Glamour of the startup world and death of the Great Barrier Reef

I am at a global start-up summit, trying insect protein bars, getting my face 3D scanned by a camera watching VR videos… An hour before the final announcement of the winning team this year, my facebook news-feed dropped an announcement that’s much less entertaining: the Great Barrier Reef was just announced to be dead…

Well that turned out to be not exactly scientifically true but more of a “click bait” scheme, as I realized after a few more clicks. I was still curious and quickly read an Guardian article on this topic, The Great Barrier Reef: A catastrophe laid bare, which in the end convinced me that: “the Great Barrier Reef is actually pretty much dead!”

A quarter of it was killed by climate change induced bleaching this year and mainstream scientific opinion is that: it’s too late to save the rest.

I couldn’t help but felt the irony. Here I am witnessing the absolute ingeniousness of the human kind while at the same moment learning that we are not good enough to protect one of the greatest wonders on earth.

I was trying to figure out the “why”. Why are we so helpless in face of the human caused catastrophe? It’s clearly not a lack of intellectual capacity, engineering talent or technological advancement.

Maybe it’s the economic system where money goes to the businesses that provide the slightest comfort to people at massive environmental costs (Look no further than the mountains of plastic cups and bottled water provided at the venue). How can we blame anyone for their inaction when we are all part of this system?

To survive in this world, we have to provide value to those who pays us (the most) in return. To make this mechanism effective for climate change, the vulnerable islanders who are the most directly affected would have to pay the big carbon emitters to reduce their emissions. Unfortunately the money is on the wrong side.

There is really not much hope for stopping climate change in a natural, easy or comfortable way. Neither our short-sighted human nature or our economic system is set up for that. As much optimism as I got from the SB Copenhagen conference, every time I step out of our sustainability professionals bubble, I was hit by the reality that the tipping point of climate change awareness is still further down the line.

Many people have been suffering from the consequences of climate change, unfortunately they are not the ones often heard. A pacific fisherman’s life or death doesn’t quality to be the top 100 concerns of a Swedish car salesman. What can we rely on for big changes to happen?

Maybe some clues from the history, the US didn’t offer their help to the rest of the suffering world in WWII until their own Pearl Harbor got attacked. There is nothing new under the sun. Maybe no one will stop driving fossil fuel fed car until their house is under seawater.