It’s a hot Louisiana afternoon and as I write this I’m inside watching the SpaceX livestream. My neighbor brought over cheeseburgers and my kitten, Tesla, is going nuts because I won’t let him chew on the HDMI cord. I’m excited — not just for Elon Musk, but for America. The launch is a bright contrast against the backdrop of the coronavirus and a horrifying racial divide that has been going on since America’s founding. It’s an event that reminds us that despite all of our flaws as a country, we can still move forward.
The death of George Floyd was brutal, heartbreaking, and all Americans want is justice. If you have not watched the video, I believe you should. He cried and begged for his life. And died in front of millions. However, we are in a societal system that doesn’t see anything wrong with killing innocent black people for simply existing. Add these other toxic ingredients into a painful mix:
- Quarantine from the coronavirus
- Millions unemployed
- A president who really doesn’t care about anything but his own greed
… and we have a very volatile situation. People are angry, frustrated, and hurting. Yet, despite all of this, something beautiful has happened. Jumping to a post-launch timeframe … America, while hurting from her own self-inflicted wounds, took a shy step into the future on Saturday. That step was encouraged by Elon Musk.
It was T-5 minutes and some change when T-Mobile, my internet provider, suddenly had a 6-hour outage. I didn’t get to watch today’s historic SpaceX and NASA launch. I was devastated. I’ve watched the replay, but there is something special about seeing it live. SpaceX and NASA sent two humans into space from American soil for the first time since NASA retired the Space Shuttle program. I was pretty upset, but that gave me some time to think about things.
Things such as how different our world would be without Elon Musk in it. He has revolutionized many industries, brought EVs into popularity, and taught himself to build rockets from scratch when no one else would support him or work for him. What people don’t realize is that Elon Musk hasn’t just revolutionized the auto industry and aerospace industry. He has given people dreams. He has inspired countless humans around the world.
Where Would We Be Without Elon Musk?
Ask yourself this and seriously try to answer it. I don’t mean emotionally or anything regarding clickbait headlines. I mean, do some research into everything Elon Musk has touched industry-wise. Let’s dive into one of them: electric vehicles. Kevin Rooke asked and answered this question back in April. Where would America be without Tesla? In his post, he explored the growth of Tesla and all other EVs side by side.
The evidence Rooke presented is pretty clear: Tesla outsold all other EV brands in 2019, by a wide margin. The Model 3 made headlines around the world for many different things. The Model 3 had almost 3 times as many sales as the world’s #2 EV, and was the first to break the 300,000 sale barrier (and the 200,000 barrier for that matter). The Model 3 was the best selling vehicle in the Netherlands and Norway, the 4th best selling vehicles in Switzerland, 7th best selling car in the USA. This success pushed many automakers to get more serious about electric vehicles and has surely hastened the market’s transition to EVs.
This is just one industry. Another one is SpaceX. This one is Elon’s heart and soul. His dream is to get us to Mars and beyond. We’ve just taken a second step, and I want to share my thoughts on this. Imagine being told by many people that you can’t do this — that whatever you dream of doing has to stay only a dream because it is impossible. If Elon Musk had listened to his many naysayers, critics, and even outright haters, we would not be where we are today.
His sheer determination has reshaped our entire space program along with the auto industry and the energy industry. To me, this is what a leader does. He leads by going with his heart, doing the research, and proving that his dream is possible. We need more of this. We need society to encourage more of this.
We Need Less Racial Inequality & More Innovation
I know this isn’t cleantech related, but I want to share something I witnessed a month or so ago. I live in a predominantly black neighborhood in Baton Rouge. I keep odd hours and it was around midnight. I was working on an article for CleanTechnica when I heard a loud crash into my door. My door didn’t break, but I heard my neighbor’s son. He was begging for his mother and for his inhaler.
He was screaming, “I need my inhaler, I can’t breathe!” Yes, I live in Baton Rouge, where the last words of Alton Sterling were “I can’t breathe” as he was brutally killed by our police. But as someone with asthma, I took him literally. I grabbed my inhaler, quickly sanitized it, and rushed outside to give it to him.
I opened the door and was met with a very bright light and a horrific scene. “Get back inside, ma’am!” was yelled at me and I looked up to see a gun pointed at my face. I looked down and saw my neighbor’s 19-year-old son. He was facedown, on the ground, in front of my step, and handcuffed. He was screaming, sobbing, and I had to close my door.
I pulled out my phone to call 911 but realized it was pointless. It rang as I was holding it and I saw it was one of my neighbors. She’d told me that all four policemen drew their guns on me. After they left, two witnesses came forward and we all convened at other neighbors’ home. One saw everything go down. My neighbor was leaving a friend’s house when the policemen drove up on him. No lights, no sirens, not even their headlights were on.
I’ve seen them drive like this several times at night — without even their headlights on. Anyway, they attacked him, beat him, and tased him, according to one of our neighbors. I spoke to his mom and she told me that they took him to the station and dropped him off — told him he would have to walk home. He was able to get a ride home.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I heard his screams echoing inside of my head. I later spoke to him and he told me that he thought they were going to kill him that night. If my neighbors sue the police department or press charges, I will definitely support them in whatever way necessary.
The reason I bring this story up is because there are millions like it. In America, we have racial injustice happening every day due to the indoctrination that whiteness equals superiority. This indoctrination permeates our entire culture and is one of the many challenges we as a nation are still facing. This is why many cities are burning — from the protests and rioting.
Two of the biggest news items this past week were so starkly different, but they both have roots in the earliest days of the United States of America. We have dramatic racial injustice and inequality that we need to move beyond. A person shouldn’t be murdered. A person shouldn’t be murdered in broad daylight by the people who are supposed to protect him. A person shouldn’t be murdered in broad daylight by the people who are supposed to protect him because of the color of his skin.
Another thing the US has had since its inception, though, is a fascination and focus on innovation. We need more of that, and we need to offer its opportunities to more members of society. We have to let people live free, live without fear of discrimination or death, and live with hope in their heart. This is why we need more innovators like Elon Musk. He gives people hope. Today, while our country is burning with the pain of racial injustice, we can also recognize that SpaceX and NASA did something incredible. They put America back into a position of leadership. Innovators bring hope for many. Right now, we can really use that hope. And portions of our society shouldn’t have that hope beaten out of them by an unjust system, by structural racism, and by the fear that you could be murdered at any moment just because you’re black.
Top photo courtesy NASA/Bill Ingalls.
Some extra text contributed by Zach Shahan.