Dec01

Message to COP21 leaders: Need solutions? Ask nature.

rome-, italy c-reuters

Right now, world leaders are gathering in Paris at COP21 with nothing less than the future of our planet at stake. Their goal is to create a new international climate change agreement that limits global warming below 2℃. If temperatures rise above that magic number, the UN predicts that between 20-30 percent of plant and animal species could be wiped out. If things continue as they currently are, we will certainly hit that number (atmospheric CO2 levels recently passed the 400 ppm mark, another measure of the damage we’re doing). We know we cannot allow this to happen.

As these leaders work to hammer out plans, they’re going to need to land on solid strategies to limit greenhouse gas emissions and keep our planet’s temperature from rising. Luckily, the solutions are right outside our window.

Nature is full of clues for how we can approach our climate change problems, in ways that not only reduce our climate impact, but help us to “…become producers of ecosystem services” (Janine Benyus). Biomimicry studies and then translates nature’s architecture, design, and engineering strategies to human design. Many of these strategies can apply directly to climate change challenges such as how nature upcycles carbon, harnesses the sun’s power, and creates electricity.

COP21 is focused on developing solid action plans and solutions. In that spirit, we want to share just a few of nature’s strategies and corresponding innovations that can lead us down a more life-sustaining path.

First, here is a small sample of some ways that nature captures greenhouse gases and creates renewable energy:

 

Carbon-gobbling cacti
The Saguaro cactus uses some of the carbon dioxide it removes from the atmosphere to make compounds called oxalates.These oxalates then combine with calcium ions taken up from the soil by the plants roots. After the cactus dies, the calcium oxalate slowly transforms into solid calcium carbonate (calcite), and sequesters atmospheric carbon dioxide into the soil. (more…)

Oct10

Urban mobility reloaded: Planning our future cities

Subway_System

By Dr. Arndt Pechstein

Our cities are constantly growing and an ever-rising number of people live on a very small fraction of the world’s surface area. By 2050, about 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas. Half of the population of Asia alone is predicted to live in cities by 2020. Over 60% of the land projected to become urban by 2030 remains yet to be built. Mobility no longer remains an optional luxury for an elite but has transformed into a non-negotiable to participate in society. Consequently, smart mobility solutions are gaining importance. How do we tackle such a challenge of global dimension? How do we serve people’s needs for mobility while simultaneously sacrificing neither biodiversity and environmental values nor human health and well-being?

The light bulb was not invented by improving the candle.”

Urban mobility Dr. Arndt Pechstein

Reinventing the wheel

Despite our pride of having invented the wheel (which is, by the way, not entirely true given that the golden wheel spider has been using wheel motion for millions of years before us) humans are not the only species tackling mobility challenges. In fact, mobility is an inherent phenomenon shared by all living systems. Everything alive moves, from cells to organisms to entire ecosystems. Over billions of years, organisms and systems have evolved to be remarkably adaptive to their surroundings with regard to transport, mobility, and logistics.

(more…)