If no adjustments are made, earth extinction is what humanity may face in the future. With much of the world’s soil becoming degraded and more people facing water shortages and hunger, the world is becoming a more dangerous place. This description just scratches the surface of the huge impact climate change will have on the Earth in the future. Some scientists envision Mars as a backup planet to which people could go when climate change is out of control.

As a result of rising temperatures, many companies have made promises to limit the global temperature rise to below at most 2 degrees Celsius—but preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, to, for instance, save a lot of countries that are harmed by climate change; consequences such as heatwaves, floods, and droughts will become more and more frequent. The chances of creating or maintaining a livable planet are dwindling the hotter it gets. At an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, severe heatwaves will affect around 14% of the world’s population every five years. At an increase of 2 degrees Celsius, 99% of the world’s coral reefs begin to erode, thereby putting an end to warm-water corals. Almost one out of every ten vertebrate creatures and nearly one out of every five plants species will lose half of their habitats. Several ecosystems are on the verge of extinction. Unfortunately, heat waves are not the only consequences of climate change. Is it then already too late to take action? No, with current technological advances and renewable energy, there is still hope.

This chapter dives deeper into the effects of climate change such as in relation to food and water, energy and natural resources, the circular economy, conservation, and the natural environment. The problems posed by climate change and the possibilities to overcome these problems to create a better world are examined in greater depth.
4.1 Food & Water - Our Most Fundamental Needs
4.1.1 Food: How to Feed the Largest Global Population Yet
Overall food demand is expected to rise by more than 50% by mid-century, with demand for animal-based meals rising by almost 70%. According to current projections, the world will not reach the second Sustainable Development Goal in the UN (zero hunger by 2030) in time without any drastic changes. Almost 9% of the world’s population is hungry now, and this number is rising by 10 million people every year, roughly equaling the population of Belgium. If recent trends continue, the number of people affected by hunger will surpass 840 million by 2030.

+ Daphne Prieckaerts
Although I agree with Maslov that food and water are fundamental to survival, so is energy. With energy, I don’t mean electricity, but human energy. Energy regulates our feelings, will, interaction, and mental and physical health. Together with food and water, this energy enables us to live, breathe, and be happy or unhappy. As a teacher at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, I train people to become aware of and change their energy from negative to positive, from toxic to loving and compassionate. Do you want to change the spirit of a person, a group, a company, a movement, a country? Change the energy. It’s not hard; it’s the biggest gift you can give to yourself and others.
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One of the major contributors to global greenhouse emissions, freshwater withdrawals, and land use is food waste. Farm-stage food waste amounts to 2.2 Gt CO2 a year, which is 4% of the global anthropogenic emissions. Additionally, a lot of the food produced worldwide will never reach the mouth of a person. From production to consumption, one-third of the food produced is lost or wasted. Food waste is most present in high-income countries; in fact, high-income countries waste six times more food by weight than low-income countries do. Food security can only be reached in a society with limited resources and a growing population by making more sustainable use of resources and behavioral changes, such as reducing or ideally limiting food waste. Hundreds of millions of people are still malnourished today due to the lack of nutritious food provided by local agricultural systems. 

What about printing food? This sounds impossible, but actually, a lot of research is being conducted to make this happen in the future. It is a method of forming items out of layers of materials. Instead of going to the supermarket and buying food, people could print their own food at home and personalize it. It will probably be possible to print snacks that fit well with the needs and functions of an individual. 3D food printing can help to reduce food challenges like food waste, as people would only focus on printing the food they need and like. Research by BIS predicted that the 3D food industry market will reach $525.6 million globally by 2023. According to researchers, 3D food printing will not fully replace traditional food manufacturing but it will broaden the range of food products available. As a result, it is feasible that food may be manufactured using only a printer in the future; however, it is unclear when this will occur.

Another transformation that is currently happening is alternative proteins. One of these alternatives is called cultured meat. Even though meat consumption is down in industrialized countries, it is rising globally because consumers, particularly in developing countries, are hesitant to cut their meat intake. As these people become increasingly middle class, they seek more upscale goods, such as meat and other animal products. In today’s world, industrial farming accounts for a major share of animal production. Although there has been a switch from large agriculture to factory farming, it is still mostly focused on efficiency instead of being concerned with other implications, such as environmental consequences and animal welfare. As a result, more efficient protein production methods are being developed to meet these concerns. People will probably keep eating meat in the future; however, the meat has to be produced in a more sustainable way for the planet to survive. Too much land is being utilized to feed too many animals, and the world is running out of farmable land. With the development of cultured meat, people can still eat meat, but in a more sustainable way without any animals being killed. The goal of cultured meat is to use only a few cells to reproduce the complicated structure of an animal’s muscle. An animal that is alive is used to obtain a biopsy, and stem cells are used to multiply or change into various types of cells. Additionally, some argue that cultured meat is safer than conventional meat as it is produced in a completely controlled environment with no other organisms present. Another advantage of cultured meat in terms of safety is that it is not generated from animals grown in confined spaces, which eliminates the chance of an epidemic and eliminates the need for costly vaccines against illnesses like influenza.

+ Sten Uijtewaal
Meat culturing is very energy consuming. Therefore, to achieve sustainable meat production, the energy in the process should be sustainable as well. 

A study by Lynch and Pierrehumbert points out that the effect of the decrease of methane emissions from eliminating normal meat production could be countered by increased CO2 emissions from meat culturing.
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Since cultured meat can serve as the solution for meat consumption in the world, how about other products? Proteins are important for multiple reasons. One reason is they are important for the growth and development of young people. Looking at the future, some researchers argue that insects could be a sustainable solution. The use of insects as human food and as animal feed could be promising in assuring food security. A positive aspect of using insects as a source of protein is that they can be farmed anywhere in the world and not in a specific environment. Additionally, insects do not destroy the land, they can be grown on byproducts of the food industry, and they are full of nutrients. Nowadays, most investment is heading toward insects-as-feed for other animals, like pets. They can be farmed intensively without compromising their welfare. A prediction for the future is that the market for edible insects will reach $6.3 million by 2030, so they are on the rise. For instance, crickets can generate the same amount of protein with less than 0.1% of the GHG emissions produced by cows. They also use far less water: a single gram of beef requires 112 liters of water. An insect protein, on the other hand, requires just 23 liters, which is even less than chickpeas.

As alternative proteins are on the rise, transformations in the agricultural sector are also happening. Rising temperatures and more frequent droughts are challenging for traditional farming methods. Farming is actually becoming increasingly inefficient and unreliable as a result of these difficulties. One solution could be indoor farming. In an indoor farm, vegetables are grown inside, where growth conditions can be controlled. Over the past six years, indoor farming has increased in worth by almost 17 million dollars. Compared to traditional farms, yields are often significantly higher in indoor farms as crops are produced in three dimensions instead of two. Crops can also be grown all year round, regardless of weather conditions.

