Bertrand Piccard: Influential Voice
Explorer, psychiatrist and ambassador for clean technologies Bertrand Piccard is combining innovation and adventure to tackle the great challenges of our time. He made history by accomplishing two aeronautical firsts, around the world non-stop in a balloon, and more recently in a solar plane without fuel
It is in Bertrand Piccard’s DNA to achieve the impossible. Part of a legendary dynasty of explorers and scientists who conquered the heights and depths of our planet, he made history by accomplishing the first ever non-stop around-the-world balloon flight on board Breitling Orbiter 3, and more recently in a solar plane without fuel. Pioneer in his way to consider ecology through the lens of profitability, he began working in the early 2000s to promote renewable energies and clean technologies. Solar Impulse Foundation was born to carry this message around the world.
Bertrand Piccard achieved the first-ever nonstop round-the-world ballon flight in the history
Its mission was to select 1000 efficient solutions to protect the environment in a profitable way. Four years after announcing the goal Bertrand Piccard and the Solar Impulse Foundation have officially achieved their target and commit to go even further. By giving political and economic decision-makers the tools to adopt much more ambitious energy and environmental policies, the Foundation will help them set a roadmap to reach their carbon neutrality goals before 2050.
‘Today, thousands of solutions exist that can boost economic growth while preserving nature, but they are often hidden in start-ups or research labs. They remain unknown to decision makers and are not implemented at industry level, so few people realize that everyone can use them and how profitable they have become. We need to embrace clean technologies and efficient solutions, because they are much more than ecological, they are logical. They create jobs and generate profit, while also reducing CO2 emissions and preserving natural resources. Even if climate change didn’t exist, they would make sense. Clean growth is much better than the dirty status quo we have today’, claims Piccard.
More recently Piccard accomplished the first round-the-world solar flight without fuel
Aware that sustainable development is not limited to the protection of the planet’s resources, Piccard is also actively involved in humanitarian causes, fighting for the eradication of Noma, a disease associated with extreme poverty, caused by malnutrition and lack of hygiene. He also enjoys sharing his experiences and ideas through writing, as well as inspiring younger generations. His dual identity as a psychiatrist and explorer makes him an influential voice heard by the largest institutions which today consider him as a forward-thinking leader on the themes of innovation and sustainability. He is currently United Nations Ambassador for the Environment and Special Advisor to the European Commission.
Visionary behind Solar Impulse, Piccard demonstrated, with his landing in 2016 after 43,000 km travelled without fuel, that renewable energies and energy efficiency can achieve incredible feats – reinforcing the idea that it will be easier to protect the environment with a broader use of modern clean technologies, than by fighting against societal trends in mobility, comfort and growth. ‘Adventure consists of using human ingenuity and the pioneering spirit to develop the quality of life that present and future generations deserve to have,’ Piccard declares and his thirst for exploration is the continuation of a family legacy, passed down through three generations of inventors who dedicated their lives to scientific adventure and protection of the environment.
Piccard has become an influential voice as a forward-thinking leader for progress and sustainability
First, there was Auguste Piccard who opened the way for modern aviation with the first-ever stratospheric flight in the pressurized capsule that he invented. Later, it was Jacques Piccard who pioneered scientific ecology by discovering traces of life during the historic dive with his bathyscaphe to the deepest point of the ocean, the Mariana Trench. Inspired during his childhood, Piccard pioneered the early development of hang-gliding and ultra-light flying in Europe, won the Transatlantic Balloon Race, and achieved the first-ever nonstop round-the-world balloon flight on board Breitling Orbiter 3 in 1999, completing the longest unrefueled flight in the history of aviation for both distance and duration.
It was considered as the final great adventure of the 20th century. Several billionaires such as Richard Branson and Steve Fossett had made unsuccessful attempts. In total, 10 teams tried 21 times to reach this last Grail. Bertrand Piccard himself failed twice in 1997 and 1998 before attempting the third flight with Brian Jones. During the 20 days of this circumnavigation, together with English co-pilot Brian Jones, Piccard feared he would fall short of propane and promised himself to make another round-the-world flight, this time without any fuel.
Interesting fact is that the public could follow Bertrand and Brian’s trip live on Breitling Orbiter’s website. It was a first in the history of the internet! Piccard also believes that: ‘Performance and success come from using doubts and question marks to stimulate our creativity.’ Whether it is to protect the environment or to reduce inequalities, Bertrand Piccard seeks to highlight solutions by developing synergies where others see only oppositions and strives to unite the forces involved, raise public awareness and encourage political action.
Photos AFP, Piccard Family, Philipp Böhlen & Solar Impulse / Stefatou