Transforming problems into opportunities by mimicking nature

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is about to end its 20th annual conference in Lima, Peru, and heads of state and negotiators from every country on Earth are fighting to get other countries to reduce their CO2 emissions as much as possible, in order to keep global warming below catastrophic levels.

This approach to tackling climate change has, as one might have expected, proven depressingly ineffective. Since the Kyoto Protocol was agreed on in 1997, CO2 emissions have increased steadily, with not the slightest hint of a slow-down. The level of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere has now reached 400 ppm (parts per million), which is more than ever before observed in the history of Homo Sapiens.

Fortunately, there are lots of creative, constructive and persistent people working on practical solutions for a happier, healthier, greener and more sustainable future. Of the thousands of inspiring, creative and constructive TED talks, I have selected three that focus on transforming our current climate change problems into opportunities by mimicking nature:

  • Allan Savory: How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change
    Two-thirds of the world’s grasslands are in the process of desertification, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. In this astonishing talk, Allan Savory provides a most unexpected solution for reversing desertification and climate change while increasing food production.
  • Michael Pawlyn: Using Nature’s Genius in Architecture
    Nature has benefited from 3.5 billion years of R&D, and has found efficient solutions for just about any problem. Michael Pawlyn describes three habits of nature that could transform architecture and society: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun.
  • Bjarke Ingels: Warp-speed architecture tales
    Danish architect Bjarke Ingels tells the stories of his eco-flashy buildings, that not only look like nature —they act like nature. Adapting to the happenstances of life has been key to developing these amazing habitats.

The three talks show that it does not have to be costly and painful to address climate change. We don’t have to go “back to nature,” become self-sufficient vegans, and give up our electronic gadgets. But we could benefit from learning from nature, as nature already holds all the solutions. Combining nature with science and human creativity is a promising avenue for a greener, happier, healthier and more sustainable future for human kind.


Dr. Lykke E. Andersen is the Director of the Center for Economic and Environmental Modeling and Analysis (CEEMA) at the Institute of Advanced Development Studies (INESAD), La Paz, Bolivia.






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