One example of an indoor farming company is Square Roots. One of their farms can produce the same amount of food as a traditional farm each year but within just 340 square feet. They make this possible by using AI to guarantee that the environment is perfect for each plant, including temperature and CO2 requirements. Another example is a Dutch greenhouse manufacturer that specializes in the development of greenhouse projects. Dutch greenhouses produce 35% of the country’s vegetables, despite occupying less than 1% of its farmland. Indoor farming, thus, has the potential to sustainably (using less water and emitting fewer emissions) help plants adapt to different environmental circumstances. Another advantage of using indoor farming is that it does not require pesticides, which is healthier for the environment and humans since it avoids the potential of run-off contaminating water.

Furthermore, not only are greenhouses on the rise, but vertical farming is also becoming more and more significant. In China, “the farmscraper” is already getting bigger. A large-scale vertical hydroponic farm capable of feeding up to 40,000 people per year is being designed by architects. Vertical farms are one idea for increasing food yields while using less space. They’re advertised as being eco-friendly, consuming less water, and requiring fewer pesticides. On the other hand, most vertical farms employ fully enclosed systems with heating and artificial LED lighting, which may consume a lot of power.

To conclude, there are a growing number of solutions to deal with food scarcity. However, we are still a long way off. To protect the environment and help the ten million people who go hungry every year, the world must come up with realistic solutions and encourage change.

+ Chia-Erh Kuo
The solutions are very impressive. I would like to add one angle here: politics and food security. In a highly globalized world, the problem of food insecurity no longer refers to the scarcity of food alone. Instead, food issues are often the byproducts of inequalities among countries, geopolitical change, and the trajectory of capitalism.

If you want to dive deeper into the link between international relations and food security, I recommend reading "Food Security and International Relations." The author explores the humanitarian and ethical importance of a solution to the problem of hunger, as well as the role of the state as a relevant factor in achieving food security from a Global South perspective.
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4.1.2 Water: Scarcity vs Flood Protection
Food cannot be produced without water, and, currently, agriculture uses 70% of all freshwater withdrawals globally. So, not only is food production under pressure, but so is the water supply. Global water consumption is predicted to rise by 50–80% over the next decades, and in today’s world, there are already many individuals affected by water shortages. Water scarcity and poor water quality have wide-ranging impacts on people’s lives, causing hunger, diseases associated with poor hygiene, poverty, violence, and in some cases, even jeopardizing their education, It is no surprise that most SDGs are related to water. Water security challenges, such as water shortages, drought and flood risks, and rising water temperatures that impair water quality and biodiversity, are among the issues to be addressed. However, the biggest issue is dealing with all of the challenges at the same time. The predictions are that freshwater biodiversity will be reduced by 28% in 2050, and nothing will change. The primary drivers of freshwater biodiversity loss are growing populations and unsustainable economic development. For example, in the blockbuster film Blade Runner 2049, the main character only has two seconds to clean himself in the shower. Showering has become a luxury due to water rationing, which terrified many people. Some individuals are oblivious to the situation today and do not believe that their daily routines will be disrupted; yet, if nothing changes, there may be insufficient water to clean oneself in the future.

+ Kim Tan
It can take up to 10,000 liters of water to produce one pair of jeans!
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Nowadays, high-quality freshwater ecosystems in tropical regions are already being harmed. The drop in quality will continue, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Asia. The majority of the quality reduction has already occurred in Europe, the United States, and Japan or Oceania. The quality of freshwater ecosystems will be least harmed in less populated, northern areas. In 2050, half of the world’s urban population will be confronting water scarcity due to, among other things, the decline of freshwater supplies. India will be the worst hit in terms of urban population expansion in water-scarce areas. Water scarcity will affect a growing number of cities (between 193 to 284), including 10–20 megacities. In addition to this, far more people die from unsafe water compared to natural disasters and conflicts. In fact, 1.2 million people die from unsafe water each year, which makes it a leading risk factor for death, especially in low-income countries. Most people without safe drinking water and basic sanitation are in Sub-Saharan Africa (see graph ‘Safe drinking water and basic sanitation’).
safe drinking water and basic sanitation 
One important question arises: what can we do to limit the high number of people dying and suffering from water scarcity? To meet the SDGs, clean technology solutions are in development. They have the potential to significantly improve the access to clean and safe drinking water, while at the same time could also provide social and environmental advantages. UDUMA is a good example of such a technological solution. UDUMA is a rural African drinking water service that provides African villages with a long-term, sustainable, and creative drinking water supply. They replace pumps that are not working properly and provide residents with electronic cards to help them pay easier. This technique allows many people to drink clean water and avoid infections while producing less CO2.

ORISA, which is a water filter for people who do not have access to clean water, is another example. It is a portable water filter that offers a steady supply of drinking water for NGOs and local organizations. To combat infections, the filter removes viruses and germs. It’s also completely reusable and repairable. Despite these advances, climate change will further press water scarcity, which will lead to stronger actions being needed to ensure that every person has access to clean water.

While water scarcity is one problem, some people are affected by too much water. There has been a significant rise in the likelihood of flooding due to population growth and economic development. One prediction states that approximately 1.6 billion people will be living in flood-prone areas by 2050. The majority of people who are in danger of river floods live in developing nations, particularly in South Asia and the East Asia Pacific. The risks of flooding are dispersed unevenly. Namely, while affluent nations would bear the brunt of the economic consequences, the bulk of those who will be affected live in underdeveloped countries. Additionally, the number of individuals at risk in developing countries will rise faster than in developed countries. Based on current statistics, if there was no flood protection, around 252 million people would be vulnerable to floods each year. There are already ways to reduce flood danger, such as building dikes, as well as adopting spatial design and construction rules that address flood risk. A significant number of deaths have already been averted due to these measures. However, if protection levels are maintained at the present level, by 2050, the yearly number of individuals vulnerable to floods would have more than doubled. So, flood protection measures have to be adapted to climate change in order to save more lives.
flood protection 
Tokyo is seeking flood protection solutions for the city’s underground. The Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel (MAOUDC), a 6.3 km long system of tunnels and chambers that protect parts of Tokyo from flooding, including a floodwater cathedral, is hidden 22 meters underground. This system is the world’s largest flood diversion facility, which took 13 years to complete. When one of the rivers in Tokyo overflows because of heavy rainfall, for instance, the water is diverted to one of five massive tanks underground that run the length of the channel. The tanks are huge and connected by a 6.3-km underground network of tubes. The current system is able to withstand 65 to 75 mm of rain per hour. What if this is just the beginning of looking for answers underground to combat climate change, and does it imply that life should be moved underground in the future?

In addition to this, rising sea levels are affecting multiple places on Earth. One of these places is Venice. The MOSE (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, Experimental Electromechanical Module) project has been in the works since 1984, taking forty years to complete, and it protects Venice from flooding. It’s a complex system made up of rows of moveable gates that can temporarily separate the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea at high tide. This technology can keep Venice safe from tidal waves of up to three meters.

Even if technology can support climate change mitigation today, water security is not guaranteed. This is because technology needs constant innovation to respond to current and coming challenges. Therefore, the future of water will depend on how people, companies, governments, all actors implement new technologies.
4.2 The Energy Transition & Natural Resources
Today, sustainability has become a central concept. For the upcoming generation, the SDGs will guide the world’s economic diplomacy. Sustainability was discussed in an economic growth context for the first time at a UN Conference in 1972. Years later, in 2012, the globally applicable SDGs were established. The idea behind the SDGs is to motivate taking action, knowledge, and enthusiasm worldwide. Moreover, they create social mobilization and peer pressure, since all countries report on their progress toward their goals annually.

