Tackling the scarcity of resources

One of the biggest challenges facing humanity today is reducing our ecological footprint. Can research in areas like clean meat and precision agriculture help us limit our environmental impact?

Overview

Humanity is facing a global crisis. The latest results from the National Footprint Accounts - a globally recognised ecological footprint dataset - indicate that our ecological footprint is already 1.7 Earths. In other words, we are currently using nature 1.7[1] times faster than our planet's ecosystems can regenerate. And this global ecological ‘overshoot’ continues to grow.

The impact of this was clearly illustrated in a report released in May 2019 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which highlighted that 1 million of the world’s 8 million species were now at risk of extinction.[2]

Since 1800, the world population has grown sevenfold, surpassing 7.6 billion, and the global economy has grown 30-fold.[3] But it has really been in the last 50 years that economic development has driven a phenomenal increase in the demand for energy, land and water that is fundamentally changing Earth’s operating system. This phenomenon is known as the Great Acceleration. 

It is economic development and the growth of the world’s middle classes, rather than simply population rise, that is dramatically influencing the rate of change. This growth has improved the lives of billions of people. Global average life expectancy is over 70. Diseases such as smallpox have been eradicated and others look set to follow soon: mumps, measles, rubella, polio. More children reach adulthood and fewer women die during childbirth. Poverty is at an historic low.

Did You Know?

1.7

Earths - we are currently using nature 1.7 times faster than our planet's ecosystems can regenerate.

7x

population growth: since 1800, the world population has grown sevenfold, surpassing 7.6 billion.

20%

of the Amazon rainforest has disappeared in just 50 years.

Overview

However, these health, knowledge and standard-of-living improvements have come at a huge cost to the stability of the natural systems that sustain us. Our impact has now reached a scale at which it interferes profoundly with Earth’s atmosphere, ice sheets, ocean, forests, land and biodiversity.[4]

Since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, raising average global temperatures by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius – with climate change already impacting nature from the level of ecosystems to that of genetics.[5] In April 2018, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached an average of 410 parts per million (ppm) across the entire month – the highest level in at least 800,000 years.[6] Rainforests are shrinking: almost 20% of the Amazon, referred to as the lungs of the planet, has disappeared in just 50 years.[7]

To tackle these challenges, it is vital that we understand the biggest threats to nature so that we can better protect it. Climate change is certainly a growing threat, but according to the latest Living Planet Report and the IPBES report, the main drivers of biodiversity decline continue to be the overexploitation of species, agriculture and land conversion – all driven by runaway human consumption. 

What’s currently happening in this field?

There is no one field of research tackling the scarcity of resources. Indeed, research in almost every area of science, from atmospheric physics to Artificial Intelligence could profoundly shape how we maintain Earth’s natural resources, and reduce humanity’s impact. The below gives a quick snapshot of just a couple of areas which are of particular interest to us:

  • Lower emissions

    Our corporate program for the global reduction of CO2 emissions achieved a significant climate goal in 2020. Curious, how much we saved?

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  • The Niemeyer Sphere

    Discover how liquid crystal dynamic glass technology helped realize the Niemeyer sphere and combines both, aesthetic and function.

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  • Emission-free cars

    Inspired by nature, a new generation of hydrogen-based fuel cell vehicles do no longer need large amounts of precious metals – thus becoming much more affordable.

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  • Driving the e-highway

    Find out how Germany’s electric highway pilot project could drastically cut carbon emissions caused by truck traffic.

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  • MEAT - THE NEXT LEVEL

    Cleaner, healthier, more ethical meat products that are less damaging for our planet. Is clean meat the food of the future?

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  • AGRICULTURE OF THE FUTURE

    To meet the challenges of feeding the world, we created smart light-tuning materials. By fine tuning the sunlight we will accelerate plant growth and increase yields.

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  • OLED: FOLDABLE DISPLAYS

    Imagine a phone you can fold up and put in your pocket. This might sound like science fiction, but that possibility may be just around the corner.

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  • Milk & Cheese but no cows

    Scientists are using cellular agriculture to make ethical dairy products that eliminate the need for cows, but without compromising on taste and texture.

    DIVE DEEPER
  • LCW: SMART GLASS

    How can we create healthier, more sustainable buildings? With our groundbreaking smart glass technology: liquid crystal windows (LCW).

    DIVE DEEPER
  • CYRENE: GREEN CHEMISTRY

    We are using green chemistry to develop a portfolio of environmentally-friendly, safer solvents – like Cyrene.

    DIVE DEEPER
  • MOF: TINY, BUT PROMISING

    We know that human activity is having extreme adverse consequences for our planet. One of the most exciting fields to emerge solutions is metal-organic frameworks (MOFs).

    DIVE DEEPER

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