Finding Sustainable Solutions to Poverty
The United Nations recognizes the success of The Millennium Development Goals in decreasing the world’s extreme poverty in half. With the intention of contributing to that success, the UN has developed a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to ensure the prosperity of poor countries and secure environmental protection in these regions through the implementation of sustainable solutions.The SDGs were scheduled to begin being implemented on January 1, 2016, and continue over the next 15 years.
The first item on the list is ending poverty. The UN points out that accomplishing such a challenging goal requires strategies that foster economic growth as well as address core issues such as health, social protection and employment.
What is Biomimicry?
Biomimicry is a way of looking at design through engineering that occurs in nature. The idea is to mimic the way organisms have been adapting and surviving on this earth. These natural adaptations provide a guide to life on earth in the long haul.
Biomimicry can be used in favor of disenfranchised populations living in harsh climates. Finding water in deserts, for example, can be quite a difficult task. Biomimicry might be used to disclose a solution to this problem through observation of a Namibian Beetle which lives in the desert of southern Africa and collects water from fogs. This particular beetle has special structures on its wings scales that condense water out of the air. This beetle’s wing design is ten times more efficient at collecting eater than the fog-catching nets humans have used in the past.
New technologies developed out of Biomimicry provide more opportunities for green economies to flourish. Green economies are those in which all economic activities, such as exporting goods and services, occur with little environmental impacts. This would provide more opportunities for developing countries and improve global trade which, in turn, allows developing countries to acquire more technology.
The Global Design Challenge
The Biomimicry Institue inspired innovators from all over the globe to use biomimicry and apply nature-inspired designs as sustainable solutions to urgent global issues. The groups who made it to the final round presented their projects at the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge in 2015.
- Hexagro (Milan, Italy): The Hexagro team designed a “groundless” growing system made of recycled and biodegradable materials. The hexagon-shaped structure mimics the geometric pattern found in nature produces 342 lettuce plants per two square meters whereas ground farming produces only 80 lettuce plants in the same conditions. The project includes an automatic irrigation system that prevents plants from being dried out or overfed. The system will soon be connected to a digital application.
- Holonic Integrated Produce Swarm (South Africa): HIPS is a peer to peer networking app. It mimics the way flocks of birds and other well-coordinated groups of animals function. The app facilitates small scale intensive food production to be coordinated. A swarm of food producers allows people to share resources and conduct local transactions. The app connects these local swarms to create regional ones in order to establish a produce hub. It also records surplus produce for sale and helps members do the distribution logistics. Finally, the app provides a medium fair exchange value and provides incentives to food producers to employ the best practices.
- Biopatch (Valparaiso, Chile): This project won first place in the design challenge for their soil restoration solution. Its design mimics the Yareta plant. This plant is known as a “nurse” plant that thrives in cold and windy conditions and provides shelter and nutrients to other species. Biopatch mimics the plant’s protective mechanisms to shield seedlings from the wind and ultraviolet radiation while enhancing the soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients. This design is biodegradable and low cost. After a year’s operation, the plants that have grown under its protection become independent and capable of maintaining the restored soil on its own.
The three aforementioned designs offer agricultural development and greater access to food. Other designs included devices that provide freshwater resources and nutrient sources that come from insects. All of these designs not only increase the amount of food available to those in need but guaranteed the freshness and nutritious qualities of the food offered.
The Sustainable Development Goals are a “call for action.” In order to fulfill the UN’s goal of eradicating poverty by 2020, it is necessary to help poor countries develop resilience and adopt sustainable strategies as they move out of poverty. With such solutions, the environment is protected and is sure to provide for future generations. Sustainable solutions offer an entirely new outlook on designs that could eradicate poverty. As new editions of the Global Design Challenge, more environmentally-friendly solutions for global poverty are developed each year.
– Zoe Schlagel