It's been almost 100 weeks (1 Year and 10 months) on from the very first lockdown and the world still looks a very bleak place - living costs are ever-rising, millions have lost loved ones and in 2022 alone, we've already had five devastating storms causing damage, death and destruction - and scientists say that the ferocity and frequency of these storms are only a further result of the worsening climate change situation.
In the last decade or so, there have been many different initiatives striving to combat climate change and limit/reduce the damage that humans have done and continue to do to Earth. Three in particular have done more than most to improve both the lives of humans and the planet we live on - not just for the present, for a greener and healthier future too.
Ripping Up The Rule-Book: Elon Musk
Still to this day, it's very hard to believe that one of the richest and most influential men in the world who founded both Tesla and SpaceX was once a small, introverted and awkward boy who, in secondary school, was heavily bullied and even hospitalised at one point.
Elon was eldest of three children born into an incredibly wealthy family in South Africa. Musk's dad part-owned an emerald mine in Zambia and was a pilot and sailor and Elon's mother was a model and dietitian from Canada.
Whilst Musk founded Tesla in 2003 at the age of 32, Tesla only started producing their first car (the "Roadster") 5 years later in 2008 - every car since launch being electric.
In 2012, Tesla stopped production of the Roadster and instead focussed their attention on a saloon car called the "Tesla Model S" - this would end up revolutionising not only Tesla, but the entire electric car market.
Surprisingly, the Model S was a monumental hit - over 200,000 cars being sold between 2012 and 2018 - making it the best selling electric car in both 2015 and 2016.
Musk had achieved what no one before him had managed - an all electric car-brand (no petrol/hybrid models) that was thriving and dominating in the electric car market.
Tesla's sales only continued to flourish through 2015 and 2016 as new updates released, allowing the car to be driverless on the motorways. Called "Autopilot", the feature meant that drivers could take their hands and feet off of the pedals and steering wheel and let the car be fully in control/drive itself* - only boosting sales further.
(*Whilst the car was fully in control, the human had to be ready take back control at any time for an emergency).
To date, Tesla has released four different models - the Model S (2012), the Model X (2015), Model 3 (2017) and Model Y (2020) - all with the "Autopilot"
Tesla released a further three cars - the models X, 3 and Y - all electric - and all with driverless capabilities.
With the sale of new petrol cars being banned in 2030, Tesla has massively helped the electric automotive industry.
As of December 2021 there are currently 780 Superchargers (charges quicker than regular) in 87 different locations in the UK - with more being constantly built and all compatible with any electric vehicle.
The more electric car chargers like this, the easier the transition to electric cars will be.
Elon musk has also released a lorry/truck - however how many truck/lorry brands will follow suit (in creating electric/driverless lorries) is unknown.
On the back of Tesla's success, Renault has created an almost fully autonomous car called the Renault Symbioz, which is so advanced (in driving itself) that it's banned from use on public roads. (The UK only allows "Level 3" vehicles on the road, this being a Level 4) - it's the first glimpse of what the future on our roads could look like. Going Up...The Levels Of Autonomy
Level 0 - Vehicle has no automation (at most fixed-speed cruise control) - Most cars before 2010
Level 1 - Vehicle has Automatic Lane Assistance (car automatically keeps to own lane) and/or Adaptive Cruise Control (adapts to car ahead braking/accelerating) - E.G: 2016+ Volvo.
Level 2 - Vehicle has partial driverless features on the motorway/major roads but must be monitored) - Tesla's Autopilot is currently at a Level 2.
Level 3 - vehicle can manage different parts of a journey such as city driver and merging onto a motorway - the driver must be highly vigilant however. Level 4 - A vehicle can complete an entire journey without human intervention or monitoring. Despite this, a Level 4 car will still have a set of pedals and steering wheel. Level 5 - The car has no human controls (pedals/steering wheel) and the human only has to dial in their destination and no matter the circumstance or weather condition (even high wind/snow/rain) the car will cope and know what to do.
"Up Through The Atmosphere, up where the air is clear..." - SpaceX (Elon Musk)
As well as dominating the electric (and driverless) car market, Elon has also been making revolutionary steps to improve space-travel - cutting costs by the millions and ensuring that travelling to space is more efficient than it's ever been.
