Heroes

Bill Gates thinks the 1% should foot the bill for renewable energy, and he's offering the first $2B.

He also has some insights into social welfare and the problems with the private sector.

Bill Gates thinks the 1% should foot the bill for renewable energy, and he's offering the first $2B.
True
Natural Resources Defense Council

Whatever you might think of him, Bill Gates is a man who knows a thing or two about a thing or two.

After all, he is the richest man in the world. And while money isn't necessarily an indication of intelligence, he's clearly doing something right.

(I don't say this lightly either; I've been a loyal Apple user for 22 years, and even I can admit the guy's had a few good ideas here and there.)


But when Gates says something like "We need an energy miracle," he's got my attention.

Gates recently sat down for a lengthy interview with The Atlantic about energy, the economy, and innovation.

Specifically, he talks about the relationships between research and development (R&D) and public versus private funding and how a historical look at the radical advancements in cancer treatment, the Internet, and more could serve as a guide for the future of the clean energy industry.

Sure, there are some people who have interpreted the article as an attempt by Gates to justify his refusal to divest from anything related to the fossil fuel industry. But at least in this case, he's putting his money where his mouth is.

Photo by TNS Sofres/Flickr.

Gates has committed $2 billion of his own to incentivize clean energy R&D, and he thinks others should do the same.

Here's a problem with investment strategies: Venture capitalists are looking for a return. And they usually want it fast, and they want it to be bigger than the cash that they put up in the first place.

Gates points out that this money-as-sole-incentive approach is kinda BS when the future of the planet is at risk. Instead, the people like him who can afford to take risks should be the ones doing so — even if the ROI doesn't come through quite as quick or strong as some hip tech startup.

Of course, there's more than one kind of clean energy and no guarantee of which works best. So Gates says fund 'em all!

There's no clear consensus on the most effective form of renewable energy — another factor that keeps those potential risk-taking investors away. After all, why should they throw their money at hydroelectric power if solar's going to end up running the market? And then what happens in another 100 years when wind power emerges as the best option?

Unfortunately, we can't make those perfect predictions until we've done more research and development, which is why Gates says we should take those risks while we still can and invest in everything that might help us to combat the climate crisis.

But should that funding come from private or public sources? Gates says: Why not both, like everything else?

"U.S. government R&D has defined the state of the art in almost every area," Gates says, pointing to the development of nuclear energy, hydropower, shale-gas, and more. He argues that, historically speaking, most advancements of the 20th century came from government incentivizing the private sector, which in turn then invested in the people (because when profit is the only motivator, altruism is often left behind).

That being said: It's not up to the U.S. to fix the climate problem alone.

It's easy for individuals and countries alike to say, "Well, one electric car isn't going to make that much of a difference anyway," or "Who cares if an island nation of 1,400 people runs on entirely sustainable energy?" Which, hey, might be a valid point.

But the change has to start somewhere, right? We've already wasted too much time waiting for someone else to take the lead, which only allows for the problem to get worse. (Spoiler alert: It has.)

The whole interview is worth a read. It's an eye-opening look at the intersections of energy and economics.

A lot of the issues he addresses about the current climate threat boil down to the never-ending debate between public and private sectors, between capitalism and socialism. But as Gates rightly points out, those issues are not nor have they ever been black and white.

(Gates does, of course, point out that companies like IBM and Google are the random flukes that keep the venture capital machine going.)

If you want to make a difference, join us in demanding that our world leaders take action at the upcoming Paris climate talks.

Maybe that way we won't be have to choose between cash or the survival of the human race as our only two choices for return-on-investment. Because if "life itself" is not incentive enough to inspire innovation, what else is left to do?

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less