It all began with paper when Richard Branson published his first issue of The Student, a youth-culture magazine, in 1968. Soon after that, he opened a small shop on Oxford Street to sell popular records, followed by his own studio to produce music. In 1979 his company opened their first Megastore, located just a few blocks down from the earlier shop and expanded with this concept to almost 300 locations worldwide.
Unfortunately most of their stores disappeared in recent years, apart from some 18 locations in the Middle East. Faithful to their origins, they started again to sell, among other things, paper.
To be more precise: our Papernomads have found their way into Virgin Megastores in Qatar through our partner Vicomms.
I have to admit that I knew very little about this small but striving country on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula and I had ignored most of Branson’s climate-change folklore, until we found a common thread to see Virgin, Qatar and Papernomad in context: future viability.
It didn’t take long to discover, how astoundingly active both have been on this matter, not only by drawing attention to the depth of the global environmental and social challenges, but also in their relentless quest to rise to those challenges.
Qatar is re-inventing itself – it must: their carbon emissions per capita are the highest in the world and three times as high as in the US (WWF). Qatar’s National Vision 2030 implements a strategy to survive the decline of their natural resources and apprehended mortality of economic growth by uncoupling their industry from non-sustainable resources and a social development that is compatible with global partnerships.
Richard Branson and Al Gore announced the Virgin Earth Challenge, a competition offering a $25 million prize to be awarded to “a commercially viable design which, achieves or appears capable of ‘greenhouse gas removal’ activities that can take more greenhouse gases out of the air than they emit.” The winning concepts suggest scaleable chemical processes to attract CO2 from the air and bury it where it came from, thus reversing the effect of global warming.
Qatar is starting to ban ‘the fox from guarding the henhouse’ by challenging perceptions of a population spoiled by its natural gas wealth. And similar to Branson’s ambition to remove greenhouse gasses from the air, their Sahara Forest Project describes a shift from an extractive model of land use to a restorative model “by combining already existing and proven environmental technologies, including saltwater-cooled greenhouses, concentrated solar power (CSP) and technologies for desert revegetation around a saltwater infrastructure.”
Sooner or later every country on earth will be facing the same challenges posed by the decline of natural resources and the effects of climate change. Qatar is in the unfortunate position of having to find the answers sooner – a learning curve from which everyone else will benefit later.