Each year, the UN chooses a theme for the International Day for Biological Diversity. Every theme is geared to increase the understanding and awareness of the biodiversity issues it relates to. Climate change was the focus of 2007, just before the first Kyoto protocol commitment period. Biodiversity and climate change are fundamentally linked. Worldwide, about 72000 plant species are used for medical purposes, of which 21% are endangered. While in the Caribbean, corals provide an estimated US$5-11 billion in services each year.
In this context, celebrating a day seems like a small thing— but in the fight against unsustainable models, every effort in raising awareness of the issues counts. The reason for this particular post runs along these lines, as 2015’s theme is Biodiversity for Sustainable Development.
Following the spirit of sustainable development and biodiversity below are five truly innovative sustainable projects that couldn’t exist without access to our rich and diverse natural capital:
We might not pay much attention to bacteria, but a 2004 study informs that the patterns of bacterial diversity may be qualitatively similar to those observed for plants and animals. It is thanks to this diversity, and one limestone-producing bacteria in particular, that researcher Henk Jonkers from TU Delft has been able to develop a type of self-healing concrete with a 200-year warranty, and be nominated for a European Inventor Award.
In Hamburg, the international engineers from Arup, piloted a bio-adaptive building facade, thanks to living micro-algae embedded in the building’s material. The built-in algae absorbs solar energy used to heat the building’s hot-water tank while providing shading, privacy, thermal insulation, and noise reduction. As if all that wasn’t enough, the mature algae can also be harvested and fermented, producing energy.
No one’s managed to make a 100% renewable carton yet, but we are getting closer. One example is the new Tetra Pak developed in partnership with Braskem, which will be made of 78% renewable content, thanks to sugar cane. What if the answer for the missing 22% is in other plants?
In Italy, designers have come up with vertical garden panels that regulate moisture levels and clean the air of interiors, thanks to lichen embedded in a resin base. The fact that benettiMOSS is beautiful also doesn’t hurt.
Speaking of hurt, researchers and engineers at Kansai University in Japan have created a pain-free needle after careful study of the mosquito’s mouth. While biology isn’t an integral part of these new needles, this and other biomimetic designs would be impossible to achieve if scientists and researches didn’t have diverse biological examples to mimic.
These are just some innovations that use biodiversity for sustainable development. There is still much more to be said and done on this topic – which is why the IDB will soon be launching a blog dedicated to the subject.