In an ironic plot twist, a billionaire who made his wealth from destroying the planet is now giving most of it back to the planet.
Norwegian investor Kjell Inge Rokke made the majority of his estimated $2.7 billion fortune from being a majority stakeholder in Aker, a shipping and offshore drilling company that has been no friend to the environment.
However, Rokke has announced that he will use "the lion's share" of his wealth to build a massive marine research vessel in partnership with Norway's World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The ship will not only be a boon to research backing ocean conservation efforts, but it will also be designed to clean up plastic pollution, one of the most significant threats to Earth's waters.
"I want to give back to society the bulk of what I've earned," Rokke told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. "This ship is a part of that."
The notably green Research Expedition Vessel (REV) is a whopping 596 feet in total and can house 60 scientists and 40 crew members, along with laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art tools for monitoring the planet's oceans. The REV can also suck up 5 tons of plastic a day to be melted down.
Rokke has emphasized the ocean's incredible gifts to him and his family members, and it's clear that he's taken full advantage of what it has to offer. While his past raises questions about some of his motives for increased marine exploration (Is this partly a way to find more oil?) it is undeniable that he's giving up the majority of his fortune to do the rest of the world a lot of good.
Nina Jensen, chief executive officer of Norway WWF, told the BBC that her views on oil exploration were "far apart" from Rokke's, but that she was excited about the opportunities the REV presents and would "continue to challenge [him] when we disagree."
"I've never heard of a similar commitment," Jensen said.
The REV will attempt to answer the multitude of questions Earth's mysterious oceans raise, among them how to gage the impact CO2 emissions have on the marine world, how to exponentially reduce human pollution, and how to protect endangered species.
"The REV will be a platform for gathering knowledge," Rokke explained to Business Insider. "I would like to welcome researchers, environmental groups, and other institutions on board, to acquire new skills to evolve innovative solutions to address challenges and opportunities connected to the seas."
Rokke is certainly taking marine conservation into unchartered waters, and that could mean incredible things for the environment and conservation efforts. Actions do speak louder than words though and, while he is certainly putting his money where his mouth is, he's also put his money where his money is. After all, Rokke had a lucrative career at the expense of the ocean.
This is a cynical, pessimistic take on uplifting news to be sure, but it's not so much about discrediting something great as it is about keeping a level-head to ensure that it stays great.
Banner and thumbnail credit: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) photographer Ben Mierement