Dear Elon Musk

Mind if I call you Elon? Thanks. Along with the rest of the world, I spotted your tweet and feel your pain. How can we really make a difference? How much money does it take, and where does that money go? How can we measure impact?

Let me help you out. You CAN make a difference. You will need to donate your brain power. And wield your influence. The impact will be tangible, joyful and touch the lives of so many.

Interested? Read on.

The answer is in the water. Seriously. Have you heard about the world’s water crisis?

  • Billions of people still lack safe drinking water.
  • Huge investment deficit in building resilience to extreme floods, droughts and storms (these catastrophic events are exacerbated by the climate crisis FYI).
  • Freshwater species populations have been decimated: 84% lost since 1950. 84%!
  • Losing wetlands faster than forests.

What is going on? You do realise that rivers, lakes and wetlands are our very life support systems? Right?

No one can tackle all these challenges, even the world’s richest person. But Elon, you can make a huge impact in one area. The answer is tied up with renewable electricity generation and the big battery storage revolution. Terms you’re familiar with, I understand. It’s time for disruption.

<fanfare ! enter the river dolphins !>

Bet you weren’t expecting that! You’ve heard of river dolphins, of course? Allow me to introduce you to them, left to right they are:

The Amazon dolphin

Hello to the Yangtze finless porpoise

Big wave to the Tucuxi dolphin

Meet the ever-so-smiley Irrawaddy dolphin

Last, but by no means least, the Indus and Ganges dolphins (aka the South Asian dolphin)

L-R: 1.Amazon River Dolphin © Shutterstock / COULANGES / WWF-Sweden 2.Yangtze River Dolphin © Michel Gunther / WWF 3.Tuxuci River Dolphin ©WWF-Brazil / Adriano Gambarini 4.Irrawaddy dolphin © / Roland Seitre / WWF 5. Indus dolphin © François Xavier Pelletier / WWF

Cute, right?

Endangered? Right.

All five species of river dolphins are now threatened with extinction, with some populations below 100. Their plight underlines the enormous challenges facing the rivers they call home. Hundreds of millions of people depend on these rivers too.

Let’s focus on one of the main threats.

  • Harmful hydropower dams

We need to halt them. But how?

  • With out of the box thinking
  • By disrupting 20th century thinking, policies and institutions
  • Upending the renewable energy industry
  • Rolling out solar, wind and big battery storage technology at speed and scale

A little background reading (if you’ve got this far)

This Connected and Flowing publication clearly demonstrates the real possibility that the world can meet global climate and energy goals without damming the world’s remaining free-flowing rivers. Good news!

We no longer need to sacrifice the many benefits that healthy rivers provide to people and nature in exchange for renewable electricity. Benefits like this:

  • Freshwater fisheries that feed millions
  • Nutrients that fertilise our rice baskets
  • Sediments that keep deltas above the rising seas
  • Healthy habitats for river dolphins — and so many other species

We can now generate additional power through solar and wind (and some carefully planned, low-impact hydropower) as well as big battery storage AND safeguard all these benefits. Win, win all round.

We need visionaries to accelerate this renewable revolution.

Elon, you don’t mind if I call you Elon? You up for it?

DM me @WWFLeadWater

Richard Lee, Communications Manager Freshwater Practice.

Tucuxi river dolphin © Fernando Trujillo / Fundación Omacjha

Building a future in which people live in harmony with nature.

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