Finding a New Altitude

By Ross, Nicola | Alternatives Journal, September-October 2007 | Go to article overview

Finding a New Altitude


Ross, Nicola, Alternatives Journal


MOVE OVER David Suzuki. Make way Al Gore. Switzerland's most engaging hero after tennis star Roger Federer is now a proponent of renewable energy.

Dr. Bertrand Piccard's affinity for TV cameras won't hurt his reputation, but it's his inspiring talks and efforts to promote solar energy that will put him on centre stage in this age of the environment. At 49, Piccard is no "muesli-eating environmentalist." He's a psychiatrist and adventurer, most famous for being the first person to circumnavigate the Earth in a hot air balloon.

His talk, "We can do it if we want to! Building a Sustainable Future is like Flying Around the World with a Hot Air Balloon," could be retitled, but his message, casually passionate delivery and engaging French accent captivated the audience at the European Sustainable Energy Forum held in Switzerland in July. "Life is like a balloon," he said. "We are pushed by the winds." And so it is with the global move toward sustainable development. We are being nudged by the wind and we don't have a map.

His advice is to handle this journey by controlling what we can. In Piccard's case this meant his flying altitude, since wind direction and speed vary at different heights. By changing height, a balloonist can find the right route.

"We have to be ready to do the opposite of what we have done normally." And for this, he says, "We need weather forecasters." They help us find the right altitude, but we have to make the move and be willing to follow the wind where it takes us. …

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