The problem is the answer. The answer is nature.

On this week’s episode, Keran and Rux discuss nature-based solutions and some of the commonplace examples that are currently being used, including plastic made out of fish waste and kelp farming to help restore our oceans. Rux tells us about the book written by Bren Smith ‘Eat Like a Fish: My Adventures as a Fisherman Turned Restorative Ocean Farmer’. In the feature interview Keran speaks with ICRIER research assistant Tarun Singh on the application of nature-based solutions in urban areas.

A couple of years ago, I became obsessed with the NBC sitcom ‘The Good Place’. In my opinion, the greatest short form series that no one watched. For me, the philosophy behind the show’s narrative speaks to my omnipresent existential crisis about how we relate to the world around us. In the final season, we discover the answer to the question about how to reform the broken system around which the entire series centres: Eleanor, the main character, is the answer. The problem is the solution.

When researching and recording this week’s ep of the Be Loud: Climate podcast, this arc in the Good Place is exactly what came to mind. The answer to climate change could be that simple: nature.

Whilst this probably gives you more of an insight into the way my mind works, it also does raise an interesting question about the way that we have potentially over complicated the issue of climate change. Whilst there are incredible applications and alternative solutions being created by very smart people (some of whom we hope to have on our podcast), is the real solution as simple as stopping the degradation of our environment and restoration?

The answer to this question is of course YES. The solution and ultimately the outcome of all climate action will come down to how we stop our current trajectory and restore the balance of the natural world. The reality however is far more complicated for one cannot just turn back the clock of centuries of technological progress and revert human existence to a pre-industrial revolution state. Plastics and fossil fuels as the prime examples of human pollution are so fundamentally woven into our everyday lives that there is no conceivable planet without them.

This is where those very smart people come into play. The example given by Rux is Lucy Hughes who founded an alternative plastic called MarinaTex whilst a student at the University of Sussex using fish waste. This speaks to the degradation element of climate change to stop reliance on polluting materials in everyday products. The reality about these new materials - for solutions such as Lucy’s are not uncommon - is that the manufacturing is niche and therefore far more expensive to produce than ‘regular’ plastics. It will undoubtedly take some combination of these solutions to reach the scale/cost necessary to replace traditional plastics entirely.

The other side of the coin is the restoration of environments where biodiversity has been threatened to the extent that we are now seeing adverse environmental consequences as a result of degrading environmental practices. This is essentially an overall description of climate change, however in a localised context one can start to work on solutions. In this week’s episode we discuss this in two ways - the first is discussed in Bren Smith’s book on ocean farming, and the second is in the interview with Tarun Singh.

The solutions discussed in the episode this week highlight different themes - about the urban versus rural nature of applications, the education and collaboration required in order to make them work, and essentially the willingness to learn from nature. Whilst Bren Smith’s ocean farm is far removed from urban city centres, it is an essential component of natural regeneration given the overwhelming risk to the human race from loss of biodiversity. A risk that is well documented.

Conversely the interview with research scientist Tarun Singh highlights the opportunities and benefits of implementing nature-based solutions in urban areas, not only for the beautification and increase in biodiversity of what many consider to be ugly urban landscapes, but also has been proven to increase the happiness of people in those environments. In a world where rural communities are declining one has to consider it necessary to bring nature into these massive concrete jungles. There are many examples around the world of the positive impact of green spaces on urban environments and as the private sector has direct influence over this landscape, it is an easy way of having influence in this way.

The episode this week has given me serious food for thought, not only around the opportunity that we have as innovators to close the divide between ourselves and nature, but also bringing awareness to the fact that many of the innovative products and services that are changing the face of our industries are doing just that: bringing us back to nature.

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