creativity

The Great Green Wall of Africa

The Great Green Wall plan. Image by NASA.

A lot of my writing life revolves around science, environmental sustainability, and biomimicry. This Fall, I’m starting a graduate program in Sustainability Leadership at University of Cambridge. As I prepare for that program, I’m researching different programs around the world that are restoring land and protecting species from the effects of climate change.

I recently learned about a project called the Great Green Wall. From their website:

Growing a World Wonder
The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa. Once complete, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet, 3 times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.

A decade in and roughly 15% underway, the initiative is already bringing life back to Africa’s degraded landscapes at an unprecedented scale, providing food security, jobs and a reason to stay for the millions who live along its path. 

The Wall promises to be a compelling solution to the many urgent threats not only facing the African Continent, but the global community as a whole–notably climate change, drought, famine, conflict, and migration. 

Improving Millions of Lives
The Great Green Wall is taking root in Africa’s Sahel region, at the southern edge of the Sahara desert – one of the poorest places on the planet.

More than anywhere else on Earth, the Sahel is on the frontline of climate change and millions of locals are already facing its devastating impact. Persistent droughts, lack of food, conflicts over dwindling natural resources, and mass migration to Europe are just some of the many consequences.

Yet, communities from Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East are fighting back. 

Since the birth of the initiative in 2007, life has started coming back to the land, bringing improved food security, jobs and stability to people’s lives.

A Global Symbol
The Great Green Wall isn’t just for the Sahel. It is a global symbol for humanity overcoming its biggest threat – our rapidly degrading environment.

It shows that if we can work with nature, even in challenging places like the Sahel, we can overcome adversity, and build a better world for generations to come.

Growing More Than Trees
More than just growing trees and plants, the Great Green Wall is transforming
the lives of millions of people in the Sahel region.    

The Great Green Wall makes a vital contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (known as the SDGs)—a global agenda which aims to achieve a more equitable and sustainable world by 2030. It’s rare to find a project that impacts all of the SDGs and the Great Green Wall does just that.

We can all be involved in this effort. Visit https://www.greatgreenwall.org/ to learn more.

01- Containing2.jpg
Growing a new world wonder across the entire width of Africa.
Growing fertile land, one of humanity’s most precious natural assets. 
Artboard 21 copy 10@0.5x.png
Growing a wall of hope against abject poverty.
Growing food security, for the millions that go hungry every day. 
Artboard 21 copy 11@0.5x.png
Growing health and wellbeing for the world’s poorest communities. 
Artboard 21 copy 12@0.5x.png
Growing improved water security, so women and girls don’t have to spend hours everyday fetching water. 
Artboard 21 copy 9@0.5x.png
Growing gender equity, empowering women with new opportunities.
Artboard 21 copy 14@0.5x.png
Growing sustainable energy, powering communities towards a brighter future. 
04- jobs.jpg
Growing green jobs, giving real incomes to families across the Sahel. 
Artboard 21 copy 5@0.5x.png
Growing a reason to stay
to help break the cycle of migration.
Artboard 21 copy 13@0.5x.png
Growing sustainable consumption patterns,
to protect the natural capital of the Sahel. 
Growing resilience to climate change in a region where temperatures are rising faster than anywhere else on Earth. 
Growing a symbol of peace in countries where conflict continues to displace communities. 
Artboard 37@0.5x.png
Growing a symbol of interfaith harmony across Africa.
Artboard 21 copy 8@0.5x.png
Growing strategic partnerships to  accelerate rural development across Africa

creativity

Sharing my biomimicry journey

This year marks 25 years since the release of Janine Benyus’s book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. The Biomimicry Institute is marking the occasion with a set of videos from biomimicry practitioners about how they got interested in biomimicry. I’m honored to be asked to participate and have them share my journey in this short video. Learn why I decided to pursue biomimicry and how storytelling can help us build a more sustainable world.

creativity

Write every day: Teaching 300 students about biomimicry this week

pawel-czerwinski-lWBZ01XRRoI-unsplash
Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

This week, I have the great pleasure and honor to teach biomimicry to 300 high school and college students through a program run by the Wildlife Conservation Society. (WCS is famously known in the U.S. for all of New York’s zoos including the Bronx Zoo, central Park Zoo, and New York Aquarium!) The feedback was terrific with some of them saying this was the best presentation they’ve had in their entire summer program and a few of them reaching out to me personally asking if I’d mentor them.

They’ve filled me with joy and I’m grateful to all of them and to WCS for the opportunity to share my passion for nature as our greatest design teacher. I’m one tiny step closer to my goal of finding a way to get biomimicry into every high school and college in the country. If you’d like me to present to your group or class (young children, teens, or adults), please let me know!

creativity

Write every day: I finished my biomimicry graduate program

I bursted into tears yesterday when I turned in my final assignment for my capstone project to complete my biomimicry graduate school program. A year and a half ago I started this journey and I wasn’t sure where it would take me but I knew I was fulfilling a dream I’d had since I was a kid—to bring science into my career in a deep and meaningful way. There was no way I could have known then the spotlight that would be on science now, or how important it would be to finish my program now and get out into the world and use it. So here’s what I’m doing with it, starting today…welcome to the world Beyond Plastic.

creativity

Write every day: I was accepted to the 2020 ComSciCon Flagship Workshop

Screen Shot 2020-04-22 at 7.16.55 PMI’m so excited to share the news that I was accepted into the ComSciCon Flagship workshop, a science communication event for graduate students. 950 graduate students applied this year for 50 slots. This year’s event was supposed to be in Boston but will be held online because of COVID-19. I’m honored to participate at this critical time in our history when science and science communication are having massive impacts on every area of our lives in every corner of the world. I can’t wait to meet and learn with the other attendees and all of the invited experts. To learn more about this event and the organization, please visit https://comscicon.com/comscicon-2020-flagship-workshop.