In 2013, Musk said that one of his goals was to "to decrease the cost and improve the reliability of access to space ultimately by a factor of ten"
After 120 space launches in 1990, the number of Space Launches dwindled below one hundred for the next 28 years.
Come 2018, Elon helped break the 100 space/rocket launches record that stood for almost two decades with the company he founded called "SpaceX"
Though SpaceX itself was founded in 2002, their first (operational) rocket only launched in 2018.
Despite SpaceX's monumental success now, but back between 2006 and 2008 SpaceX almost bought Musk himself, SpaceX and Tesla into bankruptcy.
Musk was already struggling with the dwindling sales of the (Tesla) Roadster, but with three of SpaceX's first launches all being failures - it was said that a forth would have ran all into bankruptcy - meaning no efficient space-shuttles and only one (failed) Tesla Model - The Roadster. As if by fate, the forth was a success.
By late 2010, SpaceX was making shuttles (Falcon 9 & Dragon) at a rate of one every three months - meaning realistically, SpaceX could launch a rocket twice a year - Comparing the three space shuttles of the 1990's (left) 2011 (last manned mission to space since Space X, middle) and SpaceX first crewed mission - 2020) the size is simply incomparable
In addition to building rockets at an incredibly rapid rate, SpaceX also managed to accomplish simply unheard of tasks - such as firstly landing the first stage before later landing the booster stages. - the icing on the cake being the landing pad which was an autonomous boat/floating landing pad/ship.
This technology was vital - no matter how big you build a ship, if a landing should go wrong, the amount of fuel and explosives onboard makes a monumental explosion - catastrophic to human life.
As a touch of comedy, SpaceX named the "drone ship" "Of Course I Still Love You"
Space X's surprises kept coming - in 2018 launching a 2010 Tesla Roadster (previously used by Elon to commute to work) into Space. A year later, in 2019 it completed it's first orbit around the sun.
Come the present day, it's currently orbiting the sun on the orbits between Mars and Jupiter.
In the 50's humanity never dreamed of stepping on the moon - but come 1969, it became a reality.
Musk has achieved SO much since SpaceX was founded in 2002 and has made SO many revelations and discoveries for both space flight and travel - and I legitimately think he's changed the future of Space travel and how humans get into space. With the International Space Station planned for a de-orbit (destruction) planned in just under 10 years, the future of humans in space is an incredibly exiting one.
Musk isn't just sat on his high horse - he regularly donates to charity, has appeared on PewDiePie's YouTube Channel (the most Subscribed to YouTuber) and plenty more to interact and engage with his younger audience.
Fighting A Problem As Old As Time: Boyat Slat
From the issue of getting humans (and satellites) efficiently into Space, to the issue/s of microscopic plastic in the deepest depths of the deep blue, Boyan Slat (with the help of Jimmy Donaldson, also known as Mr. Beast) are helping to clean our oceans.
Ever since humans began exploring the world's oceans, pollution has been a problem, weather that's a man overboard or excess weight/used items from ships - if it's dropped in the ocean (intentionally or not) it's going to stay there...
Marine animals haven't adapted to life with humans due to the sheer rarity of humans interacting with 90% of marine species - marine species avoid beaches anyway due to the threat of becoming beached/grounded - so when a smaller foreign object appears in front of a fish, due to the large expanse of the ocean and food chain, if a fish consumes a smaller organism (like a plankton) it will be fed and survive longer - with this logic - if a fish encounters a piece of plastic, it will think "this organism is smaller than me, I will eat it" - this can apply to mammals from fishes, to turtles to species as large as whales.
As humans have developed and the usage of plastics has boomed - littering (in the ocean), poor sewage management and ships capsizing has become detrimental to the life of the ocean.
Discovery In 1988, the first description of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) was published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - the paper describing "neustonic (floating) plastic" in the North Pacific.
A similar claim was backed up less than ten years later by Charles J. Moore on his return home from the Transpacific Yacht Race in 1997 who described "an enormous stretch of floating debris" - this would later be dubbed the "Eastern Garbage Patch" or EGP
More and more rubbish washed into both patches as more plastic was produced and carelessly discarded - ocean currents only worsening this problem.
