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  • Well, I learned a lot of things about ballooning,

  • especially at the end of these balloon flights

  • around the world I did with Brian Jones.

  • When I took this picture,

  • the window was frozen because of the moisture of the night.

  • And on the other side there was a rising sun.

  • So, you see that on the other side of ice

  • you have the unknown,

  • you have the non-obvious,

  • you have the non-seen,

  • for the people who don't dare

  • to go through the ice.

  • There are so many people

  • who prefer to suffer in the ice they know

  • instead of taking the risk of going through the ice

  • to see what there is on the other side.

  • And I think that's one of the main problems of our society.

  • We learn, maybe not the famous TED audience,

  • but so many other people learn,

  • that the unknown, the doubts,

  • the question marks are dangerous.

  • And we have to resist to the changes.

  • We have to keep everything under control.

  • Well, the unknown is part of life.

  • And in that sense, ballooning is a beautiful metaphor.

  • Because in the balloon, like in life,

  • we go very well in unforeseen directions.

  • We want to go in a direction,

  • but the winds push us in another direction, like in life.

  • And as long as we fight horizontally,

  • against life, against the winds,

  • against what's happening to us,

  • life is a nightmare.

  • How do we steer a balloon?

  • By understanding that the atmosphere

  • is made out of several different layers of wind

  • which all have different direction.

  • So, then, we understand that if we want to change our trajectory,

  • in life, or in the balloon,

  • we have to change altitude.

  • Changing altitude, in life,

  • that means raising to another psychological, philosophical,

  • spiritual level.

  • But how do we do that?

  • In ballooning, or in life,

  • how do we change altitude?

  • How do we go from the metaphor

  • to something more practical that we can really

  • use every day?

  • Well, in a balloon it's easy, we have ballast.

  • And when we drop the ballast overboard we climb.

  • Sand, water, all the equipment we don't need anymore.

  • And I think in life it should be exactly like this.

  • You know, when people speak about pioneering spirit,

  • very often they believe that pioneers

  • are the ones who have new ideas.

  • It's not true.

  • The pioneers are not the ones who have new ideas,

  • because new ideas are so easy to have.

  • We just close our eyes for a minute we all come back

  • with a lot of new ideas.

  • No, the pioneer is the one who

  • allows himself to throw overboard a lot of ballast.

  • Habits, certainties,

  • convictions, exclamation marks,

  • paradigms, dogmas.

  • And when we are able to do that,

  • what happens?

  • Life is not anymore

  • just one line going in one direction

  • in one dimension. No.

  • Life is going to be made out of all the possible lines

  • that go in all the possible directions

  • in three dimensions.

  • And pioneering spirit will be each time we allow ourselves

  • to explore this vertical axis.

  • Of course not just like the atmosphere in the balloon,

  • but in life itself.

  • Explore this vertical axis, that means

  • explore all the different ways to do,

  • all the different ways to behave, all the different ways to think,

  • before we find the one that goes in the direction we wish.

  • This is very practical.

  • This can be in politics.

  • This can be in spirituality.

  • This can be in environment,

  • in finance, in education of children.

  • I deeply believe

  • that life is a much greater adventure

  • if we manage to do politics

  • without the trench between the left and the right wing.

  • Because we will throw away these political dogmas.

  • I deeply believe that we can make much more protection of the environment

  • if we get rid -- if we throw overboard

  • this fundamentalism that some of the greens have showed in the past.

  • And that we can aim for much higher spirituality

  • if we get rid of the religious dogmas.

  • Throwing overboard, as ballast, to change our direction.

  • Well, these basically are things I believed in such a long time.

  • But actually I had to go around the world in a balloon

  • to be invited to talk about it.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • It's clear that it's not easy to know which ballast to drop

  • and which altitude to take. Sometime we need

  • friends, family members or a psychiatrist.

  • Well, in balloons we need weather men,

  • the one who calculate the direction of each layer of wind,

  • at which altitude, in order to help the balloonist.

  • But sometimes it's very paradoxical.

  • When Brian Jones and I were flying around the world,

  • the weather man asked us, one day, to fly

  • quite low, and very slow.

  • And when we calculated we thought we're never going to make it

  • around the world at that speed.

  • So, we disobeyed. We flew much higher, and double the speed.

  • And I was so proud to have found that jetstream

  • that I called the weather man,

  • and I told him, "Hey, guy, don't you think we're good pilots up there?

  • We fly twice the speed you predicted."

  • And he told me, "Don't do that. Go down immediately

  • in order to slow down."

  • And I started to argue. I said, "I'm not going to do that.

  • We don't have enough gas to fly so slow."

  • And he told me, "Yes, but with the low pressure you have on your left

  • if you fly too fast, in a couple of hours

  • you will turn left and end up at the North Pole.

