Appropriate technologies for ecologically balanced human societies

By Samantha Jewel

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This blog is about ‘advocacy in action’ and considers topics covered by the World Forum’s next Davos meeting in January 2020.

  1. How to address the urgent climate and environmental challenges that are harming our ecology and economy
  2. How to transform industries to achieve more sustainable and inclusive business models as new political, economic and societal priorities change trade and consumption patterns
  3. How to adapt to the demographic, social and technological trends reshaping education, employment and entrepreneurship
  4. How to govern the technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution so they benefit business and society while minimizing their risks to them

(World Economic Forum Agenda, 2019)

This paper will propose that these four fundamental transformations are the only sane way to impact climate change because they disrupt the cycles of industry and labour that currently interact with the earth. Our tech focused start-up called Urth.io evaluates and promotes projects in support of these aims. We search for projects that steward the planet by regenerating soil, providing food and fibre in a sustainable way. We value approaches that slowly scale from local to global. We provide a platform that facilitates validation, education and commerce to connect and sell products achieving these aims.

The grim reality is that many countries will strip their food supply and their resources in pursuit of non-sustainable economic and political interests.  If we do not apply our intelligence to expanding from what we already have, then we extend the cycle of destruction rather than production. Circular economies and regenerative agriculture already exist but need scaling in a sustainable way.

Connecting markets to food, fibre plant and animal sources is a starting place.

At root of the problem is our scientific reductionist tendency to look at ideas in isolation.  But there are great thinkers emerging that are expansionist visionaries who are, at their core, promoting practical new ways of solving these problems for economic and planetary benefit. Nature, in contrast to reductionism, tends to be inclusive. It evolves in synchronicity, adapting and discarding species to serve one purpose. Survival. We, however, do not permit this discarding process with quite the same elegance. We seem to have missed a key component of this drive in that we choose exclusion not inclusion of our environment in our economic solutions.  We have the capacity for it and many new approaches use bio-mimicry or modelling of nature’s own solutions. As we awaken to the impending destruction of our wonderful lives, there has been an explosion of thought and development of ideas that go back to nature and step forward gently.

Throughout our history, we have mastered a skill or a technology, like fire and then forged ahead! It’s how we evolve. We cut, burn and poison our way toward survival and for the most part, the bounteous supply of earth’s materials has made this possible. We have thrived as a species, taking us so far from mere survival that we have lost the basic connection to nature as the source of our inspiration.

Australia, as a very sparsely populated and richly resourced country can spawn ideas that may appear idealistic on a global scale. In designing sustainable ways forward, the skeleton of any idea always needs to start at a workable local level with a confirmed market at affordable prices either for a defined market, until the volumes can be established to bring the costs down sustainably. We have knowledge and connection to the land through our rural businesses. Our experience tell us that by starting with the farmer and make items grown as local as possible, on rooves, in indoor gardens, nature strips, even weeding, our cities can refocus us toward the climate balance.

Secondly, ethical and community-inclusive investing with both macro and micro-funding platforms can facilitate impact investing.  Enabling community participation in new technologies that serve local needs is critical. Some Nordic countries are already pioneering successfully with micro-investing in the sustainable energy system space. There are concerns that population growth could overwhelm the planet’s resources too soon for us to adapt. Solutions already exist but food production needs to start with government support of the thousands of small scale farmers who are capable of moving quickly to projects that regenerate soil and sequester carbon.

Thirdly, if AI and robotics trends, feared because of the threat of reducing jobs in destructive industries, free up labour to care for and add creativity to regenerative industries, we have untapped potential for sustainable, healthy work. We need to focus on educating, profiling and adapting our search for purpose and inclusion. Regenerative work offers this potential to meet creativity and nurturing needs both on the land with animals and care of equipment.

Anti-corruption and anti-opportunism measures are being developed to track authentic soil improvement projects and their produce. This allows us to draw down carbon and rebalance the climate in an economically viable manner. We are developing this at Urth.io with a 5-point surveying and Blockchain encryption system. Rather than demanding the farmer prove authenticity, while offering nonviable prices in globalised markets that compete on reduced labour costs, we can focus on removing the corruption that robs farmers of the profit margins they deserve. In focusing on the end goal of a healthy, sustainable planet, we can both raise the value of the products and ensure those products reach their markets without corruption.

Regenerative farming can work with plant and animal combinations to restore climate balance through improved soil and overall ecological health. Drawdown statistics show that 90% of agriculture is monocrop land. Nature does not tend to grow things in isolation of other species and relies on the evolved symbiosis of plant and animal species to balance functions for survival. We need to mimic these partnerships, not exclude them, if we are to survive.

Samantha Jewel is a Company Director of the Family company Pancake Parlour. She founded Urth.io and has specialized in organic food research and its implementation.

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