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Millionaire to Entrepreneur: Death by Climate Change

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Last night I saw Robin Chase, Co-Founder and former CEO of zipcar, speak at the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Summit.  She told some very engaging stories of the ups and downs of startups.  She said that the number one thing was to be intellectually honest with yourself and with your customers, especially if your business wasn’t working.  She used two minutes toward the end of her speech to ask us entrepreneurs to remember climate change in our list of things to fix.

At the end of her speech, I found myself first in the line of audience members who pounced on the chance to talk to her in person.  I asked, “I’m sure most folks didn’t expect you to talk about climate change tonight.  Is there any legislation in particular you want us to support?  What do you want us to do?”  She said, in a nutshell, “Tell your legislators it’s first on your priority list because it’s so dire.  I could tell you all kinds of horrible things but I won’t.  Well actually, you and my daughter won’t live to your natural lifespan.”

I raised my eyebrows as if to ask, “Climate change will kill me?”  but I was speechless and said nothing.

She answered my eyebrows and confirmed that it was true.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

Here was a multimillionaire businessperson — the kind of person who, if they said, “You’re doing everything wrong” I would take seriously — telling me, as a mild non sequitur, that she had foreseen my death by climate change.  I vaguely recall there being some quick follow-on questions from the others who had by that time gathered around, but I was so wrapped up in my own impending demise that I didn’t pay attention to what was said.  In the next pause I looked at Robin and said, “Well, it sounds like my days are numbered, so I’d better get going.  Thank you for your time.”  I shook her hand and left.


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