It wasn't until 2012, when a young, 18 year old man suggested a radical solution to cleaning up the Oceans.
Slat's original plans consisted of floating barriers connected to a central platform or boat also connected (or anchored) the the ocean floor - this removing the plastic from the water
Since 2014, Slat's been showing the world his progress and updates on The Ocean Clean-Up on The Ocean Cleanup's YouTube Channel.
Between the talk and the first real-world open-sea test, the design changed drastically - from a platform in the centre, to a tower with a conveyer belt to a monumental net behind a boat - although the tower and conveyer belt was to be used for a different purpose.
By 2018, The Ocean CleanUp was ready to have its debut voyage just off the bay of San Francisco
Dubbed "System 001" or "Wilson" (the floating volleyball from "Cast Away") there were a few teething issues (as one would expect) - but despite this, the test was deemed a success and the system was not long after taken out to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
After two months of successfully operating, the system suffered a mechanical issue and had to be taken to Hawaii for inspection repairs - whilst operational, the system managed to collect 2000KG of rubbish - more than any other operation in history.
By summer, the inspection, analysis and repairs were done and a new (but tweaked) system (dubbed "System 001/B") launched - testing different "add-ons" to further improve efficiency - these included a water-bourne parachute to slow the system down (and catch more plastic) and expanding a cork line to hold the "screen in place" - later the same year, The Ocean Clean-Up announced this was a success.
Late October 2019 was a massive month for The Ocean CleanUp - System 001/B was proving to be successful and catching plastic - and they began working on their next major mission, ominously dubbed as "The Interceptor"
Plastic Pollution is caused by one main factor: plastic entering the ocean - plastic can enter the ocean in numerous ways - firstly by ships/boats capsizing/crashing/losing their load, secondly by the tide collecting litter/plastic left on the beach - and thirdly (and most devastatingly) through rivers.
Rivers flow for hundreds of miles through rural and urban areas - and anything that ends up in the river, if not "intercepted" will most likely end up in the ocean - or travelling into a body of water that reaches the ocean.
To combat this, Slat had a revolutionary idea - set up a system that collects rubbish in the rivers before it reaches the ocean.
Since the ocean and rivers are two completely different kettle of fish (pun not intended), a radically new design was needed - and this is where the tower design from before comes in.
Using the river current, the plastic/rubbish floats down the river, and then is directed into the "mouth" of the Interceptor using a single arm. From here, the rubbish/plastic is then sent up a conveyer belt and dropped into a collection bin/dumpster - which is removable and can be recycled properly.
Going into 2020, The Ocean CleanUp launched interceptors in rivers in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Dominican Republic.
Being rather secluded out on the Ocean, COVID wasn't a major concern for those on the boat (since they had been out before the virus started spreading) - however the pandemic severely affected those building and maintaining the fleet of interceptors.
It was about early January, that The Ocean CleanUp first published their numbers, and they were truly remarkable.
Throughout the entirety of 2020, The Ocean CleanUp managed to catch 235,505kg of plastic from their interceptors - that's over 200,000kg of plastic and rubbish out of rivers and potentially out of the intestines/stomachs of marine creatures.
Between 1st January and 31st March last year, The Ocean CleanUp was able to collect further total of 464,920kg in their river and Ocean systems combined.
2021 further saw massive names getting involved - First Coldplay, then YouTubers Mark Rober and Jimmy Donaldson (Mr Beast) and even Coca Cola bringing international attention and interest to The Ocean CleanUp.
2021 only saw The Ocean CleanUp go from strength to strength - their second and further improved system collecting 28,659 kilograms in nine seperate extractions - in just one of these, an impressive 9,000KG was removed in a single haul.
The Ocean CleanUp's Goal for late 2021 early 2022 was to get their System 003 underway - this system having a width of 2.5KM or 1.5 in length - their website stating that the debris retention (collection) zone will be over three times that of the previous System (002).
Late 2021/Early 2022 also saw a new interceptor being deployed in Jamaica.
