Climate Cowards: The Complete Failings of Global Wealth
Our planet is a miracle. Every natural wonder, every breath of air, every single heartbeat is made possible by Planet Earth. But for all it has given us, our world is being choked to death. Things can only end in one of two ways if they continue as they are – we destroy the planet, or the planet destroys us. Either way, humanity isn’t making it out alive. It’s become easy to pessimistically believe that it’s too late to tackle climate change. This isn’t true. What is true is that we have everything we could possibly need to heal our planet but the means are being gluttonously hoarded by an overwhelmingly small minority and we are letting it happen.
The Race to Space…and Climate Catastrophe
In this materialistic, capitalist world we have created, money is power. And power unchecked by responsibility and empathy is disastrous. The richest people in the world could, together, enact colossal change. And what are the two richest men in the world doing? They’re having a ego-stroking contest in low earth orbit.
The billionaire space race refers to the pointless contest between, mainly, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk as to who could take a commercial trip to space first. Richard Branson nabbed 1st place when he launched 9 days prior to Bezos in July 2021. Bezos proceeded to reach a higher altitude than Branson, however neither of them technically reached space at all so in terms of an actual space race, they failed miserably. Musk has yet to launch but, naturally, intends to fly to greater altitude that both his rivals because the only real aim of this endeavour seems to be outdoing each other.
So, what does this solve? Who does this help? How does this contribute to fighting climate change and saving our planet while we still have time?
Incredible things could be achieved if this wealth was redirected towards efforts, such as tackling climate change, as opposed to endeavours grounded in ego-stroking and exploitation of the masses. The billionaire ‘space’ race epitomises the disparity of wealth distribution and the environmental hypocrisy of those participating. Just one launch produces up to 300 tons of CO2, where it can remain in the upper atmosphere for years, between a very small number of passengers.
A long haul flight carrying 200-300 people might also produce the same amount – and this is also a serious environmental issue that needs tackling, but for now consider the CO2 emissions per passenger. If space travel becomes more commercialised, as the billionaires intend, it won’t take long before the environmental damages of a few rocket launches rival those of the entire aircraft industry.
Putting Money into Minutes
The human mind cannot comprehend very large numbers. This makes it difficult for us to come to terms with just how much money billionaires and multi-millionaires have, and likely contributes to how complacent we are about it. If we equate money with time in seconds then it becomes a little clearer.
One hundred thousand seconds makes up almost 28 hours – bear in mind the average UK salary for a full-time employee is £31,461, not £100,000. One million seconds makes up roughly 11 days, or 264 hours. One billion seconds makes up 32 years, or 280,506.24 hours. So, if you earned the UK average salary you would have fewer than 9 hours of time but a billionaire would have over 280,000 hours of time, over 31,000x what you have.
Try to think of how many hours of time a multi-billionaire would have. If that is insufficient, consider this – if you earned $5000 every single day, with no costs or payments, it would take you 23,000 years to become a billionaire. It is estimated that Branson’s flight cost $600 million. Bezos spent $5.5 billion to spend 4 minutes in low earth orbit. These endeavours achieved nothing and helped no one.