There are more than 7 billion people on our planet today, and we all know we’re up against some huge social/environmental challenges. But, awareness alone doesn't reduce pollution, grow food or heal the sick. Talk doesn't help someone out of poverty; that takes doing. And Manoj Bhargava, billionaire CEO of 5-Hour Energy drinks, is committed to doing just that.
A college dropout, monk and wildly successful entrepreneur, Bhargava is a perfect mix of pragmatism and empathy. Alongside his team of doers, he’s on a mission to do nothing less than change the world. "The more wealth you get, the bigger your duty becomes to help those who have less, who are suffering,” he stated in the documentary film, "Billions in Change." “The more you are given, the more that is expected from you. It’s that simple.”
Lucky for him, Bhargava just happens to have been given a whole lot. His company, 5 Hour Energy, makes one of the largest consumer products in the world. His net worth is over $4 billion, and he’s giving away 99 percent of it. His initiative, Billions in Change, is a movement to save the world through the widespread implementation of solutions which generate clean energy, make fresh water and improve our health.
Housed in a laboratory outside of Detroit, Bhargavaj, alongside his Stage 2 Innovations team, has invented a number of simple technologies that can make a huge difference in billions of lives. “Stage 2 is filled with tinkerers, guys who spend time in their garage building stuff, engineers,” Bhargavaj explained. “These are guys who would probably work here even if I wasn’t paying them.”
Their mission is to develop groundbreaking innovations which benefit mankind and “help the poorer half of the world make their lives better."
“If it doesn’t make a big difference, we won’t do it,” explained Stage 2 engineer Dr. Jack Junni. “Life is too short to spend time doing things that don’t have a big impact. We’re here to make a difference."
And this doesn’t necessarily take large amounts of money. It just takes doing the right things and inventing the right things. “If it doesn’t make us money, but it improves lives, we’re still going to do it. We concentrate on those things that are going to be incredibly useful.” This starts with finding the meaning behind the project, the purpose, then asking questions: How can we make a sizable difference to alleviate human suffering? Who has the technology for this? Who can make this happen?
It is for this reason that the Stage 2 Innovations team created the Free Electric hybrid bicycle. It harnesses human mechanical energy to provide electricity to people when they need it the most. You pedal for one hour and have electricity for 24 hours; it’s that simple.
If brought to scale, the Free Electric bicycle could have the largest effect of anything in the last 100 years. Unlike solar/wind generated energy, relying on human energy means that as long as you have humans, you have energy.
Additionally, this invention doesn’t generate any pollution. Each hour that is spent producing energy keeps one pound of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. And, given the fact that we’re currently pumping 25 billions pounds of matter into the atmosphere every year, this could make a huge difference. The only side effect to this invention is that the user gets stronger and healthier. It is probably the cheapest, most practical way of getting electricity around the world .
Their solution, the Rainmaker, turns sea water, or any dirty water, into fresh distilled water. It mimics nature by heating the water and turning it into water vapor. Then, the machine distills the water vapor and turns it back into water.
The Rainmaker can be used to make distilled water or any level of clean water. While current technology can only take sea water and turn it into drinking water, it cannot turn it into water which can be used for agricultural purposes because it still has too much salt. This easy, modular system can be used all over the world. From fresh, clean water comes better health, food and livelihood for farmers.
Bhargava is driven by the fact that the work is never done. And to him, it’s not about the money. “Good stuff doesn’t come from money,” he explained. "History has proven this to be true and yet we still chase it. Mobs of Ph.D.s don’t come up with great inventions; it’s a couple of guys in a garage.”
Billions in Change is proof that a single person with a small team can actually affect change on a global scale. If these inventions are implemented worldwide, they have the potential to raise billions of people out of poverty and improve the lives of everyone – rich and poor.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Joi M. Sears is the Founder and Creative Director of Free People International, a social enterprise which specializes in offering creative solutions to the world's biggest social, environmental and economic challenges through the arts, design thinking and social innovation.