BBC Pick of the Week: Interview with Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse

BBC Pick of the Week: Interview with Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

This week, I was delighted to discover that my interview with Solar Impulse pilot and clean technology enthusiast, Bertrand Piccard was featured on BBC Radio 4’s program, “Pick of the Week.” The program is described as “a selection of highlights from the past week on BBC radio” and it certainly makes compelling listening. BBC Presenter Caz Graham‘s picks are an eclectic mix of audio-rich stories: everything from Chairman Mao to Bob Dylan; and swimming in the Thames to soaring in solar flight. You can listen to the full 45-minute podcast here. The Solar Impulse segment starts at 22:20 but if you start listening at 20:10, you’ll get a fuller context, as Graham links the clean technology mission to the ideals of the influential economist, E.F Schumacher.

Listen to the Solar Impulse Segment here: (Schumacher starts at 0:07 and Solar Impulse at 1:45)


Here’s a transcript of the segment (edited for length and clarity):

BBC Presenter: Now on Radio 4, with the best of the BBC Radio this week, here’s Caz Graham…

Caz Graham:Small is beautiful” challenged the idea of economies based on mass production. According to Schumacher, big isn’t always better….Leo Johnson tried to find out what Schumacher stands for and whether his ideas might be about to take off. He enlisted the help of Satish Kumar, founder of the Schumacher College.

Satish Kumar: We have been given these beautiful hands…they are like a miracle. What can we do with these hands? The word ‘poet’ means ‘to make’….’poiesis.’ In Schumacher’s view, we are all poets. If we make something with creativity and imagination, a garden can be poetry, dinner can be a work of poetry…Work is a source of pleasure and joy. Our philosophy of consumerism, of materialism, of disconnection, that humans are separate from nature…is the biggest problem…Financial wealth is only a means to an end. Real wealth is community, people, their skills, their talent, their imagination, their creativity…Real wealth is nature.

Caz Graham, BBC Presenter for Radio 4's Pick of the WeekCaz Graham:  It all sounds marvelous in theory, but what about in practice? You need people to channel that imagination and creativity to deliver and develop the kind of world that Shumacher was aspiring to. Maybe people like Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg? They have a unique plane. It’s called the Solar Impulse. It has a wing span of 230 feet and it’s powered entirely by solar panels attached to those wings. They want to prove that this kind of clean technology really can work and could help solve our energy problems, so they’re currently flying it right around the world.

Alison van Diggelen caught up with them for the World Service’s Business Matters, during a recent stop over in Silicon Valley. This is Bertrand Piccard

Bertrand Piccard: You know, I never have enough of flying that plane or seeing it flying…when you see those four electrical motors that put the plane in the sky with no noise, no pollution, it’s like a jump into the future. Thanks to new technologies, the future is already today.

Alison van Diggelen: What for you is the biggest game changer?

Bertrand Piccard: The world cannot continue on combustion engines, badly insulated houses, incandescent light bulbs, outdated systems to distribute the energy…this is last century. It’s not only about protecting the environment, it’s a lot about making money, new industrial markets, economic development, profit, job creation. These clean technologies can be used for electrical mobility, LED lights, smartgrids. …. Maybe Solar Impulse is a way to try to overcome the resistance of the dinosaurs who have not yet understood where the future is.

Alison van Diggelen: You’re an entrepreneur, as is Andre (Borschberg). What do you say to these naysayers?

Bertrand Piccard: I tell them: be really careful because innovation does not come from inside the system. It’s not the people selling the candles who invented the lightbulb. What you’re doing now will be replaced. If you want to innovate be a pioneer…change your way of thinking. Dinosaurs disappeared, they were the strongest one, but the less flexible one to adaptation.

Caz Graham: Bertrand Piccard, speaking on the World Service.


Check out more Pick of the Week programs at BBC Radio 4

Find out more about the Solar Impulse team at Fresh Dialogues – Is this a Kitty Hawk moment for Clean Technologies?

Follow the Solar Impulse journey around the world