Heroes

Why Bill Gates' new, ambitious plan to stop climate change just might work.

Bill Gates is announcing a game-changing energy initiative to fight climate change.

Why Bill Gates' new, ambitious plan to stop climate change just might work.

Bill Gates is behind a brand new, game-changing effort taking aim at carbon emissions.

And it's a big move, even by Bill Gates' standards.


Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images.

The philanthropist, Microsoft co-founder, and drinker of water-that-was-once-poop is behind a two-pronged international investor-backed push to curb global warming while fighting poverty.

At the UN climate talks in Paris this week, the billionaire is announcing two initiatives that prioritize clean energy technology around the globe.

The first initiative Gates is proposing is called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition.

It's a group of (very) wealthy business leaders who've agreed to invest billions of dollars into "companies that are taking innovative clean energy ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace," Gates wrote on his blog.

The list of 28 investors is impressive.

It includes people like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg...

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

...as well as founder of Virgin Group Richard Branson...

Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images for Free The Children.

...Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos...

Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images.

...and Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who earlier this year agreed to give his entire fortune (somewhere in the ballpark of $32 billion) to philanthropic efforts.

Photo by Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images.

The second part of Gates' announcement is an initiative called Mission Innovation.

Mission Innovation is comprised of 20 countries that have agreed to double their public clean energy research and development investments throughout the next five years.

This is huge! Not only does it include commitments from several big carbon-emitters, like the U.S., but also from less developed — but rapidly growing — countries, like China and India.

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014. Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images.

Gates is putting his money where his mouth is, too. Just a few days ago, he committed to putting $2 billion of his money toward clean energy research and development.

In his blog post on the announcement, Gates made sure to point to the importance not just of energizing the developing world in order to fight poverty, but doing so with clean resources:

"The world is going to be using 50% more energy by mid-century than it does today. That should be good news, especially for the world's poorest, because right now more than 1 billion people live without access to basic energy services. Affordable and reliable energy makes it easier for them to grow more food, run schools and hospitals and businesses, have refrigerators at home, and take advantage of all the things that make up modern life. Low- and middle-income countries need energy to develop their economies and help more people escape poverty.

But the world's growing demand for energy is also a big problem, because most of that energy comes from hydrocarbons, which emit greenhouse gases and drive climate change. So we need to move to sources of energy that are affordable and reliable, and don't produce any carbon."

Gates' big news is just one reason to be excited by what's happening in Paris right now.

The COP21 climate summit launched in France on Monday. And if we're lucky, history will remember it as a truly pivotal moment in the global fight against climate change.

Photo by Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images.

Beyond Gates' new initiatives, leaders from over 150 countries are in the French capital to reach a legally binding agreement to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the decades ahead. The big picture goal is to keep global temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels — a key factor in avoiding the worst climate change has in store for our world.

If ambitious goals are set, the world has every reason to be hopeful — especially as those objectives will be agreed upon in a city still healing from recent terror attacks.

"What greater rejection of those who would tear down our world than marshaling our best efforts to save it," President Obama said in a speech at COP21, referencing the Nov. 13, 2015, attacks in Paris.

Climate change is a big problem. It will take big solutions to solve it.

But between Gates and Obama — and the 100-something other countries that are on board — it certainly looks like we have a fighting chance at keeping our planet green for generations to come.

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
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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.

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