Michael Reibel Boesen

March 6, 2021

🌍 Massive.earth is born 🌍

Yesterday Martin Ferro-Thomsen, myself (and a group of skilled advisors and partners) are launching Massive.earth. You can read our official Massive.earth launch blogpost here.

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I’m going to use my space here on Hey World to talk about the journey with Massive.earth and my general work on trying to contribute to resolving the climate crisis. It’s going to have behind the scenes, thoughts, frustrations, wins, reflections and possibly a lot of shouting (especially at the fossil fuel industry). I hope you want to follow along by subscribing below.

This inaugural post is going to be about my journey to Massive.earth.

Rockabilly in North Carolina
When I left my beloved Corti.ai and (shorter than expected thereafter) became a dad it was as if a switch turned on inside me. I just knew my next project had to be with a climate focus. Suddenly the future became real. I went from February 2018, flying to a rockabilly concert in North Carolina featuring my all-time idol Dexter Romweber who played at a tiny cafe in Wake Forest. I even rented a Mustang V8 5.0 to drive from Charlotte to Wake Forest. Here’s proof:
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(North Carolina is totally underrated btw)

And here’s a really lousy selfie of me and Dex. Probably the most important and most underrated figure in modern rock’n’roll. But that’s another story for another time.
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So I went from the Mustang to, IDK, really regretting not seeing before what I could suddenly see now. Regret, however, is a really useful emotion you can use to become better in the future. So that’s what I decided to do.

Tech-fixer
I started out as I think many entrepreneurs who discover the climate space do, by trying to identify THE climate project with the BIGGEST impact. You know as a true tech-fixer! You start analyzing, reading, listening to podcasts, read a ton of books, interview people.  You decide a carbon footprint app is the answer. You learn that it’s not. You look for silver bullets. But at some point you realize that the right tool for the job is not a silver bullet but rather a thumbtack. It’s going to be 1000s “smaller” projects that will solve the climate crisis not 1 or 2 big ones. Sure, like Bill Gates write in his new book “How to avoid a climate disaster” a few big ones would be welcoming and even needed like an alternative to cement, but even these big breakthroughs alone won’t fix it all.

Still you can go and look for the biggest thumbtack to build. And sure there are big chunks of CO2 gathered in various buckets of human activities. 75% of all emissions are related to energy. 17% are building related energy use, 16% transport related energy use, 24% energy use in industry. You can chose to focus on buildings energy use. That’s a 17% chunk right there that seems addressable by the same set of technologies, products and services. Or you can look at preventing megawildfires. They’re responsible for 8Gt of CO2eq emissions (if you only look at direct CO2 emissions and do not even include land use change related emissions) and they’re not even mentioned on most carbon budgets despite the fact that they make up 16% of global emissions.
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Going for a big bucket is interesting and we will highly encourage participants in the Massive.challenge to look at those. But once you look at the 17% bucket and you realize you still have 1000 thumbtacks to go you start to think: Where will all these thumbtacks come from?

It’s the economy, stupid
That was when I realized that not only do we need 1000s of thumbtacks but we also need to replace all the dirty and rusty nails that are already in there. Suddenly I couldn’t see anything but fossil fuels anywhere I looked! My morning coffee? Nope. The coffee is transported to my location by a fossil fuel powered vessel of some sort. Working on my iPad? Full of plastic and it burns fossil fuels to have it on. Even skipping the iPad and doing everything on pen and paper. The pen is plastic (fossil fuel product) and the paper was shipped here by — you guessed it a fossil fuel powered vessel. My food? Same as the coffee. Doesn’t matter if it’s beef or a salad. Foraging in the forest? Did I wear any clothes? Yup same thing.

Let me stress that foraging naked in the forest is not the answer here. My point is that I discovered that it’s absolutely impossible to go through any day of my modern life without being soiled by fossil fuels and other kinds of polluting products. Not even if I tried my very best.

The undeniable conclusion is that individual action is great and if you can do it you should because of the immediate constant emissions reductions it will bring. But it will never get you to zero, nor should you for the exact same reason do it because you feel guilty. It’s not your fault!

Once I got there I realized that our entire economy is built on this stuff. Every item I own, every time I look at my smartphone, drink coffee, go outside (with clothes on) I’m burning fossil fuels. And hence that big 75% pie up top? I’m contributing to it. And I can’t stop. Even if I tried very hard.

That was when I realized it’s the entire economy. We have to replace the old and dirty one with a new sustainable one. That didn’t exactly make it easier. And in fact, at times even now it feels a little overwhelming. When that happens I have a spot in Copenhagen with a beautiful view over Øresund that I drive to (in my EV mind you) to think and restructure my thoughts.
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Scalable climate action
It was in one of those days working from the car out there on the pier that I reframed the problem. We have a map in that pie chart up top. Each of these contributing pieces will need to be moved from the old dirty version to the new sustainable version. You can list all of them (in fact we started out doing that) and just start from the top. And that was when I realized that we need the people. The people as in everyone who wants to help. That is how we can achieve scale. We need a Massive.movement of people passionate about doing something to help create a better future for everybody. And we really mean everyone. We need everybody who has some skill to apply that skill in a climate context. You’re good writer? Great, find a climate focussed news media to work for or write copy for a climate company. You’re an engineer? Go find a role in the countless of climate companies. And so on.

Individual climate action may not be able to get you to zero. But what you can do is help the world get to zero.

It’s sounds like a paradox, but it’s not. If you can spend your time helping a climate project that potentially removes or prevent from emitting, let’s just say, 1 megaton of CO2 from the atmosphere. You will have multiplied your individual climate action by a crazy amount. We call this idea scalable climate action.

But as our list and our white paper shows. Startups, technology and innovation is not a silver bullet. We need societal change too. We need Teslas (technology / startups) to push the old and dirty auto economy into EVs and we need the Extinction Rebellions (social change) to push government action. And that was the final piece of the puzzle. 

We need Massive scale via scalable climate action directed at market-oriented projects (startup, technology, innovation) and society-oriented projects (policies, campaigns, NGOs, activism etc). And that is Massive.earth we’re building it today. That is how we arrived at this version of Massive.earth.