Solar Impulse

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It was a special day for science geeks in the Bay Area --the
arrival of the Solar Impulse, the first solar powered aircraft to
circumnavigate the globe. I had followed the ninth leg of its historic journey via webcast starting in Hawaii, hoping it would pass over San Francisco before landing at Moffett Field 62 hours later.

In my fruitless attempt to encourage my three teenagers to join me in observing the remarkable event, I suggested we ride bicycles to the Presidio, to avoid the anticipated traffic from other excited observers. I joyfully showed them the webcast as the graceful aircraft neared California, to which my 16-year old daughter suggested that an airplane capable of only 50 mph was hardly an accomplishment, regardless of its power source. I hope my suggestion that the Wright Brother's first powered flight lasted only 12 seconds registered.

Much to my amazement, Presidio traffic was sparse. Only a handful of people joined me near the Golden Gate Bridge to observe an around-the-world flight using not a drop of fuel, harbinger of a future in which carbon free global transportation is commonplace. History was upon us, yet my fellow San Franciscans chose not to look.

The next morning I listened to the Earth Day sermon at my local church. The sermon implored that God had not given Man the right to exploit other humans, animals, or His earth regardless of our superiority. It occurred to me that God's message was gracefully on display in the skies above San Francisco just 12 hours earlier. The sermon's message was powerful yet my secular instinct recognized that ultimately the selfish gene pushes us to the same conclusion. It seems both God's will and our own DNA works against self-destruction.

This unique weekend said to me that we can have a carbon-free future, but only if we choose to make it so. Pioneers, like the Swiss entrepreneurs who envisioned the Solar Impulse, and the scientists and engineers who solidified that dream, are bravely showing us the future. But ordinary citizens owe it to the pioneers and scientists to pay attention to their feats and spread the word.


With a Perspective, I'm Grant Young.

Grant Young is an industrial psychologist and aviation enthusiast. He lives in San Francisco.