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Q&A With Wendy Schmidt!

Q&A With Wendy Schmidt!
Hello Readers, We reached out to Wendy Schmidt to ask her a few questions about the oil cleanup X CHALLENGE, why she felt compelled to support the Competition, and her thoughts and opinions behind the need for such a challenge. It was a wonderful opportunity to interact with our generous Title Sponsor and to get her perspective on the subject at hand. Thank you Wendy for taking the time to speak with us. Hope you all enjoy it! X PRIZE: Why did you first decide to fund this challenge, and with your own money? WS: When I watched what was happening last year in the Gulf, I felt like many people. We had a sense of disbelief--a horror at the scale of the disaster and its impact on the lives of people, wildlife and natural systems. Clearly, the efforts to clean up the oil were ineffective, and if you remember, there was a time when it wasn't clear BP could figure out how to put a lid on the oil volcano. As an advocate for the wiser use of energy and natural resources in this century, I knew we could do something to make sure the impact of this kind of manmade disaster could be lessened in the future. The X PRIZE Foundation incentive prizes are the fastest path I know to finding solutions to our major challenges. Teaming with X PRIZE was a no brainer. X PRIZE: Have you seen firsthand the effects of the oil spill? Was there a specific event you can remember that really touched you? WS: I have a small glass vial of oil recovered from the Gulf and suspended in water, and many people are shocked to see just how viscous and sticky oil crude material is. It's hard to conceive of how awful it would be to see something like thing spreading into a form the size of Los Angeles County--the size of the Big Island of Hawaii. Our team at The 11th Hour Project traveled to the Gulf last Fall and visited numerous sites and communities that continue even today to be impacted by the disaster--I refuse to call it a "spill." A spill is what happens when a glass of milk gets knocked off a tabletop, or a sippy cup goes over in the back seat of a car. This single, preventable event has destroyed an entire regional economy, costing many many billions in lost income, not just in the oil business, but in the hospitality and tourism industries that dwarf oil. Watching a middle aged man, a lifelong resident of the Louisiana bayou, taking his skiff through the oil tainted waters of a homestead he knew and loved so well, knowing his son would never be able to work in these waters, that his family's legacy had been destroyed--that emphasized for me that we have no right to destroy anyone's natural inheritance. X PRIZE: Has being a part of this competition opened your eyes for using innovative technology and incentivized competitions to fix other problems in the world? WS: I have no doubt that the vehicle of incentive prizes can be one of the most powerful tools we can bring to solving challenging problems in the world. We received more than 300 pre-competition registrations for The Wendy Schmidt X Prize Challenge. Out of 37 registered teams from 11 states and 10 countries, we have 10 finalists who tell us the parameters we set for improving the existing standards for oil cleanup are something they will literally "blow out of the water." In less than a year, we had a worldwide sweep for ideas. Where was this breakthrough going to come from without this competition? The existing industry, despite billions in yearly profits, appears to have no incentive for leapfrogging the existing technology. We're going to do that. X PRIZE: What do you hope to see at the outcome of the challenge? WS: Because of the way the X CHALLENGE is configured, we know the winning technology will find a way into the marketplace. The leading competitors will have a worldwide audience for their technology, and so it would be my expectation that we will see further market-based competition when this Prize has been awarded, as new good solutions get out there into use. X PRIZE: What do you see next, in terms of environment protection, even beyond protecting our oceans? WS: The biggest thing on the horizon, in my view, is the shift of our consciousness from protecting an "environment," whether that's land, sea or air-- to a recognition that we ARE the environment. We are part of a web of interconnected living systems, and our survival is linked to how well we figure out how to get along with the natural world. It's not about dominating it, taking it apart and manipulating it. It's about integrating our species into it and working with it all. The actual biomass of humans is dwarfed by that of ants, so it's not that we're all such a physical burden on the planet. It's the way we deplete resources without understanding nature's cycles that gets us into trouble. I see the potential for a new industrial revolution, marked by the concept of regeneration of resources, eliminating waste as a concept. Waste is a huge part of our current system--emissions, garbage, runoff chemicals, stuff with nowhere to go. As our population increases, along with our demand on resources and resulting scarcity of raw materials and rising cost of fossil fuels--it's time to rethink how we make things. Thank you to our generous donor! Alex at X PRIZE

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