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  • Reverend James Squire

Who Should Pay for Explorers' Ventures?




There has been much discussion after the Titan Tragedy pertaining to who should pay for the high cost for the recovery of this venture. Recall the theme that has been mentioned in various earlier blogs that wherever you have money you have ethics. The Titan Tragedy has focused on this question now that the search is done although there will be additional work to learn from this tragic event so that it doesn’t happen again.


Who has paid for the rescue of the Titan? You and I have! It has been the American taxpayer. It is a perfect example of classism. Why should the underserved and working-class people as well as folks with lots of money but not in the billionaire class pay for these thrills? Let’s look at the arguments and subsequent discussion. Most of these high-cost explorations including Bezos are being done by billionaires for thrills and not explorations to benefit humankind. It is high class entertainment. This includes Branson’s trips in hot air balloons where he too had to be rescued. To be fair to him, he did offer to pay for one of his balloon rides that went wrong, but no one followed up to charge him. His wife said that one of his searches cost her a million dollars and that was enough.


This tragedy should result in standards for doing them as well as the insurance that would be needed to pay for the costs if things go wrong. We already have a model for this in one of the most recognized adventures of a high-risk nature, the climbing of Mr. Everest. The Nepalese government has already worked out an ethical formula. First there are guidelines that have to be followed. You must climb a 26,000 feet mountain in Nepal or document that you have done that on an equivalent experience. You can’t be over 75. They recommend using Sherpa guides, but there is an additional requirement that doesn’t get much notice. You have to take out INSURANCE to cover the cost of getting you back down if assistance is needed. There are ranges for what can be insured from illness to bad weather, but mainly to evacuate the individual if necessary. That is a winning ethical formula.


I am not arguing that billionaires or wealthy people should not be taking adventures but there needs to be requirements or guidelines to get permission to do these high stakes ventures such as the Nepalese government has and there needs to be insurance to take care of failures to finish.


It is clear that Rush’s guideline is that explorers have to be “rule breakers”, but the rules are there for a reason. If you break them, you have to pay the price. It is the same ethical framework of wanting Trump to have to pay the price for his, as of now, two indictments with more on the way. Give me a break that there is a double standard. Yes, there is in a way. If you or I did a fraction of what he is accused of doing, we would already be in jail like the guy who was showing classified documents to his friends to impress them.


That is why I made the point in a previous blog that Rush didn’t come close to adhering to the NASA guidelines for space flight. We know now that Rush had been repeatedly warned by people in the field that his venture was dangerous. Some were asked to go and refused.


Now there should be exceptions to this rule and the NASA guidelines still hold true. If you are going to explore something like the ocean or space and the intent is to benefit humankind, then these adventures should be encouraged. The distinction should be made between the difference between thrill for the well-heeled versus the thrill of adventure to accomplish something to benefit humankind. Some have posited that we wouldn’t have air travel as soon as we did without the risk taking of Charles Lindberg.


The U. S. Coast Guard does not bill for rescues. They see it as their job for they operate with the ethical guideline that they fear people wouldn’t call them if they needed their help and that it would cost them money if not covered by insurance. This is particularly true for the underserved. The Coast Guard acts on the ethical principle of “duty.”


Classism usually means that, within reason, everyone should have access to whatever it is that is the cultural norm. If you want to ski, hike in a national park, or sail a distance, then you should be permitted if you are prepared. Here we must use the reasonable person standard. If ten people say that you shouldn’t do something or a few that you trust, tell you don’t do it, You should listen. You shouldn’t run if you are in Texas now in their incredible heat wave. Not everyone uses good judgment including me, but you can try to discourage others from doing it and that is the best you can do. You will encounter people who will do things against better judgment just to see if they could do it. There are a lot of us with that mindset.


I use to run on the hottest and coldest days of the year just to see if I could do it. I wasn’t doing it for the general public or even my family. I ran from the nearest town to our home on the Chesapeake out to our home in Chesapeake Isle. It was ten miles, but it was ten miles of steep hills. My wife and kids were the reasonable ones and followed me in our car after the sun was going down on a summer day. I get it. I get that impulse to challenge yourself, but if it were something happening to me including a ride in an ambulance or hospital bill, I would be responsible to pay for it.


Remember that phrase associated with classism is equal access and ethical responsibility. Two things set my ethical heart on fire. First, there was a suggestion that Rush should have sent poor people down in the submersible to test it. When has our nation become that kind of country? Second, while newscasts were 7/24 regarding the coverage of the Titan recovery, there was a boat off the coast of Greece where 800 migrants went into the sea from their boat. Where was the help for them? Why was the news media including paper press bereft of any coverage of that disaster? Money? Ratings determine advertising time which generates income!


Fox and CNN are both guilty of that ethical lapse. We can tell what we value as a nation by what we cover on the news. There is the biblical axiom that holds true for all and should be a motto for our country. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If it is said in secular ethical language, it is, “Show me the money!”

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