The study of nature, from plants and soil, to humans and wildlife has always played an important role in the field of science. As humans we have a huge impact on the planet, more often than not, in a negative sense. It has been estimated that by 2050 the Earth’s human population will exceed 9 billion. Where does the food comes from to feed all those people? Where do they live? How can they coexist without destroying the habitat of many animals or natural resources? And how will their lifestyles impact the climate change?
Past generations have already voiced their concerns about nature’s well-being and united in organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace. Although they do an excellent job and have saved many species from extinction, this More About will focus on the initiatives and projects by (local) universities, ambitious entrepreneurs and inspired individuals from all over the world working to conserve nature’s treasures for a brighter future for generations to come.
It will discuss four areas of conservation:
- Air conservation
- Water conservation
- Forest (and soil) conservation
- Wildlife conservation
And continues with:
- Fighting the industry: Fashion
While some governments are looking into to problem of ignoring CO2 emissions, by putting excesses into the ground, other countries and companies worldwide are looking at possible solution for this growing problem. Think of Costa Rica which aims to be the first neutral country in the world by 2021, the companies Carbon Engineering and Opus12 who use CO2 to synthesize clean transportation fuel and this Indian initiative which is turning CO2 emissions into baking soda. There’s even a company that is experimenting with street lights that absorb CO2 and emit oxygen, while designer Daan Roosegaarde creates smog-eating bicycles and buildings and Green City Solutions plants installation with moss cultures to absorb air pollutants! And last but not least, there are also initiatives trying to make consumers aware of their choices and how they could reduce their carbon footprint (WorldBeing).
About 0.6 billion kilo of trash enters the oceans each year, much of which only existed for the past 60 years or so. You immediately think of garbage, but don’t forget oil spills, sewage disposal and fertilizer from farms. It forms an immediate threat to wildlife and ultimately humans, who for example eat contaminated fish. Luckily, there are many companies looking for a solution. The most famous must be the young Dutch inventor Boyan Slat who at the age of 18 pitched his idea for an innovative ocean plastic clean up system to the world. However, there are some notable other solutions, such as this Protei robot which is an open source, wind-powered sailing robot cleaning oil spills and the Seabin project which is a device that is installed in ports and intercepts floating debris.
Forest (and soil) conservation
With an ever-expanding global population, people need more room for expansion and a vast supply of food. This often leads to deforestation, where trees are cleared to create farmland, housing or used for fuel. It’s an immediate threat to wildlife in terms of habitat and biodiversity, and it could also lead to soil erosion. There are four types of solutions helping the conservation of forests:
- innovative solutions that help to rebuild forests (in unexpected places): Biocarbon Engineering’s mission is to plant 1 billion trees in a year using drones. Afforestt has developed a technique to create native forests in about ten years (and shares its models with the world). Growboxx has developed a way to plant trees in arid areas, using 1 liter instead of the usual 10 liters.
- monitoring and prevention of illegal logging: there are many examples of communities and institutions which use drones to protect (rain) forest, such as the Rainforest Airforce in Peru and Fediquep in Peru battling oil companies. The Global Forest Watch however, using satellite data to monitor forests in real-time. This nifty tool is free to use for everyone(!)
- new growth methods in agriculture that don’t rely on large patches of soil: while rural Kenya is embracing ‘climate-smart’ agriculture, an aquaponics farm in Florida is growing plants without soil and AeroFarms has developed vertical farms.
- creating awareness for deforestation: the online community Tree Supporter offers to plant trees for watching videos on their website, while TreeConcert visualizes the problem with an interactive installation in the middle of the Berlin.
Everybody knows the World Wildlife Fund or other wildlife organizations; they have done some amazing work in the past. However, they can’t have eyes and ears everywhere to ensure the well-being of all animals around the world. They need help in tracking animals in distress, preventing poachers and protecting natural habitat from other influences. You can imagine technology plays a large part in this, look at the International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space (ICARUS) for example, which uses satellites to observe global migratory movements of animals and might help preventing epidemics to spread. And what about drones helping to stop poaching in South-Africa? When looking at sea life, RSE’s Guardian robots can help us get rid of a huge Caribbean threat: the invasive lionfish and the Mote Marine Lab has discovered a new method to regrow coral reef in a much faster rate through a process of microfragmenting. Nevertheless, the latest technology is not always the answer, as the young Richard Turere demonstrates in his talk on how he made peace with the lions threating his community.
Fighting the industry: Fashion
To end this More About: Nature, we’d like to shine a light on how a specific industry could reinvent itself to reduce its pressure on nature. A rather new phenomenon in this industry is ‘fast fashion’, which is all about manufacturing clothes quickly and cheap. It dramatically shortens fashion cycles, while increasing the stress on our water supply, emitting more greenhouse gasses and creating more waste. Below you will find a nice overview of some previous Global Change Award winners, an innovation challenge by H&M which aims to promote a more circular fashion industry:
- Orange Fiber – recycles citrus waste to create sustainable textiles
- RAW for the Oceans – is a jeans collection from recycled ocean plastic
- Polyester Digester – created a microbe that recycles waste-polyester
- Tjeerd Veenhoven – grows textile fiber under water with algae
- Manure Couture – uses cow dropping to create a biodegradable textile
Besides the videos mentioned above, there are many other great videos on Nature, conservation and innovations. Here’s a selection of other videos that didn’t match any of the categories above, but are worth your time: