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Mogul On a Mission

Jim Clark amassed most of his fortune during the tech boom of the nineties and he was one of very few to escape with his wealth intact. Along the route he founded several notable Silicon Valley technology companies, including Silicon Graphics, Inc., Netscape Communications Corporation, myCFO and Healtheon. His research work in computer graphics lead to the development of systems for fast rendering of computer images. He is known as a shrewd, almost clairvoyant businessman who is unapologetic when it comes to his opinions. A devoted sailor, his most recent claim to fame is designing several high-tech sailboats.

Jim Clark's "Athena"

Jim Clark's "Athena"

Increasingly Mother Nature is lucky to have him on her side.

In the late 80s, when Clark was still building his reputation as a tech demigod, he visited a reef in Papua New Guinea known to divers as “Eagle Ray Pass” because of the thriving eagle ray population. The reef awed Clark, an avid diver, and, after the dot-com bubble burst in the late 90s, he returned. Since Clark’s first visit, the water temperature had risen roughly 5 degrees. All that remained under the clear warm water was a pale, lifeless mound.

Over the next few years Clark photographed marine life in the South Pacific with noted ocean photographer and filmmaker Louie Psihoyos. Together, they documented the effects of global warming on the delicate ecosystems living just below the ocean’s surface.

The launch of Clark’s second mega-yacht, a 300-foot schooner called the “Athena”, in 2004 brought new possibilities. The $90 million boat featured a platform that made extended dives possible, allowing Clark to experience the full majesty of the ocean’s wildlife. It was at that point that the King Midas of Silicon Valley decided to found the Oceanic Preservation Society.

Now in its fourth year, OPS is a nonprofit company devoted to documenting the creeping destruction of the world’s marine life. Their most recent project is the gut-wrenching documentary “The Cove”, which explores secretive dolphin slaughters in the small Japanese city of Taiji. There are also plans for art exhibitions on both U.S. coasts, with images donated by some of the world’s top nature photographers. The exhibits are designed to overwhelm visitors with dramatic examples of healthy reefs, making their decimation that much more apparent.

Still, Jim Clark is not naïve. He does not believe that he or anyone else can stop the devastating effects of global warming. With drastic action, however, humans can soften what is likely to be a terrible blow to the Earth’s climate. As far as he can tell, though, there won’t be enough motivation until the human population has been as deeply affected as the rest of the planet’s inhabitants.

– ALEX NELSON

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