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Special Edition Magazine, Fall 2019: Sustainability

Mobilizing for a Climate Moonshot

Governments can accomplish remarkable things when they have not been hollowed out in the name of misguided "free-market" ideology. Now that humankind is confronting the existential challenge of climate change, our survival depends on reclaiming the public spirit of the Apollo program – and the hope it inspired.

LONDON – The 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing in July reinforced an important lesson: one of humankind’s greatest feats occurred when imagination, common purpose, and a systemic approach to problem solving won out over siloed thinking and anxiety about where the money would come from. As US President John F. Kennedy made clear in 1961, going to the moon would cost money and entail risks, but it would be well worth it.

Kennedy understood that many of the lasting benefits of innovation happen not just at the end of the process, but along the way, through dynamic spillovers. And in the case of America’s moonshot, he turned out to be right. Much of the technology in our smartphones today can be traced back to the Apollo program and related missions.

Imagine if we were to bring the same courage, spirit of experimentation, and willpower to bear on the greatest challenge of our time: climate change. Imagine having leaders who would proudly declare: “We choose to fight climate change in this decade not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

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