It has been one month since Elon Musk vowed to go into Flint, Michigan and solve the water crisis once and for all. The tech billionaire said he had enough when it came to the community not having access to clean water. The city’s water criss first started in 2014 when the drinking water source for the city was changed from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the cheaper Flint River–due to insufficient water treatment, lead leached from the lead water pipes into the drinking water, exposing over 100,000 residents. After four years of inaction at all levels of government Elon Musk vowed to fix the problem once and for all.
Sure enough, after exactly a month, the city’s water system has been rebuilt from the source to all the water mains, leaving only the last mile of delivery to be replaced now. Musk put his own money on the line, but within two weeks he had hundreds of other tech millionaires putting in their money on the table to help make sure there was enough money to get the job done properly. All of the money was donated, with nobody asking for any guarantees to be paid back, making sure the struggling city wouldn’t face challenges down the road when it came to recovering from the crisis. There will still need to be an approximate 1.3 billion to replace the last mile of water pipes into the aging community’s houses, something everyone is hoping will be raised in coming months.
The Flint crisis is the first one where Elon Musk has not just put his reputation and money on the line, but he also showed up personally to lead the effort. Staying onsite for the entire month, leading teams, demonstrating that he is more than talk when it comes to jumping on the bandwagon around these disasters. It was unclear whether or not he actually helped Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, but after showing up and fixing the problem in Flint, it is clear that Musk means business. Leading by example, and showing that the wealthy tech community truly can come together to make change in some of the poorest communities in our country. Something that people are hoping will become a trend, and encouraging the tech community to begin solving some of the most challenging problems we all face in the United States.
People are already talking about what grand challenge might be next for Musk. Will it be getting Puerto Rico back on its feet? Helping fix the transportation system in New York City? The opiate epidemic? Who knows? With their new found confidence in the tech community, people are hoping the tech elite will begin taking ownership of real world problems in this country, instead of pretending to fix made up problems, and build applications that help the already well off. While many people feel that technology can’t solve all of our problems, it is pretty clear that the tech elite can make a difference with the amount of money have at their disposal, and when they put their mind to it, and throw the proper amount of money at a problem–they can truly make a difference. The question now is, will they continue to make a difference in the world, or go back to playing with their tech toys and patting themselves on their backs when they issue press releases and tweet about all the good they are doing in the world.