Wubbo Ockels, former astronaut and professor of Aerospace for Sustainable Engineering and Technology at the Delft University, Netherlands spoke this morning at the Geospatial World Forum in Amsterdam. As a former astronaut for The Netherlands, he has a unique perspective regarding the responsibility that we have for our planet, having gone beyond the bounds of Earth to look down and realize that all that matters to sustain humankind was below him.
Discussing the bottom-line mission of the geospatial industry, he discussed the good and bad of the ownership of Earth. On the good side, those that own land have responsibility to care for it. On the negative side, those that own land can also exploit it and keep it from others. As geospatial technologists, he said that we have the means and responsibility to make sure that if there is ownership, it is matched by responsibility. In our current time, at the end of the industrial revolution, we are doing things in a way that can’t continue, we have to innovate and change, and it’s a responsibility to be optimistic.
Ockels discussed the acceleration of the loss of ice in our polar regions, and suggested that in the face of accelerated loss that the solution is nuclear power in the form of the sun. The sun shines on the Earth enough power for our use for an entire year, we just don’t harness it. He suggested that we all buy an electric car, and enough solar panels to power the car for its life, saying that it changes the relationship we have to personal transportation.
While we tend to focus on our negative impact and our environmental footprint, Ockels says that we can be a benefit to our planet, and that there are many win-win situations. With solar panels coming down in price, and increasing their efficiency, Ockels says that China will save the Earth by producing cheaper and better solar power because their government thinks long term.
Ockels is involved in many initiatives and design ideas to make the future better, including:
- solar car and boat challenges where he coaches students
- a new kite-powered generator with a spool of kites that rotate into the air
- a sailboat that will travel the world
- a high-speed superbus to change transportation
Ockels is an ambassador for sustainability who adds an element of excitement and fun. He discusses how it can be sexy, and that by making sustainable choices we just feel better. He said that we all wear a jacket of responsibility for the ills of fossil fuels that we can all shed and feel better by just making sustainable choices. This choice is all condensed on a website called Happy Energy.