We need more entrepreneur-innovators like Elon Musk

Without sharing his answer, Paris Marx nevertheless asks the right question, what is our vision of the future and the answers to be given to the current challenges of our world? This is where the dividing line marked by entrepreneurs-innovators such as Elon Musk is actually located. This particular category of entrepreneurs that Joseph Schumpeter, economist and thinker of innovation, places at the heart of the system of economic transformation and adaptation. Through their taste for risk and the exploration of unknown spaces, their imagination and their ability to innovate, these entrepreneurs constantly identify and exploit new economic opportunities in their environment and cause this “creative destruction” necessary for economic dynamics and technological progress.

Ecology is not an ideological monolith, on the contrary it is a space crossed by many currents. At the crossroads for humanity, the entrepreneur-innovator embodies a different path for ecology compared to the pessimists, decliners or collapsologists, that of eco-modernism. Between the “collapsers” on the one hand and those who deny the reality of climate change and the Anthropocene on the other, eco-modernism, or eco-pragmatism, opens, among others, another way to ecological thought and expression. This current thus affirms the requirement for humans to use “their constantly growing technical, economic and social capacities to improve the human condition, stabilize the climate, and protect nature”.

Affirming the imperative to respond to global warming and the loss of biodiversity is not incompatible with highlighting all that modernity has brought us. Because, in this matter, figures and statistical series are stubborn. Steven Pinker points this out in his book The triumph of Lights, considering long-term trends, humanity is living through the most peaceful and happy period in its history: life expectancy, security, peace and prosperity are on the rise across the planet, no offense to the pessimists and decliners. And we will have to wait before judging the real impact on these long-term trends of the Covid-19 crises or even the war in Ukraine.

From this perspective, the question is therefore to know how to respond to ecological issues without derailing the engine of progress which has enabled all these achievements for the benefit of mankind, and at the heart of which is the figure of the entrepreneur. -innovator dear to Schumpeter. How to accelerate decoupling, that is to say the dissociation between economic prosperity and the consumption of resources and the impacts on the environment? Starting with having confidence in our abilities.

This confidence in humanity’s ability to meet this challenge is shared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which affirmed it in 2022, when submitting its latest report: ” Since 2010, the costs of solar energy, wind energy and batteries kept dwindling, sometimes as much as 85%. A growing arsenal of laws and policies improves energy efficiency, reduces deforestation rates and accelerates the implementation of renewable energies. » Hoesung Lee, the chairman of the IPCC, goes even further: “By making the right decisions today, we can ensure a livable future. We have the tools and the know-how necessary to limit global warming. Climate measures taken in many countries make me optimistic. Several policies, regulations and market instruments prove to be effective. If we apply them more systematically, on a larger scale and more equitably, they can contribute to drastically reducing emissions and stimulate innovation”.

Despite their detractors, entrepreneurs like Elon Musk are humanists and environmentalists. Humanists in the sense that their ambitions are those of women and men seeking to mark history with great achievements in the service of humanity, with the disproportionate ego and the search for recognition that such a quest naturally implies. Ecologists who want to develop innovations and technological solutions to meet the challenges of our time, foremost among which is global warming.

Contrary to the caricature that is often made of it, Musk never intended to go to Mars to abandon Earth. The will of the entrepreneur of South African origin is to save the planet Earth, but also to transmit to humanity a second planet made habitable with Mars: “My ideology is to preserve the planet, on the one hand, with renewable energies, and to improve space technologies, on the other hand, in order to establish a self-sufficient city on Mars. » And it’s hard to doubt his sincerity as his efforts and the risks he takes are determinedly geared towards these objectives.

The ecological subject has inhabited him since his youth and his life as a student, his biographer Ashlee Vance thus underlining that “We can already detect this cocktail of dream and scientific rationality in a student work on the future of solar energy, facetiously titled “The importance of being solar”. Ecological assertion that he will repeat again in 2017, leaving the group of economic advisers of President Trump after his decision to leave the Paris agreements on the climate: “I am leaving the presidential council. Climate change is real. Leaving the Paris Accords is not good for America or the world. »

Musk is convinced that the future cannot be written without the massive and radical development of electrical technologies and he acts accordingly. In 2004, after the resale of PayPal, it was in this perspective that he invested a large part of his fortune in Tesla before taking control, ” Our intention with Tesla has always been to serve as an example to automotive industry and to hope that it also manufactures electric cars, so that we can accelerate the transition to sustainable technology”.

Tesla is becoming an industrial weapon in the fight against global warming, because where electrical energy is decarbonized, electric vehicles, over their entire life (including the ecological cost of manufacturing batteries with current technologies and their recycling at the end of their life), already have a better environmental record than thermal vehicles. The other automotive industrial groups now find themselves obliged to accelerate the development of electric vehicles which they had neglected until then. This reaction is not primarily in reaction to regulations, but rather because of the risk of finding oneself relegated to a market that Musk has taken over, for the benefit of the planet.

Through his role as a pioneer, able to take risks where no one had ventured, demonstrating that it was possible to challenge powerful industries that were supposed to be unbreakable, the entrepreneur also inspires other actors who are now working in the world of electric or hydrogen technologies. Probably more important than the development of electric vehicles, the American entrepreneur’s risk-taking has mainly advanced battery technology, which will be at the heart of the development of renewable energies. Whatever the future of Elon Musk and Tesla, a virtuous circle is already underway in the electric mobility market.

For the eco-modernist, in the face of the challenges and issues facing human beings, the solution is never less technique, but on the contrary more innovation and technology. Is global warming the issue of the century? It is by transforming our consumption habits, by reducing our use of fossil fuels, but also by developing carbon-free and decarbonization technologies that we will respond to this. Technology won’t be able to do everything, but we can’t do without, just as we can’t do without entrepreneurs-innovators.


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