There are seventeen goals in total, and they vary from ending poverty to reducing inequalities globally. Goal Seven, which aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” is related to the focal point that will be discussed later on in this text. Furthermore, this SDG is noted as highly important for the agenda of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development. By achieving this goal, a whole lot of other opportunities will become possible for billions of people. Better education, new economic opportunities, better health services, and empowered women are just a few examples this SDG will make possible.

In the following section, changes in solar power, wind energy, hydropower, and geothermal energy will be discussed; all of these are sources of renewable energy. The renewable energy industry did not change much in 2021. This was a bit surprising since it is normally characterized by technological developments that happen fast and at a high competitiveness rate. It is expected that in 2022, the renewable energy sector will grow again. One of the reasons for this is that there is accelerated concern for climate change action and demand for cleaner energy will increase in the future.
4.2.1 Solar Power
When a new day begins, the sun supplies the Earth with a fresh and free supply of clean and renewable energy. Using solar power reduces massively the production costs of electricity. Renewable energy sources have rapidly transformed the global electricity mix in the last decade. The production costs of solar and wind power are especially low. What makes the investment in solar power so attractive is that even though investment comes at a high cost, maintenance and operating costs are rather low. Over the long term, it also creates stable revenue.

First, one of the changes that will be prominent in the future is the upcoming rise of floating solar photovoltaics (FSPV); in other words, floating solar panels. They have already gained attention in the United States, and developers are looking into the possible opportunities they might provide. For instance, developers are looking into creating a hybrid system in combination with hydropower. Currently, it is becoming harder and harder to find space on land where solar panels can be placed so this new type of solar panel could be a perfect solution. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) noted that applying them to the reservoirs in the United States could possibly generate 10% of the yearly needed electricity in the country. Once this new type of solar panel is successfully implemented, it will result in new growth opportunities in the solar power industry in the future.

+ Benjamin Von Plehn
Theoretically, we could supply the whole world with solar power thanks to a small portion of the Sahara. German physicist Gerard Knies said: "In six hours, the deserts receive more energy from the sun than the entire human race consumes in a year".

Therefore, the issue isn't just having enough space but also technical.
First, the yield rate is about 15%, which basically means that 75% of the energy is lost during the conversion. Major breakthroughs are expected in the coming century.

Furthermore, if a small square of the Sahara allows supplying the world, routing energy remains a considerable challenge and extremely expensive.

Example: Noor project in Morocco was abandoned because of the financial investment required.

There are also diplomatic and geopolitical reasons. The southern countries (the Middle East and North Africa) denounce an "eco-colonialism" of Europe, while the northern countries fear a new form of energy dependence with the countries producing renewable energy.

Second, in the future, community solar projects will become more developed and more widely applied across the world. Currently, they are available in twenty-two states in the United States of America. The concept is as follows: for many people, the purchase of a (rooftop) solar panel is too expensive. Moreover, when someone lives in an apartment complex, they are able to enjoy the benefits of a solar panel since they have no space for it, even when they have the money to buy it. The community project provides the concept of shared solar power benefits. In this way, multiple people can enjoy the benefits of one solar panel.

+ Kim Tan
Do developing countries have the same opportunity to achieve/implement this?

Another similar project to be further developed in the future is the Solar for All initiative, originating in the District of Columbia. The goal of this initiative is to lower utility bills, and the benefits involved go beyond its positive impact on climate change. The initiative’s ambition is to reach equity in clean energy. As a result, in the future, there will be an increase in people participating in community solar projects.

Third, solar-powered cars, and other electric vehicles, are expected to hit the road in the future. Solar-powered vehicles will need to use their energy efficiently to meet users’ needs. To make it actually possible for solar-powered vehicles to hit the road, engineers are creating different designs. Some vehicles will come with an option for a plug-in in order for drivers to reach their destination when solar power on its own is not sufficient. Currently, electric vehicles still need to be charged in addition to the energy it receives from the sun to be capable of lasting longer distances. However, the constantly evolving technology of today could help solar-powered vehicle owners become less reliant on charging stations, in comparison to electric vehicle owners. Nonetheless, solar-powered cars are likely to be on the road soon.
4.2.2 Historic with Great Potential: Wind Power
In the same way the price of solar electricity has dropped, the cost of wind power has plummeted. As a result of regulations established in Europe, offshore wind costs have decreased, resulting in significant success. Asia and North America will benefit from offshore wind success in the future and economies of scale will lower costs even further. Wind power will remain popular in the future as a result of these assumptions.

Humanity has been using wind power for over 1300 years. It all started with windmills and technological developments that created modern wind turbines. In the future, the technology behind windmills will develop even further. Engineers are thinking ahead and are in the early development stages of designing airborne wind turbines. These will be used in places where traditional wind turbines are difficult (and expensive) to install and where the wind is stronger. Partly due to climate change, engineers are challenged to deal with extreme winds and more unusual weather conditions. These conditions ask for new ways of extracting energy from wind, and as a result, engineers are looking into other designs for the future. One of the possibilities is to copy the way trees are designed in nature, as they are capable of withstanding gale-force winds by simply moving with the wind from any direction. Engineers are speculating about this new type of technology. Therefore, in the future, there might be artificial wind-harvesting trees.

Moreover, people in the wind industry have to start working together with climate change scientists to understand what the weather patterns are and how they might change in the near future. This, in turn, could also be crucial to knowing how to adapt wind turbines. Another change that will take place in the future is inspection and maintenance-related activities will become automatic. Maintenance-related activities can both be preventive and predictive. The first one is aimed at extending the lifespan of the machine, e.g., cleaning the machine, replacing parts, or adjustments. The latter focuses on monitoring the actual condition of the machine and its assets, e.g., repairing corrosion, assessing the blades, or measuring oil levels. Nowadays, these are things still done manually, which is highly labor-intensive. In the future, they will be done by robots and drones to a large extent.

Demand for offshore wind power continues to increase; therefore, in the future, transmission infrastructure will become a key priority. The development of transmission is necessary to enable the connection of renewable energy sources, which are often located remotely, to centers for electricity consumption. This change needs support from the implementation of different policies and regulations. Currently, it is a big challenge for transmission projects to facilitate growth in the renewable energy industry. Especially with offshore wind, there is the problem that extended regulations are needed in order to be connected to coastal infrastructure. In the future, this problem can be overcome by building new infrastructure lines and improving the capacity of already existing lines.
4.2.3 71% of Our Planet’s Surface: Water & the Potential of Hydropower
For over 2000 years, water has been used as a natural resource for deriving energy. There are different ways in which water can do this. In the United States, for instance, energy is generated by hydroelectric reservoirs that are connected to dams. Moreover, currents, tides, and waves serve as hydrokinetic energy generators. As a result of the immensely decreasing prices of solar and wind power, governments can now generate energy without having to build dams, which ask for big tradeoffs. Generating energy through dams has a huge impact on free-flowing rivers. Dams retain sediments that are needed for agriculture and fishing. If all hydropower dams that are currently scheduled to be built are actually completed, there will be 260,000 km less of free-flowing rivers worldwide. This means that more than 50% of free-flowing rivers will be impacted. Moreover, freshwater fisheries will be hurt as well.

