Complex Made Simple

Billionaires and their eco-tourism attempts at saving the earth’s climate

The wealthy own yachts, planes, and multiple mansions, all of which contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Some of the superwealthy are now funding multi-million eco-friendly projects

Wealthy tourists, housed in luxury suites, will pay $3 million each for a 10-day journey aboard Earth 300 Proteus could improve scientists’ understanding of ocean salinity, acidity, temperature variations, and pollution Sensei Retreat costs $3,000 a night

According to EcoWatch, a long-time leader in environmental news, it found that billionaires have carbon footprints that can be thousands of times higher than those of average citizens.

The wealthy own yachts, planes, and multiple mansions, all of which contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. For example, a superyacht with a permanent crew, helicopter pad, submarines, and pools emits about 7,020 tons of CO2 a year. 

But now a few millionaires are trying to be more eco-friendly by funding, or participating in eco-tourism projects or activities that bode for our planet.

Read: How COVID-19 made us health, environment, and cost-conscious

Read: Oil, electric vehicles and the environment: Driving climate change plans

Climate Yacht

Bloomberg’s Green reported on a massive ship full of scientists, activists, and billionaires, sailing the world and examining the state of the oceans, fulfilling the dream of entrepreneur Aaron Olivera, who believes the novel vessel will help raise environmental awareness. 

The ship, called Earth 300, is almost 300 meters long and 60 meters high, will be able to accommodate 425 people. Most of those will be staff, scientists, and students, traveling for free. A handful of wealthy tourists, housed in luxury suites, will pay $3 million each for a 10-day journey. 

It has taken six years and $5 mn to get to this point, where the design is advanced enough to take to shipyards to work out construction quotes. The estimated total cost would come to between $500 mn and $700 mn. 

Olivera wants the vessel’s first trip to be a circumnavigation of Antarctica, followed by an Arctic voyage. The ship would be designed to operate for 300 days a year, generating around $100 million from wealthy eco-tourists, with additional revenue from hosting events or movie sets.

Those who pay for the 10 luxury suites with private balconies would also get accommodation for personal staff in a separate set of cabins. Another 10 suites would be made available to what Olivera calls Very Interesting Persons who would bring a unique experience or knowledge to the voyage.

With them, working in 22 laboratories would be some 160 scientists who would carry out research and gather data using the ship’s equipment and thousands of built-in sensors, including what could be the first commercial ocean-going quantum computer.  

An underwater space station

53-year-old Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of the famous explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, is embarking on a quest to fulfill his dream of living underwater.

This is something his grandad achieved in a crude way with his three submarine habitats or Conshelf, stations, all built during the 1960s.

Today, Project Proteus will be larger than its predecessors, and permanent, hosting up to 12 researchers at once for weeks and even months at a time. 

“Imagine building the International Space Station underwater,” Cousteau says. “It means you can monitor 24/7 climate change-related issues, can have a live stream of data from the bottom of the sea, and a finger on the pulse of the ocean health that will help us make better policy and business decisions.”

Data captured from Proteus could improve scientists’ understanding of ocean salinity, acidity, temperature variations, and pollution. Changes in these metrics could help better predict storms and give a more complete picture of ocean warming.  

It can all be done for $135 million. His Strategic partners include Northeastern University, Rutgers University, and the Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity, a Curaçao-based non-profit.

Cousteau wants the installation to be powered with ocean thermal energy conversion, a type of renewable power in its initial stages of development, which uses temperature differences between shallow and deep waters to produce energy.

Oracle’s sustainability island

Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison who bought 98% of the island Lanai in 2012 for an estimated $300 million, is hoping to turn it into a wellness utopia through his company, Sensei.

Lanai, which is home to about 3,200 residents, is the smallest inhabited island in Hawaii and is home to serene beaches, rugged terrain, high-end resorts, and Ellison’s sustainability ambitions. 

The 141-square-mile island, eight miles off the coast of Maui, has zero traffic lights and few paved roads, according to Forbes. 

Lanai already boasts two Four Seasons-run hotels. The penthouse suite at the Four Seasons Hotel Lanai costs $21,000 per night, making it the most expensive suite in Hawaii.

Image source: Busines Insider

The island was also home to two golf courses when Ellison bought it, including Manele Golf Course where Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates got married at the 17th hole.

Ellison’s Lanai purchase included an animal rescue center. Because there are no natural predators to cats on Lanai, the feral-cat population at the shelter has ballooned to over 400 cats and in recent years has become a travel destination in and by itself.

Ellison’s ambitions extend beyond tourism, however: he plans to create “the first economically viable, 100% green community,” according to The New York Times.

Launched in 2018, Sensei started working on three main issues: global food supply, nutrition, and sustainability. Sensei’s goal is to use data to help people lead healthier and longer lives.

Sensei built two 20,000 sqft hydroponic greenhouses, known as Sensei Farms. The greenhouses have sensors and cameras that track data about the farms, including water usage and airflow. According to Forbes, they’re powered by 1,600 Tesla solar panels (Ellison sits on Tesla’s board).

Sensei also built a luxury spa called Sensei Retreat that costs $3,000 a night. Guests set physical and mental goals for their stay and the spa tracks their sleep, nutrition, and blood flow.