Dear Mr. Musk,
We are presented with a tenuous moment in time. The promise of mass renewable energy adoption seems less secure as explosions hit Kiev, supply chains remain sluggish, covid hovers like a specter, and authoritarian governments threaten to reduce fragile democracies to rubble. Life seems beyond our daily control.
We need a public figure to rise up, to speak truth to power about the necessary demise of fossil fuels — not for the profitability of the 1% or willpower of ascetics but for the downright good of average, everyday people. That visionary can convince us to believe that a better world is within our grasp, can lay claim to the idea that a healthier world should and can exist, can undermine the multi-trillion-dollar fossil fuel annual industry simply by wielding 280 characters.
That audacious person, Mr. Musk, is you.
As you noted earlier this month, “The duty of a leader is to serve their people, not for the people to serve them.” You have mastered messaging via Twitter, to the point that your tweets — which probably, as Wired suggests, started as a fun and unfiltered space for self-expression — became a mechanism for corporate visibility and exposure. Now I ask you to make them so much more.
The duty of a leader is to serve their people, not for the people to serve them
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 11, 2022
Your tweets can be transformative mechanisms for an equitable renewable energy future, Mr. Musk. Your microblogs can move beyond the privilege of announcements about your companies and their new events, beyond reactions to slights and pouts about indignities. You can rebuild your social media messaging to spur solidarity and corporate social responsibility, to inspire those of us bogged down in the everyday doldrums to breathe in the inspired air of infinite, sustainable energy.
To do so, please draw upon your place as a global technological leader. You have the wherewithal to persuade naysayers that the fair and compassionate path forward of energy and its necessary corollary of economics is a messy but beautiful mélange of justice, sustainability, and democracy. You can reshape your tweets so that critical aspects of knowledge-making, such as the voices and agendas of underrepresented social groups, become forums for competitive interpretations in what one researcher has termed the “epistemics of social opposition.”
In other words, I’m asking you to rise up, to nurture the soul of the average Joe and Juana, to build the spiritual and internal capacity of social justice advocates, to strengthen movements for multiracial, inclusive, and global renewable energy democracy.
Your Quiet Efforts to Improve Lives are the Most Powerful, Mr. Musk
You’re at your best and most effective when your tweets are understated and altruistic, when your messaging goal is directed to help others succeed in life.
There’s a very recent example of the quiet elegance you exude when you engage in prosocial tweeting. This week, your satellite venture launched a free high-speed internet service to connect remote villages in Tonga that have been cut off since a destructive volcanic eruption and tsunami in January. That country’s prime minister notes “it is rather paradoxical for a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami to bring to our shores the latest in satellite and communications technology.”
The SpaceX tweet announcing the contribution was subtle and humble; it didn’t self-promote its own role in assisting isolated villages in desperate need of connectivity. It was a lovely tweet in its simplicity.
The people of Tonga were recently connected with Starlink pic.twitter.com/TfWdvnG688
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 25, 2022
Art Mimics Sustainable Life — The Way Life Should Be
Showcasing graffiti art at Giga Berlin was a subtle way for corporate power to recognize underrepresented voices. In 2020, murals in cities all over the globe gave voice to black protest and resistance. Graffiti is both an ancient form with origins in Ancient Greece and Rome as well as a vital contemporary statement about society. As an article in BBC Culture noted, graffiti has both an ephemeral quality and an enduring power.
Your tweet, Mr. Musk, evoked a sense of community through pop culture. Your tweet invited your Twitter audience to think about how we perceive ourselves, how we think about belonging and representation, and how we imagine the future.
Graffiti art at Giga Berlin pic.twitter.com/aOj4kZNcbU
— Tesla (@Tesla) January 21, 2022
Your future tweets, Mr. Musk, might more explicitly connect culture and renewables, so that artistic efforts support finance, policy, and technology and accelerate the transition to a renewable energy economy. These cultural tweets can still be fun, invigorating, and even whimsical yet still reinforce the efforts required for the ongoing energy transition and its necessary replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy.
Think of Barcelona-based artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada, who collaborated with Italian company Lavazza and the city of Turin for the initiative “TOward 2030 – What Are You Doing?” Or, as you settle into your new Texas digs, celebrate the regenerative artwork available through the Land Art Generator Solar Mural installation. San Antonio’s piece in the En Aquellos Tiempos Fotohistorias del Westside, a project of Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, is another worthwhile example of how we can make our cities more vibrant while we make them more sustainable.
All-Electric Transportation Tweets: Opportunities to Rise Up
The benefits of transportation electrification are many and far-reaching. By using your Twitter forum to foreground how transportation-related air pollution impacts human health and increases cancer risk, lung and heart ailments, asthma, diabetes, and premature death, you would be providing a public health service.
But those kinds of tweets would also have other end results — they’d inspire difficult conversations around the significant challenge of sustainably sourcing the battery technology necessary for the broad shift to renewable electric vehicles and away from fossil fuels. Sure, debates would arise around the inequitable distribution of EV charging infrastructure and how more low-cost charging is needed in lower income residential areas — but you’re up for it.
And you could also give one of your massively influential Twitter nods to nonprofit groups that are working in the background to show the world how we adapt and fight together to make a real difference in providing affordable energy for all. Their advocacy, after all, is toward efficiency investments for those who need it most.
— Tesla Owners Silicon Valley (@teslaownersSV) February 26, 2022
In Conclusion, Mr. Musk …
Mr. Musk, you have the ability to get people excited about your ambitions, projects, and plans. You have proven that your vision is achievable through the various and often amazing levels of success you’ve achieved with Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, the Boring Company, Hyperloop, OpenAI, and Neuralink, among others.
Under the spotlight of a skeptical society, you probably are tempted daily to use your powerful Twitter platform to right perceived wrongs, refute fake news from social media outlets, or engage in crisis management. The noblest routes have the greater reach, however. Tweet as a moral voice in the corporate US. You’d transcend individualism and embrace egalitarianism.
Yes, your audience would scrutinize your new approach to meet new social and political expectations and sometimes be startled at your initiative, spontaneity, and empathy. But, then, again, no one should be surprised at your potential. You’re the person who revolutionized the automobile industry and are now outsmarting the supply chain crisis. Please, Mr. Musk, keep teaching us like you did at COP21 about how carbon is circulating through the environment, why global temperature increases, what the sensitivity of climate is all about, and why we need to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels to a sustainable era — and what happens if we don’t.
Your Twitter audience — and lots of others, too — are listening.
Reasons to hate are remembered better than reasons to love
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 17, 2022