From being the first to fly around the globe in a balloon, to his Solar Impulse project, Prof. Bertrand Piccard has impressed and inspired the world for generations—and he has no intention to stop. Realising how aligned The Outdoor Journal’s views are with his, we caught up with him at Vivatech 2017 to talk about what exploration means to him, why environmental awareness is not enough and his solutions to fight the ‘dirty status quo’ we have today.
With an incredibly diverse and inspiring resume ranging from making the first ever non-stop round-the-world flight in a balloon in 1999, to the Solar Impulse project, in which he and André Borschberg flew from Europe to Africa in a solar airplane—without a single drop of fuel, Bertrand Piccard is also a doctor and psychiatrist, fascinated by the human spirit and is a pioneer for environmental protection, sustainable development and the eradication of poverty.
TOJ: For us, it’s important to have the vision of people like you on what exactly is adventure. The word adventure, how do you define it?
BP: For me, there is adventure and there is exploration. Adventure is when you are out of your comfort zone. It’s when you find yourself in a new situation that obliges you to mobilise your inner resources. To use the doubts and the question marks and the uncertainty to stimulate your creativity. Adventure is when you get into a situation where what you have learned before is not enough, so you have to develop new skills in order to survive or to succeed. In that sense, adventure is a crisis that you accept. And a crisis is an adventure that you refuse.
Exploration, not only adventure, exploration is when you use adventure for a more global purpose. Adventure is for yourself. When I flew around the world, non-stop in a balloon, it was the first time anyone had ever done it and it was my personal adventure. Solar Impulse is exploration more than adventure. It is the state of mind, sure, but you do it for a purpose. To help others. You bring a meaning, you bring encouragement to do the same. This is why what I’m doing now, after Solar Impulse, is exactly the logic of Solar Impulse, it’s the following step. Now creating the world alliance for efficient solutions in order to bring together the individuals, startups or companies, who have a product, idea, a process, a technology, that can protect the environment in a profitable way. We will select the 1000 best solutions to bring them to the governments and international institutions to give them the means to act, to respect their environmental commitments, and even to be more ambitious in their environmental projects because they know that the solutions exist.
TOJ: So you would agree that bringing environmental awareness is not necessarily useful today, but that it’s about environmental action?
BP: Yes, absolutely! The awareness is not enough. The action is wishful thinking as long as you don’t have solution. And this is what I hate, in a lot of international conferences, is when the guy coming on stage says ‘we have a big problem, we will have droughts, floods, natural disasters, tropical diseases in Europe, increase in sea level, millions of climactic refugees… All of that we know. Problems, we know. If you give too many problems to the people, everybody is depressed and fed up. Today we have to take the speech of solutions. Don’t speak about problems, we know them, speak about solutions; how we can improve, how we can protect the environment and how at the same time, they are profitable, how we can create jobs, how they allow a clean growth which is much better than the dirty status quo we have today. So to reconcile the protection of the environment, the industry and the political world.
TOJ: For us, what you just said is quite important. Our purpose is to educate and inspire all people to enjoy, experience and protect wilderness. That’s why it was important for us as a media brand to say ‘okay, everyone is asking us how to do the adventures that we write about and we need to set that up in a clean, sustainable way’.
BP: Completely. Using the new, clean technologies that are available.
Feature image courtesy of Bertrand Piccard taking a selfie in the sky!