling center in Berkeley, CA. “Everyone is desperately looking for the cheapest possible new destinations for low quality mixed materials, and there is currently a lot of incentive for companies to dump, burn, or bury recyclables that customers think are getting recycled.” source
How governments, entrepreneurs and businesses respond to this change could have a big impact on all our futures.
Only 9% of all plastic ever discarded since 1950 has been recycled, and the rest became pollution in landfills, dumpsites, incinerator emissions, or oceans, where it will remain for millennia. source
Let’s Think Differently
You can’t manage what you don’t measure so sustainability will never be achieved unless it’s on a balance sheet. What’s needed is a new perspective.
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” – Wayne Dyer.
Innovative start-up entrepreneurs can make a big difference but we still need ‘big businesses’ to step up to the challenge. Many corporations are already taking steps to improve their energy efficiency and ‘green credentials’ but what about their impact on the worlds shared resources?
We’ve reached our tipping point and we need to regard and value the wealth of natural capital even more now. But what is natural capital? As the name suggests, it is the stock of natural resources that belong to the earth such as soil, minerals, air, water and all living things.
Natural capital is priceless- but it still has a value.
A study published in the Journal of Global Environmental Change revealed that the total value of the World’s ecosystem services amounted to twice as much as global aggregate GDP – as much as $124.8 trillion per year!
Perhaps this new perspective along with circular economy thinking can provide frameworks for business and policy leaders in the future. The stakes have never been higher for Earth and for all Elon’s rockets there is no escape plan.
‘There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.”- T. Siedner
At VenturesOne we’d be only too happy to hear from advocates for change that are addressing big challenges through entrepreneurship. Get in touch with us.