Some people want to geo-engineer the planet to prevent the worst catastrophes coming our way if we are unable to reduce our CO2 emissions fast enough. Proposals include dumping vast amounts of iron or lime in the ocean to stimulate phytoplankton growth, building giant mirrors in space to reflect sunlight, removing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it underground in old mines, and spraying the stratosphere with sulfates to reflect sunlight using fleets of airplanes with spray nozzles.
Needless to say there are many potential issues with these ideas, not the least of which is that we have absolutely no idea what might happen if we attempt them. There is no experiment we can run on a test planet: this is the only one we’ve got, and if we try one of these experiments, and it fails or goes horribly wrong…well. I don’t have to tell you the rest of that story.
Anyway, we’re already geo-engineering the planet, as we pump millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. Rather than rely on more technology, with potentially disastrous side effects, more sensible people believe that we should instead look to nature for solutions to the challenges that lie ahead—solutions that are safe, and do less damage to a world already on the edge.
Janine Benyus invented the emerging field of Biomimcry—the imitation of nature in our engineering and design processes. In this video about her work, Janine describes the many ways in which nature has inspired the design of products, including concrete that sequesters CO2, plastic made from CO2, networked appliances that reduce energy requirements, and high-efficiency wind farms inspired by the movement of schools of fish.
It’s an incredibly inspiring film. I wish everyone at the Paris COP21 climate change conference these past two weeks could see it and be inspired by it too.
As Jason Box, Greenland glaciologist, recently said about solving climate change: “Bio-mimicry is the key rather than a space age technofix.”