The Ocean CleanUp's most recent update came on 10th January, 2022 stating that in the 5 months that System 002 (also known as Jenny) was been operational, they have collected over 40,000kg of plastic/rubbish collected - this being about 1/2500th of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch - if The Ocean CleanUp only continue to further improve the efficiency of their systems - widening their retention zone and deploying more vehicles in rivers across the globe - this has and will continue to improve our planet and the marine life that live in it.
Beast By Name, Beast By Nature: Jimmy Donaldson (Mr. Beast)
With a few rare exceptions, kids and teenagers have rarely been interested in the environment, climate change and "making a difference" - their priorities usually somewhere in a virtual world or on a very difficult assignment (be that college or university) - but a content creator by the name of Mr. Beast has radically changed this attitude.
Mr. Beast (also known as Jimmy Donaldson) is a high-energy YouTuber who has absolutely figured the YouTube algorithm to ensure that his videos are recommended by as many people as possible.
Starting off by doing challenges involving a numerical figure (be that time - 24 hours - or money Mr Beast is no stranger to big challenges - even producing his own and slightly more family friendly version of the hit Netflix show "Squid Game"
With an absolutely enormous following and money to spare, Mr. Beast decided to set up a fundraiser called "#TeamTrees" to fight deforestation.
For every dollar ($) donated, TeamTrees (as a company) would plant 1 tree - meaning that even the smallest of donations would make a huge difference - in turn meaning that all audience members - rich or poor - could contribute.
To date, Mr Beast has planted over 23,000,000 trees, raking in donations from music creator Alan Walker, the Discovery Channel, the CEO of YouTube, Plants VS Zombies (the mobile game) and even The CEO Of Tesla who donated a whopping $1,000,000, planting 1 million trees.
Ensuring that TeamTrees is not just an empty promise, Mr. Beast and fellow creator Mark Rober have ensured that the website displays where the 23 million trees will be planted, and which countries have reached their goal.
TeamTrees' current goal is to have 20 million trees planted by December 2022 - them achieving this over a year early.
On quick inspection of the website, people are still donating to TeamTrees on a daily bases - some event hundreds at a time.
Floating On A Sea Of Cash: TeamSeas
On seeing the sheer success of Team Trees, on 29th October, 2021 Mr. Beast announced Team Seas - the exact same principal as Team Trees, however for every dollar ($) donated, a pound (400 grams) of trash/rubbish/plastic is removed from the ocean via The Ocean Conservancy who organise beach-cleans and fishing trips to remove rubbish internationally.
As of the 17th February, 2022 Team Seas have managed to raise enough funds to remove 14 million kilograms of rubbish out of the Ocean - but this number could be disputed due to the fact that unlike with team trees, where you can see the trees being grown/planted, it's a little harder to "prove" that 14m KG of rubbish has been removed by Team Seas or an associated company with Team Seas.
An Honourable mention must go out to the rest of the automotive and motorsport industries - more and more car companies internationally are making the switch to electric models - or releasing both electric, hybrid and petrol powered cars.
The reason one can get a cheap car on Facebook Marketplace or Autotrader for less than £500 is due to the sheer availability of them - ever since the creation of the motor-vehicle in 1886 - countless cars have been churned out of factories and manufacturing halls at an unbelievable rate - this rate only becoming quicker year on year (before the pandemic)
The more "readily available" electric and hybrid cars become, the easier the electric car ban in 2031 will become for all of us.
Motorsport is also striving for a cleaner future - motorsports like Formula One, Rallycross, Formula E and Extreme E have all made big steps towards a greener future - Formula One using smaller and more efficient engines - in the 2000's going from V12's to V8's, to V6 Hybrid's in the mid-2010's.
From 2022 onwards, the World Rallycross Championship has gone fully electric - this series starting in July 2022.
Both patented by Alejandro Agag, Formula E and Extreme E are both all-electric racing series one being electric open-wheel street-racing, the other "rallycross style" off-road racing to raise awareness to the environmental issues that the locations (they race at) struggle with.
Each one of these initiatives has shown huge potential and have all changed our world for the better and there's no doubt that in as little as 10 years, the true impact of these initiatives will be seen and experienced by all.