BY Bertrand Piccard


Meet Bertrand Piccard, born into a dynasty of explorers and scientists known for conquering the heights and the depths of our planet, who seemed predestined to pursue one of the greatest family adventures of the 20th century. As a psychiatrist, aeronaut, internationally renowned public speaker, president of the “Winds of Hope” humanitarian foundation, and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations, he aims to combine his family’s scientific legacy with his commitment to exploring the great adventure of life.


The first ever nonstop balloon flight around the world brought Bertrand fame as “scientist-adventurer.” He then conquered the hearts of millions of people around the world through another record: circling the world in a solar airplane. Sustainable Styles met Bertrand in Brussels during a “Green Week” reception organized by the European Parliament for the unveiling of the first Solar Impulse airplane. Some years later, he was the guest at one of our productions for “New York Energy Week,”  and we enjoyed a talk about his solar powered dream come through.


In the last century alone, the world reverberated to the conquest of the poles and of Everest, descent to the abyssal zones, the exploration of the stratosphere and space, the first steps on the moon, and the first flight around the world in a balloon. These great beginnings all have one thing in common: they have profoundly changed our perception of the impossible.


In the 21st century, the adventure must continue, but how do we perpetuate the pioneering spirit and cultivate the audacity of our predecessors?


Major challenges await humanity. They will open new horizons for science, but their objectives will be less to conquer unknown territories than to preserve the planet from today’s threats, in order to sustain and improve our quality of life. The next adventures should therefore be humanitarian and medical, to combate extreme poverty and to contain new epidemics; political, to improve our governance of the planet; spiritual, to rediscover profound and soundly based values; and technological, to provide durable answers to the threats menacing our environment.


The problem with our society is that, despite all the grand talk about sustainable development, we are a long way from thinking in terms of sustainability. Each hour, our world consumes around a million ton of petrol, not to mention other fossil fuels. In the process, it spits back out into the atmosphere enough emissions to disrupt the climate – and leaves half the population stagnating in totally unacceptable living conditions.


“Nobody seems ready to sacrifice his standard of living”


If sustainable development has difficulty in becoming a reality, it is because it is still more often than not associated with crippling costs and a restriction of comfort or mobility. It is this idea that has to be corrected. Indeed, even if our behavior risks destroying the planet, nobody seems ready to sacrifice his standard of living. Our grandchildren will no doubt end their days without petrol and they will then call us the “plunderers of precious resources,” but as human beings, we are generally more motivated by our personal, short-term interest than by a long-term compassion for our peers or our environment.

Encouraging a pioneering spirit

Since we cannot change the basic character of human beings, let us make an effort to adapt the way they function. Let us give them a personal interest in thinking in terms of sustainable development. Let us prove that here it is a question of a new and formidable market with all sorts of economic and political outlets for those who understand how to invest in it in time. Let us illustrate the scientific interests, favor the pioneering spirit, and promote a new fashion, in the positive sense of the word, to enable renewable energy users to be held in admiration. Let’s promote those who invent or use new technologies that respect the environment. It could quickly become out of fashion, even frowned upon, to consume too much petrol, to heat or cool down private or public places for no good reason or to consume non-recyclable products.

Until now, renewable energies, often the prisoner of fringe political parties, have lacked really dynamic promotional and marketing impetus. The ecologists will only be able to make their voices heard if they speak the same language as those whom they wish to convince. It is now urgent to leave behind the division that has led us nowhere for 40 years, in order to finally unite ecology with the economy, environment and finance, general opinion, and short-term political interest.

“Solar Impulse”: around the world with no fuel

The public is excited about great adventures and relates to the dreams of pioneers and explorers. “Solar Impulse” wants to mobilize this enthusiasm in favor of technologies that can generate sustainable development and positive emotions about renewable energies. Public attention must be drawn to the changes necessary to ensure our planet’s energy and ecological future and to give a positive and stimulating image of environmental protection. We must show that alternative energy sources, related to new technologies, can achieve what some now consider impossible.

It is a question of a symbol. We will probably never carry 300 passengers in a solar airplane, but as a symbol it can affect all of us. Aren’t we all in the same situation as the “Solar Impulse” pilot? If he does not have the right technologies or if he wastes his energy, he will have to land before the rising sun enables him to continue his flight. And if we do not invest in the scientific means to develop new energy sources, we shall find ourselves in a major crisis, which will prevent us from handing over the planet to the next generation.

More information on Solar Impulse:



Interview with Bertrand Piccard during the “Day of the Eco Hero”