Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Challenging Space Travel

Richard Branson

 Isaac Werner may have been seen as a dreamer--leaving the security of the community where family lived to become a druggist in Illinois, and then leaving a successful business to try other careers, resulting in staking a claim on the untamed prairie!  Isaac made a success of his claim, despite years of struggle.

I thought of Isaac as I watched Richard Branson onboard Virgin Galactic, flying to the edge of space on July 11, 2021.  Only a few days later, I thought of Isaac again when Jeff Bezos boarded his own Blue Origin NS-16 to make his own flight.  Certainly, both men had to be dreamers to have imagined the ventures that lead them to achieve the first steps of their dream.

Jeff Bezos
I confess.  With so many issues on earth in need of financial assistance, I found it difficult to fully applaud their achievements.  However, when Jeff Bezos combined his dream of space travel with generosity for things on earth, I was impressed.  I learned that he, through his philanthropic initiative, had gifted $200 million to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.  $70 million will be applied to the renovation of the National Air & Space Museum, but $130 million will launch a new education center.  The focus will be on helping teachers utilize the Smithsonian's collections, and programs will be designed to inspire students to explore careers in STEM, the program to encourage emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.  The intention is to reach students and teachers not only in the Washington, D.C. area but also in communities across the country.

That gift alone was quite impressive, but Bezos was not finished.  During the Blue Origin's post flight press conference, Bezos had another surprise--the creation of the "Courage and Civility Award."  Bezos is certainly excited about the role space travel has for future generations, ideas that include moving industries that are currently harming our planet with pollutants to the moon, as one example.  But he also recognizes that problems on earth need to be addressed.  He told the CNN interviewer, "We have to do both...we have lots of problems here and now on Earth, and we need to work on those.  We always need to look to the future.  ...We have to do both."

The present short flights that Branson and Bezos have achieved seem more like billionaires' amusement rides, but Bezos sees their purpose differently.  He believes the opportunity for people to actually "see with your own eyes how fragile it [our planet] really is" will change their perspective on the urgency to protect and save our planet.

That is why he is not only using space travel to allow those with the wealth to by a ticket to see our precious planet differently in hopes they will return from their flights inspired to use their wealth to help solve the Earth's urgent problems.  He is also setting an example through the "Courage and Civility Award," and while he had the world's attention right after the flight, he introduced the first two recipients of that award, giving two men $100 million dollars to make charitable donations of their own choices.

Jose Andres
His first two "Courage and Civility" recipients both have a track record for philanthropic achievements.  Celebrity Chef and restauranteur Jose Ramon Andres Puerta is well known for his non-profit devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters.  He has frequently been recognized for his generosity and organizational ability:  2014 he received an honorary doctorate degree in public service from George Washington University; 2015 he received the National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities; 2012 & 2018 he was named one of the world's most influential people by Time; 2018 he received the James Beard Foundation Award for Humanitarian of the Year; and 2018 he received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from Tufts University.  In 2018 he was also named a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his humanitarian work.

Van Jones
The other recipient of  the "Courage and Civility" award is lawyer Van Jones, perhaps best known from his commentating on CNN from 2013-2019, as well as from his three best-selling books.  However, he is also the founder or co-founder of several non-profit organizations, particularly focusing on resolving problems in the Black community and combining Black jobs with the Green Movement.  He joined with Newt Gingrich and Patrick J. Kennedy on rebuilding the Dream Movement & advocating for Opioid Recovery.  His focus on "green pathways out of poverty" led to his book, whose title plays on the reference to "White Collar" jobs with the title "The Green Collar Economy."  This emphasis on "green pathways out of poverty" included the "Green-Collar Jobs Campaign.  Like the other recipient, he also has received a great many awards.

Isaac Werner received no awards, that I am aware of, but he too served his communities, especially active in his roles in educating farmers.  Perhaps in his small way he met the criteria Bezos set for the recipients of his "Courage and Civility" award, as "leaders who aim high, pursue solutions with courage and always do so with civility." 


Deb L said...

I love your thoughts on these dreamers! I heard the criticisms, yet I sat mesmerized as I watched both flights. Dreams are important.

Deb L said...

I love reading your comments. I heard the criticisms yet watched both flights completely mesmerized. Dreamers change the world.

The Blog Fodder said...

I'd be more impressed if they paid taxes and their staff