Wealth is an interesting thing. Some people hold onto every penny for their entire lives just for the sake of it.
It becomes a burden when they pass away, their family agonizing over its dispersal more than their death.
There are people who never stack up cash because they spend every penny they have, leaving them in dire situations on occasion, and infuriating others.
Wealth in our modern day world is often defined through money — though there are certainly many forms, be it the wealth of love, health, happiness, and so on.
A former fisherman-turned-billionaire from Norway was once one of those businessmen viewed in such a light… until he announced his plans to give most of his fortune away, that is.
Kjell Inge Roekke, the tenth-richest man in Norway, has a net worth of over $2 billion. With a reputation of being “a flamboyant billionaire with an explosive temper and a taste for the supersized, can also call himself an oil baron.”
But in a recent interview with Oslo’s Aftenposen newspaper, he gave people the opportunity to see him in a whole new light, as he revealed plans to use his money for the betterment of society, beginning with a state-of-the-art ship that will perform marine research.
He plans to use the ship to remove five tonnes of plastic daily from the ocean, melting it down to ensure it does no further harm.
“Sea covers 70 percent of Earth’s surface and much is not researched,” he said.
With more than eight million tonnes of plastic dumped in our oceans every year, we are, simply put, being overwhelmed by our own waste.
Plastics pollution has a direct and deadly effect on wildlife, with thousands of seabirds and sea turtles, seals, and other marine mammals killed annually as a result of ingesting plastic, or getting entangled in it.
Endangered wildlife are among them.
But it doesn’t just hurt marine species. It’s also harmful to people, with plastic debris floating in the seawater absorbing harmful pollutants like PCBs, DDT, and PAH, which are highly toxic and have various chronic effects including cancer.
Animals eating these plastic pieces absorb the toxins, which then get passed up the food chain.
Roekke, 55, is using his fame and fortune to help alleviate this issue.
Having built his fortune by buying up old boats and modifying them into industrial trawlers, Roekke eventually acquired a stake in a 173-year-old Norwegian conglomerate, where he bought up to 40% of its shares and then merged it with his own Resources Group International.
The result? According to media, a pioneer of the American-style of “aggressive capitalism” in Norway.
Despite coming off as charming and friendly, his temper can be nothing short of explosive, so much so that he spent 23 days in prison after being convicted of bribing his way to a boating license.
Interesting to note, however, is that after his release, he spent more than $3,000 buying takeout pizzas for his old cellmates.
From pizza to ship, Roekke clearly knows his money is more meaningful than status, even if his reputation gets in the way.
“I want to give back to society the bulk of what I’ve earned,” he said. “This ship is a part of it. The idea of such a ship has evolved over many years.”
The ship, which will be called REV, short for research expedition vessel, will seek to tackle how to control the ever-growing amount of plastic filling up our waters.
It will come fitted with various high-tech features, including air drones, an auditorium, and extensive lab space. Conservation organization WWF will manage the ship, with complete independence.
“We are far apart in [our] views on oil, and we will continue to challenge Røkke when we disagree with him,” WFF chief Nina Jensen said, “but in this project we will meet to collectively make a big difference in the environmental struggle.”
By Alexa Erickson, Guest author