Over the past few years, the technology behind hydropower has reached relatively high levels of maturity in comparison to solar and wind power technology. Therefore, there are not as many possibilities to innovate further or apply new disruptive innovative designs. However, due to the dominance of solar and wind power innovations, actions need to be taken for the renewal of electrical power systems (EPS). New technologies will allow the digitalization of hydropower. One of the technologies that could be applied to hydropower is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which is basically machine-to-machine communication. It will make hydropower smarter and will result in fewer carbon emissions. Furthermore, the implementation of IIoT solutions will make sure that plants are constantly monitored so people know when a plant requires maintenance. Efficiency will increase and costs will decrease, and IIoT will provide for sustainable, reliable, and long-term operation for hydropower plants.

In addition, big data could be used in the future to optimize efficiency as well. It could be used as a strategic tool for hydropower plant owners to stay up to date about the productivity and the state of the machines and plants used. As a result, a malfunctioning device can be detected and dealt with as soon as possible.

Climate change is expected to have a huge impact on the development of generating hydropower electricity. Often the use of hydropower involves environmental and social damage. For example, a University of Copenhagen study showed that hydropower dams and the process of building them would be a threat to freshwater biodiversity. Because of this, many people are unsure if the benefits outweigh the costs. However, there is a potential type of hydropower dam for the future; this is the so-called run-of-the-river plant, which could be used. There would be little or no damage to the environment since this type of plant uses the natural river flow in combination with small turbine generators to generate energy. Critics mention that new hydropower dams only generate 1% of renewable energy that fragmenting flowing rivers dams produce.

In the future, rivers are expected to be restored via dam removal, and the connectivity between rivers improved, which is already a trend in the United States. This change is in line with the Federal Power Act, where two particular dams were removed and the fish passage was improved. At the same time, new equipment was recommended and operational changes were executed for the remaining dams connected to the river. The electricity generated afterward was the same as before the removal of the two dams.
4.2.4 Inner Heater: Geothermal Power
Geothermal energy comes from the Earth’s heat, which is the heat that converts water into steam. Since the eighteenth century, this heat has been used for the purpose of heating, cooking, and later on, for generating power. At first, geothermal energy was only used in Italy, but starting from 1913 onward, it became popular, widely used, and was then developed further. What makes geothermal energy different from the aforementioned energy sources is that it is scarce because not every area has large, trapped pockets of heat in the Earth’s crust.

Geothermal power generation is special in the way that it is always present. Weather conditions and time do not influence it; it continuously supplies energy. In the future, geothermal power is expected to be more widely used and will become more important. One technological development that will shape the future of geothermal power is the enhanced geothermal system (EGS). An EGS is a reservoir made by humans at places where there are hot rocks. Because there is little natural water permeability present, to actually reach this, people could carefully inject fluid into the subsurface. This results in old fractures opening up again; water permeability is created as a result. Moreover, more water permeability means that heat will be transported to the surface and, in turn, can be used to generate energy. There have already been successful pilots with this in the United States and Europe. What makes this appealing for future practices is the fact that using EGS results in little to no carbon emissions. Even further in the future, it might not even be necessary to inject fluids into the subsurface or use drilling machines. Horizontal drilling and pipes could be the solution instead. Fluid could be added to the pipes, facilitating heat exchange.

+ Sten Uijtewaal
As you might know, a big problem in the energy transition is that many renewable sources produce energy in a weather-dependent manner.

Energy storage is, therefore, an important part of the solution, and there are many cool suggested solutions; think of:
-Hydrogen gas
-Storing energy by pumping water to a higher place.
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4.3 Towards a Circular Economy - Living Within the Earth’s Biocapacity
Imagine that each time someone buys groceries, shops for new clothes, or pays their bills, half the money they spend is money they do not have in their bank accounts and will not be able to cover from their next paychecks. This is exactly the way in which humans are consuming the Earth’s resources. Biocapacity is the ability of Earth’s ecosystems to naturally regenerate resources and services. Currently, humanity’s consumption and its demand for resources are 56% greater than Earth’s biocapacity. In other words, each year, humans are consuming 56% more resources than the planet can sustainably regenerate.

+ Daphne Prieckaerts
One of the things that actually doubles when being shared is happiness. If we define happiness as the right to share wealth, materials, and time, the solution for a lot of the upcoming issues is the sharing economy:
the more we share,
the happier we get,
the less we want to own,
the more we want to share,
Let’s give it a try…
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As a solution to overconsumption, the concept of circular economy was introduced. This economic system shifts from a linear, “end-of-life” business model to one that minimizes waste and maximizes recycling materials as well as resources during the production, distribution, and consumption processes. As shown in the graphic below, a fully circular economy is one in which any byproducts or waste materials are fully reused rather than discarded.

In short, a circular economy focuses on three principles: eliminating waste and pollution, circulating products and materials at their highest value, and regenerating nature. There are multiple waste-management strategies that can be used to achieve circularity, including refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover. The outcome is a resilient economic system that does not rely on indefinitely consuming Earth’s finite resources. Instead of discarding an item once it has reached the end of its life, the item would be repurposed or broken down into its foundational materials, which could then be reused.

Studies have shown that recycling foundational materials would be highly beneficial not only for the environment but also for the economy. For example, researchers have estimated that adopting a circular-economy model would add 1 to 8 billion euros annually to a country’s GDP, add between 50,000 and 2 million new jobs, and result in the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 30% to 66%, depending on the regional scope of the particular study. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has found that implementing a circular economy could reduce the volume of plastics entering the oceans each year by 80% by 2040. It also estimates a reduction in healthcare costs, savings in the consumer goods sector, less congestion in cities, and a 15–50% saving in household costs in 2050. In short, transitioning to a circular economy would have far-reaching positive impacts across many areas of life, from urban planning to healthcare to environmental and economic health.

The following section explores some of the components of circular economies, which are likely to see continuing advances in development in the coming years: corporate sustainability, bio-based materials, and recycling and waste innovations.
4.3.1 Bio-based Materials
Imagine the following morning routine: a bike ride to work with a stop to pick up a coffee and some snacks along the way. The interesting part is in the details: the rubber of the bike tires is made from dandelions rather than from rubber trees grown on plantations on deforested land. Instead of cardboard, the coffee cup is made from cornstarch, and the cookies are wrapped in plastic-like packaging made from renewable sources rather than oil and petroleum. Innovations in bio-based materials could make these products a reality. Bio-based materials, or biomaterials, are materials made from renewable raw materials and developed for a wide range of uses. Biomaterials are currently being developed or already produced for use in packaging, textiles, automotive parts, consumer electronics, construction materials, and even biomedical materials.

