Can Green Billionaires be Climate Champs? Smithsonian’s “Earth Optimism,” Multiple X-Prizes, Climate Champ–Maggie Clifford

by | Nov 26, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Can green billionaires be climate champs? Smithsonian’s “Earth Optimism,” plus breaking down all the X-Prizes. Meet climate champ, Maggie Clifford.



How much do you know about the XPrize?

(Isn’t it all about the commercial viability of returning to space?)

Well that’s what I thought, too. Turns out there’s more than one XPrize. In fact there are several of them. In addition to the most widely known commercial space XPrize,  there are

  1. The $100M carbon removal XPrize
  2. The $10M ANA Avatar XPrize
  3. The Work Reimagined XPrize
  4. The $10M Rainforest XPrize
  5. The $5M Watson AI XPrize
  6. The $15M Feed the Next Billion XPrize

There were even a trio of XPrizes named and awarded for COVID rapid testing research, mask research and pandemic response, too. Why do the XPrizes really matter to us mere mortals? According to the XPrizes are all about working to create a better world, a world where everybody has access to clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, effective learning, top-tier medical care and non-polluting abundant energy.

In the case of the Rainforest XPrize, their goal is to reveal the true potential of the standing forest, accelerating the development of new, just and sustainable bioeconomies.




Conservation evolved as a crisis discipline, born of environmental disasters of the past and driven by the possibility of future catastrophes. The global conservation movement has reached a turning point. It has documented the fast pace of habitat loss, the growing number of endangered and extinct species, and the increasing speed of global climate change.

Now there is the recognition that fear without hope does not motivate people and indeed can produce disengagement. Also conservation already has many achievements to celebrate, which are not fully appreciated.

And that’s why the Smithsonian Institution’s Conservation Commons, along with its partners, founded Earth Optimism. According to its website, “Now is the time to bring together these disparate sources of positive energy and unite them to build the Earth Optimism Alliance – a global movement aimed at fundamentally changing how we frame, discuss and deliver conservation, on the ground, in workplaces, and in our everyday lives.

Earth Optimism’s mission is six-fold:

  1. to move one billion people from overwhelmed to engaged;
  2. change the tone of the conversation from problematic pessimism to optimism;
  3. empower the next generation to replicate and scale up the successes already had
  4. deliver public celebrations of successes via Earth Optimism summits
  5. create a repository of success stories globally from diverse audiences and make them available to the general public, students, educators and thought leaders
  6. eliminate silos that prohibit progress by working together across physical, academic and business borders.

Earth Optimism has over 80 videos on its site, beginning with celebrations leading up to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020.

DEEPER DIVE: Earth Optimism, Conservation Commons, Cambridge Conservation Initiative



You know it won’t be long now

Until we know where we stand

We melt back with the ocean

Our bodies become the sand

That’s a short poem from Maggie Clifford. She’s the rare combination of intellect and artist, using both sides of her brain to communicate and combat climate change.

Clifford is a PhD student at the School of Communication at American University in Washington, DC. Her research areas include climate communication & environmental ethics, new media cultures,  and interdisciplinary collaboration. Her doctoral dissertation focuses on the production of climate justice narratives on social media. But we know her from creative projects like the poem just mentioned, and her climate music, like this climate crisis analogy, “I Turn to Water”:

Maggie Clifford has plans to develop a climate change communication workshop/webinar series, too. Maggie Clifford matters to us because she represents the intersection of climate change academia and climate change cultural expression. The theoretical and the actual.

Check out the links in our deeper dive section of this story at to find out more about the magnificent Maggie Clifford.

DEEPER DIVE: I Turn to Water, Maggie Clifford, Maggie’s Scholarly Articles



Did you know Bloomberg recently announced the Top Green Billionaires?

(Do you mean the 1% of the 1% of the 1% who drive electric, wear vegan and give megabucks to climate change causes?)

Yeah, no. I mean investors and capitalists who reached billionaire status making solar panels, mining hydrogen and making EVs.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that gauging the success of the battle to combat climate change by how many people become billionaires is NOT THE BEST WAY. BUT, under the current paradigm, ignoring this metric is ignoring two basic truths—one that climate change is real, and two, that corporations are working really hard to transition the world into a carbon-free, energy-producing planet.

So here’s a quick look at the top 3, and why they matter to us:  

First, Elon Musk, of course. As Tesla’s chief executive officer, Musk became the richest person on the planet earlier this year thanks to the company’s surging stock price. In addition to electric cars, Tesla makes energy-storage systems and solar roofs. And he matters to us because Tesla estimates its global fleet of vehicles and solar panels has customers avoiding emitting 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year alone.

 Zeng Yuqun, Huang Shilin, Li Ping. These three run CATL, the world’s biggest maker of EV batteries. Its lithium-ion phosphate batteries were cheap enough to let Tesla trim the price of its Model 3 by almost 10% last year.

Wang Chuanfu, Lu Xiangyang, Xia Zuoquan. Wang Chuanfu set up BYD in 1995, and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has owned a stake in the carmaker since 2008. Why does BYD matter to us?

(BYD’s tag line is “the official sponsor of mother nature?”)


(Because BYD stands for Build Your Dreams?)

Yes. Yes!

DEEPER DIVE: Bloomberg, CleanTechnica