One day a number of years ago I was working on my twin projects of Planktos and KlimaFa, restoring seas and trees as I like to say. A fellow I knew just a little called me with an idea. I had met him while sitting next to each other on an airline flight, he was a twenty something bon vivant and a Rabbi. I had bent his ear on the flight telling him about how restoring sea plants and trees resulted in those new plants taking CO2 out of the ocean and air where it was causing problems and turning it into life itself as part of living plants.
His idea was that he had a friend who was close to people in the Vatican in Rome. He thought his friend might be able to introduce me to Vatican officials and I might tell them about the idea that everyone on the planet has a carbon footprint that is the CO2 they emit, even the Vatican. Being a Jewish scholar he had been thinking about how my work to restore the seas and trees was part of God’s most desired goals for humankind. He had a well referenced religious view of this.
His friend in Rome agreed and thus they thought I might just tell my story to the right person. I said cool, I would love to tell the story of how easy it is to restore seas and trees for the benefit of all and make it fit into the topic of climate change. If people of religious faith were willing to listen I was willing to travel to them to tell the story, actually more like a series of parables.
Soon came many emails and some SKYPE calls between my office and Rome. Before I knew it I was on a flight to Rome to meet some people in the Vatican interested in hearing what I had to say.
In Rome I met with the guy in the middle and I apologize for not remembering his name. He was an unforgettable flamboyant person, a composer and impressario and had his own unique tale of how he was friends with people in the Vatican. He and I met at his suggestion near the statue of Poseidon in Plaza Navona, as he said I was all about the sea so it would be a good place to meet. We got along well and the next day we went to the Vatican to meet the Father who would be the key person in the Vatican who might help.
I told my story and the good Father who was very kind and intelligent and a person with true charisma was a good listener. It would be clear to anyone why he was resident in this holy place, it was simply his natural habitat. As fine a person as I have ever met.
I told my story and over the course of several days in Rome I told it to a number of Vatican people in different parts of Rome. Eventually we got to the fine detail. The Vatican being a tiny city state was just a few square blocks with lots of open space and a few buildings. They ran on electricity, gas, and oil and it would be easy to calculate from their energy books what was their carbon footprint. I thought it was a neat idea, the Vatican might become the first nation on Earth to be completely carbon neutral by offsetting its CO2 emissions by restoring seas and trees. They seemed to appreciate the idea and the rabbi and the father were happy to talk about the foundation of this in the old testament and other religious texts.
When the calculated tonnes of CO2 emitted by the Vatican was in hand the number was not so large. I offered that if when we got our tree restoration work in our Hungarian company KlimaFa going the actual cost to us for planting sufficient trees to make the Vatican totally carbon neutral would be just a few thousand euros. There was lots of talk about how to pay for this and finally I said the payment was essentially unimportant, what was important was the idea and the message of making of the first carbon neutral country in the world be such an important country as the Vatican. We would absorb the cost if the Vatican would agree to do it.
So here’s a twist to the story. The Italian composer was involved in the global concert series for climate change called Live Earth. His idea was that this Vatican blessing of making itself carbon neutral would be a fantastic part of Live Earth. He is a devout Catholic and he had a great passion for helping his faith lead the world in this way. All agreed this was an acceptable part of the idea.
So then came the need from the Live Earth producers who were organizing the worldwide simulcast Live Earth concerts for some very good HD television material of a ceremony of the Vatican accepting the commitment of the trees to be planted in the KlimaFa forests to make the Vatican carbon neutral.
I told my investors of this and asked for money to pay for the HD video material to be produced. It was a tidy sum but it was approved. There were only a few days before the Live Earth simulcast and a professional crew had to be hired, a script planned, and everything assembled. The footage was shot in the Vatican and overnight the video was edited reviewed the next day by Vatican officials minor changes made and it was then taken by a personal courier straight to London and put into the hands of the producers of Live Earth for broadcast the next day. This was way cool perhaps some of the many millions of people seeing the video on the Live Earth broadcast would join in and do the same.
So then comes the devil into the process.
The producers of Live Earth in London call and tell the Rabbi and the composer that they love it all but they want a change. They want to cut in some additional footage giving credit for the whole idea to their superstar of Live Earth instead of the true people who put this all together and in good faith have done it all. We are not pleased and we say we must inform the people in the Vatican about this broadcast change demand. We all believe it will be telling a lie, but we will talk it over. The people in the Vatican upon hearing this also consider it dishonest and say no do not agree to do this. We are thankful the Vatican people again prove they live their faith.
We tell the producers of the Live Earth program and they just blow off the whole thing. No Live Earth video will show. Alas we are all disappointed by that but not disappointed that we declined compromising the good faith in which this had all been done. Later we hear that the producers of Live earth were livid about not being able to scoop this precious thing as they intended to do. There will be fabrications of what happened spread and so on and so on, one day the names will come out.
The deal however with the Vatican persevered, though as history shows the whole Planktos KlimaFa project was attacked ruthlessly by radicals in the Green movement who had always been opposed to the idea of carbon offsets. They had persistently insisted that for people and industry to be allowed to pay someone to plant a tree that would convert the CO2 that person or corporation emitted into the air was avoiding what was truly needed.
Those particular minions demand that people and corporations must just stop burning fossil fuels. The production and sale of carbon offsets from growing trees they proclaimed was like a Papal Indulgence of old, payment to the Pope for permission to commit a sin.
The radical and mean spirited greens were outraged and went raving mad at the idea that the Vatican was trying to use “Papal Indulgences” to permit its continuing sins of emission of CO2. They spared no effort to destroy Planktos and KlimaFa and the lies in the campaign they launched at the cost of millions testify to their evil ways. They were an overwhelming force and they did indeed drive Planktos and KlimaFa into bankruptcy, to this day they brag about their success. Just Google “drive planktos bankrupt” and you’ll see those vile miscreants bragging about their actions.
I personally remain committed to planting those trees on behalf of the Vatican and doing the work to verify and certify the carbon offsets they produce as they grow. It has taken some years since the promise was made in the Vatican but I hope with good reason that it will be this year.
It sometimes seems strange to me that I, an avowed atheist, has had this wonderful experience with the fathers and cardinals of the Vatican. I always say to people I tell this story to that meeting those dedicated men in service to their beliefs were truly moving and important moments in my life, I do believe in the absolute goodwill the men I met there hold in their hearts and souls for everything and everyone. Being with them was truly magical. The experience with them help sustain me to this day.
Here’s a follow-up… Feb 2015 http://russgeorge.net/2015/02/17/on-being-hunted-by-journalists/