Bioplastics, plastic polymers made entirely from renewable raw and/or biological material, are poised to replace some of the oil-based plastics predominately used today. Plastic alternatives are important because less than 9% of plastic is recycled, with the vast majority ending up in landfills, oceans, or scattered throughout the ocean and other ecosystems in the form of tiny microplastic particles. Cellulose, the material that makes up vegetable fibers and the walls of plant cells, is one substance that can be used to replace plastic packaging and as an alternative to cotton and polyester. Cellulose is an attractive biomaterial because it is the dominant form of waste from the agri-food industry, coming in the form of prunings, clippings, and the leaves and stems of food crops.

The “plant-based fiber tech” company Footprint works to create a more sustainable economy by producing biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable plant-based alternatives to polystyrene foam and single- and short-term-use plastics in the food industry. They produce a variety of products, including supermarket trays, frozen food bowls, and fiber cups. Since 2014, their products have saved 61 million pounds of plastic waste from disposal into the environment and eventual arrival as plastic microparticles in the air, earth, and waterways.

Plant-based biomaterials can do more than replace plastic containers. Design company MOGU creates interior design materials from low-value organic industrial waste with the goal of producing durable, sustainable products with the lowest possible environmental impact. MOGU produces flooring and acoustic wall panels using mycelium, the vegetative state of fungus. The mycelium feeds off the raw input materials and converts them into a new composite material; this is then combined with upcycled or bio-based elements to make the final, biodegradable product. Given that industrial production of materials like steel, cement, aluminum, and plastic account for 45% of global GHG emissions, reducing the need for material production will lower the 10.2 billion tons of CO2 released annually in that process. In the auto industry, one potential way to lower a car’s CO2 emissions is to reduce the car’s overall weight by incorporating natural materials such as flax, hemp, and sisal into its structure. Replacing 1 kilogram of mild steel with aluminum reduces a car’s weight by up to 23% and is estimated to save 6 kilograms of CO2 equivalent. So, using a lighter, bio-based material like hemp can lead to countless savings in both CO2 emissions and material production waste.

Medicine is another area in which biomaterials are proving to be very useful. Polylactic acid (PLA) is a biomaterial that can be synthesized by bacterial fermentation of corn starch, sugarcane, beet sugar, or similar compounds—all of which are renewable materials. Polymers made from PLA are used to develop a variety of biomedical tools such as suturing threads, bone fixation screws, stent coating, and even devices to deliver drugs. PLA is particularly useful for these applications because it is biodegradable and naturally degrades when exposed to water, allowing medical devices made of PLA (nano)particles to eventually exit the body without the need for additional surgery or invasive procedure to remove them. PLA also needs 25–55% less energy than the standard petroleum-based polymers in order to be produced. Although PLA has some disadvantages such as being brittle, its status as a “green” polymer makes it an attractive and sustainable alternative to oil-based polymers.

In March 2020, the EU adopted the new circular-economy action plan (CEAP). Among the CEAP objectives are to “make sustainable products the norm in the EU” and “make circularity work for people, regions, and cities,” and it includes thirty-five planned actions such as regulating packaging waste and waste shipments and adopting strategies for circularity in the textiles, plastics, and electronics sectors. As part of this plan, the European Commission is set to adopt a policy framework for the use of bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable plastics in mid-2022. Bio-based materials are a crucial part of the shift toward a circular economy because they can be derived either from renewable raw materials or from the byproducts and waste products of other products and processes. Shifting product sourcing and supply chains to incorporate biomaterials whenever possible can go a long way toward reducing waste at the end of a product’s life cycle.

While bio-based materials are still used relatively infrequently, the upcoming decades will most likely see their steady adoption in daily life and popular products. Right now, scientific developments are being made which will enable bio-based materials to be used more widely in product packaging, medical tools and operations, automotive manufacturing, construction materials, and much more. The EU is one of the players at the forefront of developing and implementing circular economic policies, especially in the realm of bio-based materials and bioplastics. Through its many upcoming policy actions, it will help to normalize the use of bio-based materials in applications across various industries. This, in turn, will strengthen the concept of transitioning to a circular economy and encourage more countries, companies, and economies to adopt similar policies and make the transition to a more sustainable economy.
4.3.2 Waste Recycling, Upcycling, and Remanufacturing
While bio-based materials support circular economies due to using renewable raw materials or waste as inputs, various industries are also using other strategies to reduce waste and work toward a (more) circular economy. Recycling is the reuse of products or materials to make something new at the same level of quality. Upcycling, on the other hand, is the reuse of products or materials to make something at a higher quality level than what it was before. Remanufacturing is rebuilding a product like new, using a combination of reused, repaired, and new parts. It has the advantage of using less energy than recycling because the entire product does not need to be dismantled.

In 2020, 12.8% of the material resources used in the EU came from recycled waste materials. This circularity rate was highest in the Netherlands (31%), Belgium (23%), and France (22%), and overall represents an 8.4% increase since 2004. Metals had a 25% circularity rate, biomass (including paper, wood, and tissue) 10%, and fossil fuels 2%. Businesses that remanufacture hardware and appliances allow the original equipment manufacturers to reduce their carbon footprints because the lives of their products are extended. One such business is Circular Computing, which has designed a 5+-hour “circular remanufacturing process” and accompanying laptop remanufacturing factory. The process is designed to certify that a remanufactured laptop is “equal to or better than new,” and they boast that this process is both carbon neutral and saves the consumer 40% of the cost compared to an equivalent new laptop.

One of the biggest trends in upcycling is to upcycle waste to energy using the processes of gasification, incineration, or anaerobic digestion. This waste-to-energy process is doubly positive, providing energy and reducing waste in the process. Present in thirteen countries, energy company SEaB manufactures containers containing an anaerobic “digester” that either converts farm waste into heat and electricity or organic waste into energy.

Fashion is one of the industries where upcycling and recycling can have the biggest impact. Clothing makes up over 60% of total textiles used worldwide, and the fashion industry is estimated to be responsible for 10% of CO2 emissions and 20% of waste streams worldwide. Yet, only about 13% of the total materials used in the clothing and textile industries are recycled in some way after the clothing is used, and global apparel consumption is actually expected to rise from 62 million to 102 million tons by 2030, Clothing companies are beginning to tackle this problem using multiple strategies. For example, clothing retailer Kleiderly boasts the “World’s first eyewear collection made from recycled textiles.” They claim that for each kilogram of material they produce, they save 2.5kg of “CO2 equivalent,” which is a way of quantifying different GHGs in terms of their combined effect on global warming. According to a climate impact assessment conducted by climate consultancy Impact Forecast, Kleiderly has the potential to reduce almost 8,000 tons of CO2 equivalent per year, which is equal to driving a car around the world 936 times or powering 3,180 EU households with electricity. Danish company WAIR upcycles denim and workwear into sneakers with completely plant-based insoles, 100% recycled cotton laces, and soles that are 70% recycled and 30% virgin rubber. A Dutch company called Fastfeetgrinded has recently built the world’s first shoe-recycling machine, which can separate any shoe into foam, rubber, and textile at 2,500 shoes per hour. Designed at the request of the Dutch Ministry of Defense, the machine produces outputs of yarn and granules, which could (with more development) be made into new pairs of “circular” shoes.

