Ever faced situations where ideas varied in execution quality? There are good ideas poorly executed, bad ideas well executed, and then there are bad ideas executed even worse. Let me share an example of the latter. In July, the eighth edition team of the "Arctic Challenge" expedition set out from Costa del Sol to Greenland. Their goal? To document climate change effects and undertake the "Iceberg Operation" — transporting a 15,000-kilogram (approx. 33,000-pound) glacier chunk to Spain, exhibiting it in central Malaga, where it would gradually melt.
Noble intention to raise climate awareness, right? Well, it stirred controversy, especially drawing criticism from Ecologistas en Acción, labeling it counterproductive and mere PR by authorities.
Led by Málaga explorer Manuel Calvo Villena, the expedition ran from July 17th to August 3rd. The plan? Ship the massive ice chunk in a refrigerated vessel at -22°C from Greenland to southern Spain. All seemed well until the shipping company reported a mishandled load, leading the ice block to impact the container doors, breaking into four pieces. Despite this setback, they decided to continue. After days at sea (more than initially planned), the captain confirmed the iceberg wouldn't arrive, sharing a picture where the largest piece resembled a watermelon. Everyone was astonished. The project went belly up... or maybe not?
Success or failure
Ever heard the Spanish saying that it's better people talk about you, even if negatively? The gist: attention, even if negative, may hold more value than being completely forgotten. The failure gained worldwide notoriety, featured in over 180 international media outlets. One could argue that the goal of raising awareness about global warming succeeded, albeit through an unexpected path. Speaking about the project's failure meant talking about the underlying issue of climate change.
The Sydney Opera House project is another example — initially a failure later considered a success. The difference? Sydney Opera House was a good idea poorly executed, evident in its massive cost overrun and delays. In contrast, bringing a massive Arctic ice chunk was flawed from the start. There wasn't enough time or common sense applied to analyze the energy cost of hauling such a load at sub-zero temperatures across such distances — about 1500 metric tons of CO2 contributing to the very climate change the project aimed to address. It's a classic case that should've gone back to the drawing board before diving into such foolishness. In a way, it's reminiscent of world leaders jetting off in private planes to climate summits with entourages of gas-guzzling cars.
Next time you're offered a lead or participation in a project, take the time to reflect on the idea's validity and purpose behind it. What some call the "higher purpose" or the "why".
Thanks for reading!