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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Earthshot: A Global Contest to Repair our Planet

A 10-month global search culminated in one of the most prestigious environmental awards in history.

A 10-month global search culminated in one of the most prestigious environmental awards in history. Through a rigorous selection process supported by an Expert Advisory Panel, 15 finalists were chosen out of 750 applications for their potential to impact people and the natural world positively. Out of the 15 finalists, five winners were chosen during a star-studded lineup for the first-ever Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony. The event took place in London at Alexandra Palace and broadcast on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and globally on Discovery’s Facebook page on Sunday, October 17.

Each year for the next ten years, one million dollars will be awarded to each winner in the following categories: Protect and Restore Nature, Clean Our Air, Revive Our Oceans, Build a Waste-free World and Fix Our Climate. The Duke of Cambridge’s Royal Foundation funds Earthshot.

This year’s winners spanned the globe from Costa Rica to India and included transformative technologists, innovators, an entire country and a pioneering city. They were chosen for their groundbreaking solutions for the most significant environmental challenges facing our planet. 

“Our five inspirational winners show that everyone has a role to play in the global effort to repair our planet. We need businesses, leaders, innovators and communities to take action, and ultimately, we need all of us to demand that the solutions get the support they need. Because the success of our winners is our collective, global Earthshot,” Founder and Prize Council Member Prince William said. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were joined by Sir David Attenborough, Christiana Figueres, Dani Alves and a host of stars and performers, including Ed Sheeran and Yemi Alade, for the awards telecast which was broadcast live on Discovery Plus and Facebook.

During the telecast, 60 cyclists rode stationary bikes positioned around the stage outside Alexandra Palace while Coldplay and the other artists performed their music. The energy the cyclists managed to create provided the power for the show.

Ironically, this was the first time Coldplay has performed since 2019, when they vowed to resume only under sustainable conditions. The stage at the event was built using non-plastic material, and the guests were all advised to wear eco-conscious outfits.

The Earthshot Prize Winners include:

Protect and Restore Nature: The Republic of Costa Rica 

Forests are home to half our plants and animals and three-quarters of our birds. They suck carbon dioxide from the air and return the oxygen we breathe. Yet in 2020, more trees were felled than ever before, causing 10% of global warming. The people of Costa Rica and their Ministry for Environment have reversed decades of deforestation. Since the program launched, Costa Rica’s forests have doubled in size, leading to a boom in ecotourism and contributing $4 billion to the economy. 

Now Costa Rica will expand their work to protect the ocean and support replicating its approach in other countries, especially in the Global South. Costa Rica’s motto is “Pura Vida,” or “pure life.” Those words could soon echo across the world.

Clean our Air: Takachar, India 

Globally, we generate $120 billion of agricultural waste every year. What farmers cannot sell, they often burn, with catastrophic consequences for human health and the environment. The burning of agricultural waste causes air pollution that has reduced life expectancy by a decade in some areas. In the fields surrounding New Delhi, smoke from manufactured infernos fills the air, with severe consequences for the residents’ health. 

Takachar has developed a cheap, small-scale, portable technology that attaches to tractors in remote farms. The machine converts crop residues into sellable bio-products like fuel and fertilizer. This technology reduces smoke emissions by up to 98%, which will help improve the air quality that currently reduces the affected population’s average life expectancy by up to 5 years. If scaled up, it could cut a billion tons of carbon dioxide a year: a win for India’s farmers in the fight against climate change.

Revive our Oceans: Coral Vita, Bahamas 

Ocean warming and acidification are set to destroy over 90% of reefs by 2050, a death sentence for the quarter of marine life who need them to survive. It will be a disaster, too, for the billion human lives who depend on the benefits reefs provide.

After Sam Teicher and Gator Halpern launched Coral Vita’s first facility in Grand Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian destroyed their coral farm. The experience brought home the extent of the climate emergency and strengthened their resolve to protect our reefs.

Coral Vita, which grows coral on land to replant in oceans, gives new life to dying ecosystems. Their method grows coral up to 50 times faster than traditional methods and improves resilience to the impact of climate change. Coral Vita aims to establish a global network of coral farms to grow a billion corals each year.

As well as restoring reefs, Teicher and Halpern work with local communities, public officials, and private companies to improve education, create new job prospects, and build a model to inject more funding into environmental protection. Coral Vita gives new life not just to the ocean but to coastal economies as well.

Coral Vita team working on August 30th, 2021. Coral Vita, Freeport / Grand Bahama.

Build a Waste-free World: The City of Milan Food Waste Hubs, Italy 

A third of all food produced globally is wasted. Each discarded food item uses precious resources and heaps pressure on agriculture. The global food system generates 25% to 30% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

The City of Milan’s Food Waste Hubs tackles two problems in one. Launched in 2019 to halve waste by 2030, each hub recovers food mainly from supermarkets and companies’ canteens and gives it to non-governmental organizations that distribute it to poverty-stricken citizens.

It is the first major city to enforce a citywide food waste policy. Today the city has three Food Waste Hubs, each recovering about 130 tons of food per year, equivalent to an estimated 260,000 meals.

Milan has created a blueprint that can be scaled throughout the world. If more follow Milan’s lead, cities may become one of our greatest assets in humanity’s progress towards lessening hunger world-wide.

Fix our Climate: AEM Electrolyser, Thailand/Germany/Italy 

Born in a climate-change-affected South Pacific Island, Vaitea Cowan co-founded Enapter to turn back the tide. Just three years on, its green hydrogen technology could change the way we power our world. Even though we have made considerable advances in renewable energy, we can still go further. With 30% of our energy already renewable, we need to focus on the 70% that remains: non-renewable energy that powers everything from industry to transport. 

Enapter provides a clean alternative. Its AEM Electrolyser technology turns renewable electricity into emission-free hydrogen gas. The technology already fuels cars and planes, powers industry, and heats homes. By 2050, Enapter’s vision is to account for 10% of the world’s hydrogen generation.

“The natural world on which we entirely depend is declining at a rate faster than at any time since the end of the dinosaurs. We know where this story is heading and we must now write a different ending. This is what The Earthshot Prize was created to achieve,” Earthshot Prize Council Member Sir David Attenborough said. “The 15 Earthshot Prize Finalists build optimism by finding innovative and brilliant solutions to the world’s challenges, and they give us hope, which, we are told, springs eternal.”

Vaitea Cowan, Cofounder, Head of Communications of ENAPTER.
Crespina Lorenzana (Pisa).
photo by Marco Garofalo/2021

The Earthshot Prize will travel to the U.S in 2022, and nominations will begin in January. Visit earthshot.org for more info.

Keep up with all of Green Living’s original content online and on social media.

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