Peoples’ attitudes toward reuse, recycling, and the other circular-economy strategies also seem to be warming. Over a third of consumers surveyed across adults in five EU countries said they choose to buy from brands that are doing social or environmental good, and 53% “feel better” when they buy products that are produced sustainably (even though these sentiments do not fully translate to changes in behavior). Sustainably designed “slow fashion” brands and clothing boutiques that produce longer-lasting products, sometimes from recycled or upcycled materials, are also gaining more of a market share. Thrift shopping and second-hand stores are increasingly popular, both for clothing and for other goods. Lastly, buy-nothing groups, in which users may ask for, offer, or express gratitude for anything as long as it is gifted to a group member, are steadily gaining popularity. Buy Nothing has 6,700 Facebook groups in forty-four countries, and the groups continue to grow. Buy Nothing groups are among the simplest expressions of recycling and circularity; people are finding uses for everything from dryer lint (bedding for a pet hamster) to dirty fish tank water (good fertilizer) to leftover pickle juice (a somewhat popular chaser for shots of liquor). These shifting attitudes toward recycling, upcycling, and reusing items, although still relatively small, point to a larger public shift toward implementing a circular economy across industries and at scale.

It is clear that as consumers, people increasingly value sustainably produced products—from clothing to home goods—whether they have been upcycled, recycled, or made from remanufactured materials. Companies in industries including fashion, computing, and energy are embracing aspects of circular design and waste recycling in their manufacturing processes, and there are certainly more examples and industries not covered in this book. The benefits that this shift will bring to the environment cannot be overstated. In the fashion realm alone, reusing 1kg of clothing would save 25 kilograms of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. The public and corporate support for reusing materials, coupled with the clear increase in the use of recycled waste materials across the EU, suggests that finding ways to reuse and recycle waste will continue to increase. That is good news for the environment.
4.3.3 Market Pressures & Corporate Social Responsibility
Changes in pressure by the market, consumer desires, and consumer expectations have shifted the attention of businesses towards sustainability. These market pressures have different origins: there are coercive drivers, resource drivers, market drivers, and social drivers. A response from businesses to these pressures is that they want to improve their competitive positions. Moreover, businesses do this by starting to integrate sustainability into their corporate strategies. A sustainable strategy provides a competitive advantage because it makes companies stand out from their competitors and helps them gain access to new markets. As a result, more companies are implementing CSR into their strategies. Over the years, there have been many ways of defining CSR. This section uses Jason Fernando’s CSR definition, which is as follows: “operating in ways that enhance society and the environment, instead of contributing negatively to them”.

Nowadays, green bonds, which have been created to fund “green” projects, are highly in demand. They are called green because these projects have a positive effect on the environment or bring benefits to the climate. There are also blue bonds, which are a rather new type of sustainability bond, seen as a debt instrument, and only a small number of these are issued. However, blue bonds are expected to be issued more in the future. By issuing blue bonds, one supports investments in marine and ocean-based projects. These, in turn, will have a positive impact on climate change, a (blue) economy, and a healthy ocean.

Different types of projects can be funded by blue bonds. The Asian Development Bank has created a framework categorizing the types of projects that are available to invest in. A few examples are fisheries, aquaculture, and ecosystem management and restoration. Furthermore, private investors are becoming ever more interested in water projects in emerging markets and this trend is expected to continue in the future. The existence of blue bonds raises awareness regarding marine issues. More and more organizations are investing in these blue bonds as a part of their CSR strategies in terms of sustainable finance. As a result, projects that really need funding receive this and can work on creating a healthier ocean because of it.

Currently, the world is at a point where CSR is required. In other words, firms are expected to have CSR as part of their business models instead of it being optional to integrate it into their strategies. For firms, it will become a challenge to survive in the long term in an ever-changing environment. Achieving long-term survival will necessitate doing business in ways that benefit the greatest number of people while lowering climate risk exposure. In the (near) future, firms will need to establish roadmaps to assure organizational change that supports achieving operational practices at sustainable levels. Examples are sustainable production methods, net-zero emissions, and zero waste management.
4.4 Conservation & the Natural Environment
Everything, from the quality of water within a river to a frog sitting on a nearby tree leaf, to the microbes in the soil beneath the tree’s roots, is interrelated. If the health of one changes, that of the others will eventually respond in kind. The Earth is made up of countless ecosystems: dynamic communities of plants, animals, and microorganisms, each with its own internal order yet also interconnected with other communities. These connections mean changes that affect the balance of one ecosystem can put others in jeopardy as well. Although ecology is usually seen as relating specifically to the relationships between plants, animals, and other organisms in a given area or community, humans are also part of these ecosystems.

Healthy ecosystems play an important role in keeping the natural world suitable for humans to survive. Ecosystem elements such as forests, coastlines, and wetlands provide services such as diminishing floods, protection against rising sea levels, and regulation of pollution. For better and for worse, the health of an ecosystem impacts the health of all the living beings within it—including humans.

The term “planetary health,” coined in 2015 by the Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet commission, is defined as “the health of human civilization and the state of the natural systems on which it depends”. It recognizes that the degradation of Earth’s natural and living systems is a direct threat to the health of human communities as well. This is one reason why the concept is increasingly recognized as a critical requirement even by people outside the world of environmental conservation. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Survey, all five of the top-five likelihood global risks and three of the top-five potential impact risks are all climate-related. Climate-action failure, biodiversity loss, and extreme weather are among the top risks, with natural disasters and human-made environmental disasters rounding out the top-five list.
top ten most likely long-term risks 2020-2030  
top ten most impactful long-term risks 2020-2030  
In short, biodiversity—the variety of life on Earth or within a given ecosystem—is an important part of understanding and measuring planetary health. Current environmental activism and shifts in public opinion are one way the fight for planetary health continues, and there are many technological innovations being put to use for the same cause. This section of the book explores each of these facets of the natural environment and conservation in more detail.
4.4.1 Biodiversity: How Do We Prevent Mass-Extinction?
Imagine waking up one morning to find that 95% of all living creatures existing on this planet—birds, land mammals, even bugs—had disappeared without leaving so much as a feather behind. Earth has experienced five such mass-extinction events in the past, each time losing the vast majority of the species alive at the time. Given that in the present day somewhere between 200 and 100,000 species are going extinct each year, we appear to be on the brink of another mass extinction.

Each past extinction event was caused by some kind of drastic change to the Earth’s environment: volcanic-eruption-induced global warming, ocean acidification and lack of oxygen in the oceans, acid rain, or other changes in the atmosphere and carbon cycle. It is not understood how exactly the environmental stresses caused these mass extinctions, but it is clear that the Earth’s ecosystem is impacted by drastic changes in the environment when those changes occur over a “short” (less than 2.8 million years) period of time. These changes have the same effect whether they are caused by humans or by natural disasters.

