TEDx Oil Spill: Talk is Cheap, Solutions Aren’t
When I sat down and tuned in to the most recent TEDx talk (an hour or so late, as I am on West Coast time), I was ready for solutions to the spill. I’m not exactly sure why I was expecting the focus to be on cleaning up the mess down there, maybe it has something to do with reading for 8 hours a day about how bad the situation is. It seemed to me like that’s what the focus would be on: getting bright minds together and thinking of solutions to cap and clean. The conference didn’t turn out to be quite that. It was mostly a bunch of smart people doing two things: 1) waving the ‘clean energy, brighter future’ flag; and 2) saying screw BP, let’s string ‘em up and let ‘em rot. I guess I was just expecting a bit more. I wanted answers to two questions that weren’t asked yesterday: how do we cap this spill?, and how do we clean this stuff up?
Allow me to get two things out of the way. It is important to learn about the newest green technology on the verge of being realized and implemented, and conferences like this, which allow brilliant people to show their solutions to clean energy, are necessary and great. Secondly, I am very, very upset with BP and how they have handled this disastrophe. But what I really want to know is how to clean this stuff up. We’ve talked a bit about possible solutions here at TENTHMIL—bioremediation seems to be one of the only things that has more than a snowball’s chance in Satan’s sauna. What I was looking for from TED was a conference that allowed people to get together, demo their cap and/or clean technologies, and then come up with a method to move forward with a clear plan. I’m talking about getting Paul Stamets and his magical fungus alongside Kevin Costner and his ocean Hoover, uniting under some kind of moniker, and using their combined power to charge the steps of the White House.
Paul Stamets with his fungus.
The fact is, we are doing a terrible job of cleaning the oil up. Throwing millions of gallons of Corexit, an extremely toxic dispersant, onto the oil with the express purpose of hiding the oil from view isn’t going to cut it. We’re poisoning the Gulf: the ocean, the aquatic and avian life there, and the brave men and women who are trying to clean up the oil. It is gross negligence, and it is criminal.
The conference did manage to inspire a call-to-action, however. One of the best segments was the announcement of the X Prize contest. Francis Beland of the X Prize Foundation, a non-profit which rewards innovation with serious money, announced a contest that would give around $3 million in prize money to the best cleanup solution. “We’re going to launch a prize for cleanup, and we’re going to kick ass,” he said during the conference.
This is what needs to happen. Serious financial incentive for seriously good ideas. This is not a matter of selfish motives; rather, good innovation takes money to get rolling. What X Prize is saying, is send us your awesome idea, we’ll give you money, and we can get this rolling. If the end product is a way out of this crapstorm, then more power to X Prize Foundation and then winner of the X Prize. Beland noted that the best ideas don’t always come from where you’d expect, and that oftentimes it’s, say, a video gamer who has the best solution.
So come on gamers, give us a serious cleanup solution, and fast. Think of all the Mountain Dew you could buy with $3M.