Climate action is vital to step up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-induced impacts: that is why we need brilliant entrepreneurs and planet heroes. During our sustainability quest, we had the chance to interview Michael Reibel Boesen, founder of Massive.Earth and member of the GreenTech Alliance.
Can you tell our readers a little more about yourself and what your current project Massive.earth is about?
My name is Michael. I guess I call myself a serial deep-tech entrepreneur. I have an engineering background in software/hardware from TU Denmark. During my studies, I developed a novel idea to make hardware self-repairing during my master thesis. This got me a PhD at TU Denmark, where the idea was to demonstrate that the technology worked. As a part of that, I was a visiting researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, where I got to test the technology in a real space application and showed that the technology indeed worked. Turned the PhD into my first startup. I spent 5 years trying to get it off the ground but ultimately failed. I learned a lot and built a strong network in the Copenhagen startup ecosystem as I was running multiple startup organizations such as Silicon Vikings, Silicon Drinkabout, and Startup Grind.
In 2015 I started Corti together with a couple of friends; serving as CTO, we built the world’s first AI to analyze 911 calls live and determine the right aid to send to the patient. In 2018, I became a dad for the first time, and everything changed for me. Suddenly the future that I would leave behind became tangible. And although Corti has an amazing life-saving mission as well, it wasn’t enough. I had to focus on the biggest challenge facing us: Climate change. So in 2019, I left Corti on good terms (and happy to say that Corti is flourishing even without me) and started to look into what my climate startup should be. That ultimately ended up becoming Massive.earth. Along the way, I also launched a newsletter where I gather the most important climate news in a weekly digest called Weekly Climate.
Massive.earth is our attempt to create a mass mobilization of talent towards launching and joining projects with a strict climate objective. We hypothesise that one of the wrong things in our current society is that too many people (through no fault of their own, that’s important to stress) work in the old unsustainable paradigm. We need to move all those people into a new sustainable paradigm. They work in companies that willfully makes our climate crisis worse every day while better and more sustainable alternatives are out there. Through a bi-annual 3-month program, we take people from knowing little about the climate crisis to launching or joining a climate project.
What is your goal with creating such a movement?
The climate crisis is the biggest crisis of our generation. But it’s also the biggest opportunity. To me, the climate crisis is our internet boom. In the 90s, many companies were like: Internet WTF is that? Same with climate, although I think we just passed that right now and entering the more productive period of more action. So our goal is to convert the desire to act into actual high impact actual action as fast as possible. Many people may have a strong desire to do more, but they don’t know-how. We help them find the how.
How does massive.earth work? What is your plan with the projects you are calling for?
It is a 3-month program divided into three parts: our Academy event (held on March 22), ideation sessions (currently ongoing, there’s still time to join!) and launchpad (starting April 26). The Academy event introduced the approx 100 participants into 7 major missions of the climate crisis. The aim was to inspire people to find a mission that they want to focus on. We are currently amidst the ideation sessions. For that purpose, we have developed a “Solutions Catalog”, which adds concrete solutions/ideas for what to work on for each of the 7 Missions. Each ideation session discusses one, and I hope to develop concrete projects for addressing the solutions. Finally, by April 18, teams will need to apply to become a part of our Launchpad.
The Launchpad will help teams actually launch the project. Any teams are welcome to apply. You do not have to have been a part of the preceding parts of the programme to join. It’s important to stress that a “project” in our framework can belong to one of two types. It can be either market-oriented or society-oriented. A market-oriented project has a business model and is typically a startup or technology, something that is sold on a marketplace. On the other hand, a society-oriented project doesn’t have to have a business model and can thus be a partnership, a campaign, a policy proposal, an event or a new NGO. We believe that both types of projects are strictly needed to solve the climate crisis.
Where do you see the biggest potential for carbon reduction today? Which are the most crucial stakeholders in your opinion?
Kill the fossil fuel industry, and we will have solved 50% of the problem, if not more. The problem with that is that I am very aware that we can not do that. Even if we had a switch to switch it all off, we couldn’t use it because so much of our society depends on fossil fuels to function. We need to do everything in our power to shut down the fossil fuel industry as fast as possible. That IMO is the biggest task, we have. Especially because the fossil fuel industry has infiltrated all parts of our political leaders, they can resist better than anybody any attempts at regulating it. It’s a kind of cold war. Nobody really knows it’s going on, but it is. It’s the fossil fuel industry against the world. Still, we try to break it down into manageable chunks by looking at subsets of the fossil fuel industry to attack. For instance, they can not touch the innovation that has led to the rapid decline of renewable energy cost.
How do you transform older or more traditional companies and shift the paradigm in these spaces?
If I knew that I would be doing it, I thought that just presenting the information in the right way would surely make companies and people act better. I’m not sure about that any more. The only way I see it’s possible in our current capitalistic paradigm is to transform the cheapest thing. No existing “old company” willfully take money away from their shareholders “just” to save the planet.
What is something you’d like to leave our readers with? How can individuals and companies create the change we need to see in the short term?
We believe strongly in these two kinds of climate action: Non-scalable and scalable. Non-scalable climate action is all the classic: Don’t eat red meat, don’t fly, don’t drive etc. It doesn’t scale because if you decide to do it, it reduces the global carbon emissions by a fixed constant amount every time you do it (or rather, don’t do it). Scalable climate action is an action you take that enables other people/businesses to reduce carbon emissions by utilizing the action you took. An example: Convincing your management to do cleaner X instead of Y. Launching a startup to solve problem Z, and so on. Scalable climate action is difficult and can be time-consuming to set up, but it’s gratifying and high impact once it’s there. It’s what we (and Plan A) are working on every day to help you do.