Biodiversity, or biological diversity, refers to all living things existing in their various ecosystems on Earth. It can be impacted by invasive species, extreme weather events, and agriculture among other factors. Land-use change, especially the changing of natural landscapes into agricultural land, has been the biggest driver of modern-day biodiversity loss thus far. This is not surprising considering that humans have significantly altered 75% of the Earth’s ice-free land (the other 25% being what we call “wilderness”). When plant and animal species naturally go extinct, their role in the ecosystem is filled by a new or different species. When they go extinct more quickly, it can be difficult for the ecosystem to adapt and stay in balance on that same timescale. The typical natural extinction rate is between 0.1 and 1 species per 10,000 species per hundred years. Mass-extinction events occur when the rate of species extinction is higher than this “background rate.” According to Katie Collins, a Curator of Benthic mollusks at the Natural History Museum in London, “the current rate of [species] extinction is between 100 and 1,000 times higher than the pre-human background rate of extinction, which is jaw-dropping.” Globally, wildlife population sizes of still-existing species have dropped by an average of 68% since 1970 with no signs of stopping; also, species diversity in over 50% of land ecosystems is critically low, compromising the health of the ecosystems they belong to. These and similar trends have led many scientists to declare that we have entered a sixth mass extinction. Dr. Collins is one of them; in her words, “We are definitely going through a sixth mass extinction.”

While the extinction of plants and animals on its own may not seem to some people to be a cause for worry, this biodiversity loss actually has huge implications for human lives as well. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, discussions of pandemic causes and prevention have surged and there has been renewed public awareness of how closely environmental health and public health are related. Almost half of new infectious diseases that emerge from animals are linked to land-use change and industrial and agricultural expansion into natural areas. This is partly because the loss of biodiversity leads to a larger presence of disease-bearing species, which can host pathogens that spread to humans. Many serious disease outbreaks also result from increased human-wildlife contact due to deforestation, expanding agriculture, and people moving into previously undeveloped areas. Given that humans continue to do these things and have yet to curb biodiversity loss, the chances of future pandemics following in the footsteps of Covid-19 seems ever more likely.

However, recently there have been various policy and business efforts to help tackle the biodiversity loss problem. In October 2021, world leaders at the UN’s COP15 meeting on biodiversity, created and agreed upon a new global biodiversity framework for 2021 to 2030. There, ninety-three countries signed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, committing to reverse biodiversity loss, place environmental health at the center of pandemic response, and transition to sustainable production and consumption. The European Commission also adopted its own biodiversity strategy in 2020, with a target to turn 30% of the EU’s land and 30% of its seas into “effectively managed and coherent protected areas” by 2030. Lastly, many companies are creating policies that address the biodiversity impacts of their business practices. For example, Unilever has pledged to stop business with any suppliers who enable deforestation through the production of palm oil, soy, and packaging. As part of its efforts to trace and improve its supply chain, Unilever has partnered with Google, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), and other organizations to establish the Forest Data Partnership. This partnership will provide open-source, accessible geodata about forest health and deforestation while also helping Unilever achieve its goals of (1) a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023 and (2) driving change across other deforestation-heavy industries. In a similar vein, partner organizations (coffee producers, traders, roasters, and retailers) to an initiative called the Sustainable Coffee Challenge have made forty-six commitments related to forest conservation and fifty-one related to climate.

The prospect of a sixth mass extinction looms large, the biodiversity loss crisis is urgent, and both will have decidedly negative impacts on human and environmental health if left without intervention. But fortunately, there is still time to protect the world’s biodiversity and with it, human life. As the World Wildlife Fund’s 2020 Living Planet Report 2020 states, “For the first time, we know what needs to be done if we’re to have a chance of putting nature on a path to recovery by 2030. With global action to protect wildlife, produce food in better ways, and change what we choose to eat, we can turn things around.”
4.4.2 Environmental Awareness and Activism
Activism for the environment and environmental protection is not new. Environmentalism has been around in some form since the first time that someone tried to stop pollution, protect public health, or preserve and protect a part of the natural world from harm. In other words, it has likely been happening somewhere on Earth since the first humans appeared. Today’s version of environmentalism builds upon the environmental challenges society faces today. Its focuses include advocating against pollution, excessive consumption, (over-)exploitation of natural resources, and advocating for fighting climate change, protecting vulnerable ecosystems, and investing in sustainable energy sources.

The climate crisis has only worsened, globally, since the 1970s. Warming and acidifying oceans hurt sensitive marine ecosystems while melting glaciers and ice sheets cause flooding, which will impact the roughly 75% of the world’s population who will live on or near a coast by the year 2025. In addition, over the coming years, climate change is projected to become one of the strongest drivers of biodiversity loss. Climate change will be destructive economically as well; a 2018 report compiled by United States federal agencies suggests that climate-related economic damage in the U.S. alone could reach 10% of U.S. GDP by 2100. A 2019 report by Scotland’s Institute for Public Policy Research states that environmental breakdown could “trigger catastrophic breakdown of human systems…through the globally linked system—in much the same way as occurred in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007–08.”

The climate crisis has led to ever-intensifying large-scale activism, from the loosely environmentally focused Occupy movement of the early 2010s to the more targeted global protests (Global Climate Strike, Fridays for Future), “green influencers” on social media, and youth-led environmental movements (Extinction Rebellion, the Sunrise Movement) of recent years. The formation of Extinction Rebellion groups in seventy-two countries and the participation of millions of school-aged children in the climate strikes are two of many indicators that public concern about climate change is shifting and that climate activism will continue to grow in the near future. More broadly, Pew Research’s Spring 2021 Global Attitudes Survey found that 72% of adults globally are very or somewhat concerned about the personal impacts climate change could have on them and 80% are willing to make “some” or “a lot” of lifestyle changes to help reduce the effect of climate change. At the same time, 49% of those surveyed felt that the UN’s climate change response was somewhat good and 5% felt it was very good. These shifts in public opinion as well as the large amount of youth involvement in climate protests and activism suggest that green policies and innovations will only become more common in the coming years.

There is also a growing sentiment among both science professionals and the broader public that decisive action is needed from corporations and government leaders in order to make changes on a scale necessary to avert the worst effects on the natural environment. According to Katie Collins, a curator at the Natural History Museum in London, “There is a lot of emphasis on individual action but most of the climate-altering pollution and fossil fuel burning is the responsibility of a small number of parties. It would be much more effective for individuals to put pressure on policymakers and businesses to reduce emissions and target companies that are major emitters.” The core idea is that while individual actions can make a positive impact in the fight, going after the largest contributors to pollution and climate destruction means directing protest and other efforts mainly toward major corporate emitters. This idea will likely continue to gain traction among people concerned about climate change and the environment because the large scale of potential climate devastation continues to become more evident with each deadlier-than-average natural disaster, each oil spill that devastates a section of the ocean, and each larger/stronger-than-average flood, cyclone, or hurricane.