  • (Laughter)

  • And then he asked me --

  • and this is something I will never forget in my life --

  • he just asked me, "You're the good pilot up there.

  • What do you really want? You want to go very fast

  • in the wrong direction, or slowly in the good direction?

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • And this is why you need weathermen.

  • This is why you need people with long-term vision.

  • And this is precisely what fails

  • in the political visions we have now,

  • in the political governments.

  • We are burning, as you heard,

  • so much energy,

  • not understanding that such an unsustainable

  • way of life cannot last for long.

  • So, we went down actually.

  • We slowed down. And we went through moments of fears

  • because we had no idea how the little amount of gas

  • we had in the balloon

  • could allow us to travel 45,000 kilometers.

  • But we were expected to have doubts; we're expected to have fears.

  • And actually this is where the adventure really started.

  • When we were flying over the Sahara and India

  • it was nice holidays.

  • We could land anytime and fly back home with an airplane.

  • In the middle of the Pacific,

  • when you don't have the good winds, you cannot land,

  • you cannot go back.

  • That's a crisis.

  • That's the moment when you have to wake up

  • from the automatic way of thinking.

  • That's the moment when you have to motivate

  • your inner potential,

  • your creativity.

  • That's when you throw out all the ballast,

  • all the certainties,

  • in order to adapt to the new situation.

  • And actually, we changed completely our flight plan.

  • We changed completely our strategy.

  • And after 20 days we landed successfully in Egypt.

  • But if I show you this picture

  • it's not to tell you how happy we were.

  • It's to show you how much gas was left

  • in the last bottles.

  • We took off with 3.7 tons of liquid propane.

  • We landed with 40 kilos.

  • When I saw that, I made a promise to myself.

  • I made a promise that the next time I would fly around the world,

  • it would be with no fuel,

  • independent from fossil energies,

  • in order to be safe,

  • not to be threatened by the fuel gauge.

  • I had no idea how it was possible.

  • I just thought it's a dream and I want to do it.

  • And when the capsule of my balloon was introduced

  • officially in the Air and Space Museum in Washington,

  • together with the airplane of Charles Lindbergh,

  • with Apollo 11, with the Wright Brothers' Flyer,

  • with Chuck Yeager's 61,

  • I had really a thought then.

  • I thought, well, the 20th century, that was brilliant.

  • It allowed to do all those things there.

  • But it will not be possible in the future any more.

  • It takes too much energy. It will cost too much.

  • It will be prohibited

  • because we'll have to save our natural resources

  • in a few decades from now.

  • So how can we perpetuate

  • this pioneering spirit

  • with something that will be independent from fossil energy?

  • And this is when the project Solar Impulse

  • really started to

  • turn in my head.

  • And I think it's a nice metaphor also

  • for the 21st century.

  • Pioneering spirit should continue, but on another level.

  • Not to conquer the planet or space,

  • not anymore, it has been done,

  • but rather to improve the quality of life.

  • How can we go through the ice of certainty

  • in order to make the most incredible a possible thing?

  • What is today completely impossible --

  • get rid of our dependency on fossil energy.

  • If you tell to people, we want to be independent

  • from fossil energy in our world,

  • people will laugh at you, except here,

  • where crazy people are invited to speak.

  • (Laughter)

  • So, the idea is that if we fly around the world

  • in a solar powered airplane,

  • using absolutely no fuel,

  • nobody ever could say in the future

  • that it's impossible to do it

  • for cars, for heating systems,

  • for computers, and so on and so on.

  • Well, solar power airplanes are not new.

  • They have flown in the past, but without

  • saving capabilities, without batteries.

  • Which means that they have more proven

  • the limits of renewable energies

  • than the potential of it.

  • If we want to show the potential,

  • we have to fly day and night.

  • That means to load the batteries during the flight,

  • in order to spend the night on the batteries,

  • and fly the next day again.

  • It has been made, already, on remote controlled

  • little airplane models, without pilots.

  • But it stays an anecdote

  • because the public couldn't identify to it.

  • I think you need a pilot in the plane

  • that can talk to the universities,

  • that can talk to students,

  • talk to politicians during the flight,

  • and really make it a human adventure.

  • For that, unfortunately,

  • four meters wingspan is not enough.

  • You need 64 meter wingspan.

  • 64 meter wingspan to carry one pilot, the batteries,

  • flies slowly enough with the aerodynamic efficiency.

  • Why that? Because fuel is not easy to replace.

  • That's for sure.

  • And with 200 square meters of solar power on our plane,

  • we can produce the same energy

  • than 200 little lightbulbs.

  • That means a Christmas tree, a big Christmas tree.

  • So the question is, how can you carry a pilot around the world

  • with an airplane that uses

  • the same amount of energy as a big Christmas tree?