In 1962 JFK made his famous ‘We choose to go to the moon’ speech to about 40,000 people at the Rice University Stadium in Texas. If you aren’t familiar with the speech, it’s well worth a listen or read.
There are two moments in the speech that strike me as being particularly pertinent to our work at Rye Group, as we seek to shift towards a position of demolition carbon neutrality.
At the beginning, the President said the following: “…we stand in need of all three (knowledge, progress and strength), for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.”
How striking is this statement for us in 2021 as we seek to understand and to evolve, as we search for answers to the climate challenge that faces us all?
We’re on a voyage of discovery and every time we turn a corner, new questions arise and new challenges unfold. We face challenges such as to how we can most effectively reduce emissions on site from our plant and machinery and our vehicles that ferry equipment, materials and people to jobs around the country.
The journey we’re on is not easy and without hurdles, which leads me on to the second point that leaps out at me from the speech.
After about 9 minutes, JFK proclaimed the most well-known part of the speech.
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
Again, how relevant this is to us today. Of course, we aren’t talking about the space race any more. Few would disagree that the challenge of minimising climate change is harder than flying to the moon and most would agree that it is even more important to the future of humanity that we succeed. And so, we choose to be climate champions.
As with JFK’s speech, we face a sense of urgency and, with unity, we can see the best the world has to offer. It is going to take all the skill in the world, the energy and the passion of everyone in positions of influence and power to initiate the change we need.
With every large challenge, every small part of the machine has its part to play. A lesson demonstrated once more in 1962 when JFK visited NASA HQ and spoke to a janitor carrying a broom. When JFK asked him what he was doing for NASA the janitor responded “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”
Again, the parallels are there for us all to see. We don’t have to be China, India or the USA, we don’t have to be a president or leader of the UN. Each of us has to play our part and, at Rye Group, we are embarking upon our own version of the space race as we seek to be carbon neutral in the coming years.
We have urgency, we have the desire and we have the energy, but the road won’t be smooth. Through a great deal of hard work, research and mistakes we will get there. Learning as we go is par for the course and mistakes are inevitable – as with the space race, Apollo 1 ended in disaster and changes were made.
I’m sure nothing we do will have such catastrophic outcomes as Apollo 1, but we will need to make changes as we learn and what we previously thought was true turns out to be false.
Regulations such as the Euro emissions standards, as well as innovation by manufacturers will help drive us forward. At the same time, we’ll be exploring options that are not mandated. As a company, Rye Demolition will continue to invest in the technologies and supplies that will help us improve our environmental impact and make the demolition industry as green as possible. Electric plant and machinery still need to develop to be viable, but it will get there. Equally we are already using methods to minimise water usage for dust suppression and are constantly looking for the next developments available to us.
Aware of the difference we can make we are now focusing on action and learning and we look forward to sharing this journey with you and collaborating with anyone who shares the same vision.
To conclude, I am once more going to borrow from JFK’s speech – “And, therefore, as we set sail, we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”
For that is what this is, and what an adventure it will be as we choose to be climate champions!
Author: Jonathan Cox, Marketing Director at Rye Group.