A final, crucial thread in the tapestry of current environmental movements is the work of indigenous people and activists around the world. The past decade has seen: Water Protectors in North Dakota, U.S., fighting the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline; native Hawaiian kia’i pushback against the scientific community building the Thirty Meter Telescope on the sacred Mauna Kea volcano; and continued activism against logging, deforestation, and agricultural expansion from indigenous activists across the Amazon. These are just a few recent, high-profile examples of movements that are being led by indigenous people. To call these movements purely environmental would not do them justice because often their goals are multifaceted. Protecting the wildlife and natural environment of native land goes hand in hand with reclaiming and/or protecting the homelands of indigenous people, the health of the surrounding environment and ecosystems, and ultimately autonomy over their culture and history, and future. In a 2017 op-ed, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a member and historian of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, wrote: “This movement is not just about a pipeline. We are not fighting for a reroute, or a better process in the white man’s courts. We are fighting for our rights as the indigenous peoples of this land; we are fighting for our liberation, and the liberation of Unci Maka, Mother Earth. We want every last oil and gas pipe removed from her body. We want healing. We want clean water. We want to determine our own future… We have no choice but to break the cycle of trauma so our future generations can have a better life.” 
Indigenous activism and self-determination movements are not new—to the contrary, they have been ongoing since the first European settlers took land from the original inhabitants of North America. The difference is that now, such movements have been brought further into the spotlight and are gaining more support from communities around the world. Allard, who was one of the founders of the Sacred Stone Camp in Standing Rock, North Dakota, explained this shift well: “We are expendable people. We always have been. But we have the answers on how to save the world. We have the answers on how to live with this Earth. We have to stand up and share that knowledge.” More and more people around the world understand the urgency of living in harmony with the Earth rather than exploiting it, and understand that there is much to learn from the ways indigenous communities have historically done so. This is why environmental awareness will only keep growing, and why activism for a healthier planet will continue to be a key component of activism and social justice until the goal is finally achieved.

+ Camera Ford
Candace Fujikane’s 'Mapping Abundance for a Planetary Future' discusses climate change and ecological protection from the perspective of native Hawaiian history and community. It is a very interesting look at environmentalism from this indigenous perspective, where protecting and restoring the natural environment is fueled by observations locked in stories, chants, and songs over many generations. This is a very cool book if you would like to understand how environmental conservation goals like replenishing the earth’s natural resources are and have also been expressed in terms of cultural histories that are linked to the way the natural world works and describe ways of adapting to environmental changes. It also explores the self-determination of Hawaiian communities and the role that capitalism and settler colonialism play in harming Hawaiian lands, abundance, and nature.

4.4.3 Technology for Ecology & Conservation
Candace Fujikane’s 'Mapping Abundance for a Planetary Future' discusses climate change and ecological protection from the perspective of native Hawaiian history and community. It is a very interesting look at environmentalism from this indigenous perspective, where protecting and restoring the natural environment is fueled by observations locked in stories, chants, and songs over many generations. This is a very cool book if you would like to understand how environmental conservation goals like replenishing the earth’s natural resources are and have also been expressed in terms of cultural histories that are linked to the way the natural world works and describe ways of adapting to environmental changes. It also explores the self-determination of Hawaiian communities and the role that capitalism and settler colonialism play in harming Hawaiian lands, abundance, and nature.As mentioned in the Energy & Natural resources section of the Ecological chapter, the fields of energy technology and renewable energy are developing, birthing new innovations, and growing in popularity every day. But technology can make the world a better place ecologically in other ways too. The constant pace of technological development has made it possible to use the tools already available, on a large scale, to help fight climate change, protect wildlife, and protect or restore the environment.

Satellites orbiting the Earth in space are proving to be a good way to measure how well countries, companies, and organizations are following up on their climate commitments. In November 2021, a Dutch instrument on a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite detected that Australian coal mines were likely emitting much more methane than was being officially reported. The instrument, TROPOMI, is able to measure methane levels around the globe every day—so it can detect anything from oil pipeline leaks to coal mines to natural gas extraction. Satellites can also be used to combat deforestation, providing companies with data about whether their goods—for example, palm oil, cocoa, wood, or coffee—have come from deforested land. In both cases, being able to measure phenomena that are harmful to the environment will make it easier to determine when an organization or government is producing excessive or unexpected emissions and hold them accountable for it.

+ Elias Sohnle Moreno
Methane is a GHG that accounts for about 20 percent of global emissions.

Solar energy has been used as a source of renewable energy for some time. But a company called Heliogen is going a step further by using concentrated solar energy to provide high-temperature heat sources for processes like making cement and steel and creating clean hydrogen. One of the barriers to transitioning to a zero-carbon world has been that 75% of global GHG emissions come from agricultural, industrial, transportation, and building processes—all of which are very difficult to decarbonize. But Heliogen and partner company Bloom Energy have devised a method to produce green hydrogen, a powerful industrial energy source, from only water and concentrated solar power. This method produces hydrogen in an environmentally clean way and also has the capacity to replace the use of fossil fuels in many industrial applications, which would go a long way toward solving the so-called 75% problem.

Mobile device applications are also proving to be useful for environmental protection and conservation. The Treetracker application, developed by a nonprofit organization called Greenstand, tries to combat deforestation and global poverty at the same time. The open-source app allows farmers around the world to submit periodic updates of the growth of their trees, which Treetracker converts into value based on ecological impact. The farmers are then directly compensated for the value of the tree growth they have nurtured. In addition, citizen-science applications such as Map of Life, eBird, and similar ones allow users to submit photos and information about everything from plant and animal sightings to soil types to water temperatures encountered in their daily lives. This data is then often used in research in ecology, conservation, or other environmental fields.

These are just a few examples of the ways that technology can and is being used to fight against climate change and for the environment. These efforts will continue and intensify in the future, and thus it is clear that technology will play a key part in curbing environmental decline and mitigating the effects of climate change and other human-caused natural disasters. Technology will be increasingly used to do things like measure carbon emissions, detect forest fires, help companies green their supply chains and consumers verify the sustainability of their purchases, and even achieve a carbon-neutral existence. In some cases, the necessary technology even exists already, and what is missing is the will, funding, or focus to implement it to actually accomplish these goals. With determination and participation from people, organizations, and governments, these technologies can be put to their best use: helping to protect and restore the delicate balance of Earth’s environment and ecosystems, and human life along with it.

+ Elias Sohnle Moreno
One other promising technology is carbon capture technology.

4.5 Ecology and Climate Change: What’s heading our way?
Climate change touches on many of the challenges society will face over the coming years: a rising demand for food and water coupled with decreased supply, the need for renewable energy systems, the wastefulness and unsustainable nature of the current economic system, and the decline of the natural world and environment. These issues are in some cases caused partially by climate change and, in other cases, are contributing to the effects of climate change. But in each case, climate change will intensify these issues and the need to solve them in order to create a future where society as we know it can survive.

Luckily, there are major developments in each of these areas, either happening right now or in the near future, which will change the future prospects of the environment and help humans live more sustainably. Future advancements such as 3D food printing, alternative proteins, and clean-water technology solutions can improve the availability of food and clean water. Engineers continue to develop technologies to improve sustainable power generation via renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, water, and geothermal power. A shift toward corporate sustainability strategies and the incorporation of bio-based materials and new ways to reuse and recycle waste products will help the world move toward a circular-economy system. Also, a rise in public awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the natural world is leading to more activism, conservation campaigns, and technology geared toward fighting climate change and preventing or reversing environmental damage.

+ Benjamin Von Plehn
What about nuclear waste, and how this will affect our future. Intending to reduce their greenhouse emissions, countries are transitioning to nuclear power. However, these generate nuclear waste that produces fatal radiation for thousands of years. We do not know how to deal with it and just encase the waste in concrete boxes underground. But this isn't a reliable solution for a safe future.
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