 

creativity

Write every day: Finding hope in science

Need to hear about hopeful ways science and biomimicry are working to stop the spread of COVID-19? I’m honored to be presenting my research and work at this Call to Action webinar on Tuesday, 4/7 at 2pm EDT with my colleagues and you can attend! The webinar is free and you need to register to receive the log-in information. Register at: bit.ly/2Ra2AF5

87AA1433-4F58-4A0D-AEF2-C87C6392DBBE

creativity

Joy today: My writing about biomimicry’s role in the Green New Deal and the Blue New Deal

I’m so excited to share that I reached one of my big writing goals for 2019: I wrote and published two pieces about biomimicry for a science publication. I’m so grateful to The Biomimicry Institute for reaching out to me and asking me to write for them. My two pieces about biomimicry’s pivotal role in the Green New Deal (a set of policies to protect the health of our planet) and the Blue New Deal (a subset of Green New Deal policies that focuses on the health of our oceans) are now live. You can read them at the links below. I’d love to know what you think!

The Green New Deal and Finding Hope through Biomimicry (Part 1)

Going Blue: Transforming the Oceans’ Vicious Cycle into a Virtuous One with Biomimicry (Part 2)

creativity

Joy today: Heading to SciCommCamp

I tried to sleep in today to rest up for the wknd. I just couldn’t—way too excited for SciCommCamp. I’m in LA only for the weekend to go to this amazing conference that is nerdy Fall camp for people who love science and love talking about it! Sneaking in a quick trip to Griffith Park before heading up to Simi Valley. Excited for everything I’m going to learn and I promise to share when I get back.

Sometimes I think I could live off a steady diet of curiosity, joy, and enthusiasm. (I won’t test that theory because I love food but it’s a strong hunch!)

LA, I’m glad to see you again and I’m pretty sure I’ll be back again very soon. Happy Friday, friends.

creativity

Joy today: Community colleges deserve more credit

For the past few weeks, I’ve been looking around for an affordable way to take some science pre-requisites. While I’ve learned so much in my biomimicry studies, I really need a much stronger foundation in science and research to do the work I want to do—using nature’s designs to build products, systems, and services.

This led me to reach out to a Principal Investigator (PI) who runs a nanotechnology lab here in New York City, where I live. We’ve had some wonderful conversations and are planning to do a short research project together this spring which will be my last requirement for my biomimicry certificate. I’m considering doing my PhD with him, and to make that a possibility I need to take science requisites: two semesters each of biology, chemistry, and organic chemistry. The challenge—science classes are expensive!

I investigated online options thinking that would be the most economical way to go. Not by a long shot! They didn’t have any with labs, which is what I need, and I was astounded at the cost – $700 per credit for 22 credits left me looking at a tuition bill of over $15,000. And that wasn’t even the total cost since I’d have to get the lab experience elsewhere. I was crestfallen.

Then on a whim, I decided to look into the local community college – Borough of Manhattan Community College. And what to my wondering eyes did appear? Classes conveniently timed and in mixed formats of online, in-person, and hybrid at $263 per credit for in-state residents like me. I’m elated! I can get all my requirements in done right on time to (hopefully) start my PhD in the Fall of 2021.

Community colleges are unsung heroes in our communities, and I’m going to be shouting about their value for a long time. If you have dreams that require some additional education, I highly encourage giving your local community college a look. I hope you’re as surprised and delighted as I am by the opportunities they offer.

creativity

Joy today: How Twitter gave me my new writing opportunity

As many of you know, I’ve been working on my science writing and bringing since into my career as a product developer. I’m so excited to share that over the next few months, one of my favorite biomimicry publications is going to publish a series of pieces I’ve been wanting to write. I’m over the moon excited about this, and as a source of inspiration, I wanted to share how it all came about.

Twitter magic and the glass sponge
I’m pretty active on Twitter where my feed is mashup of different topics, two main ones being my writing and my work in biomimicry. A couple of weeks ago, I learned about the glass sponge for a grad school assignment.

Very quick recap: the glass sponge lives on the ocean floor over 1000 meters below sea level and is one of the oldest species in existence today. It builds one of the the most stable structures on Earth with the minimal amount of material needed. Its glass is transparent, flexible, and created from sea minerals (such as calcium carbonate, salt, and carbon dioxide) at ocean temperatures (~4 degrees Celsius, ~39 degrees Fahrenheit). It is created and then biodegrades without any toxic waste. Human-made glass is extremely fragile, expensive, and dirty to create—glass and cement production generates 5-7% of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions. It requires very hot temperatures in a kiln and therefore is also energy intensive.

Though we’ve known about the glass sponge for decades, engineers, designers, and scientists have no idea how it creates its glass and we’ve never been able to replicate its far superior product. It’s an absolute mystery. But when we learn its secrets, it has the potential to transform our construction industry into one that’s sustainable, clean, and healthy for the planet.

Power to the crowd
So…back to my writing. I wrote a tweet about the magnificent glass sponge just as part of my regular social media promotion of science and biomimicry. It got a lot of attention and became the 2nd most shared story about biomimicry on Twitter the week I posted it, second only to one my Mashable. That got the attention of this publication, and they asked me if I’d like to write something for them. And heck yes, I would!

What I’ll be writing
They asked me to pitch a topic to them. True to my brand, I gave them 10 pitches hoping there might be one in there that they’d like. To my surprise, they loved them all and asked me to write one a month. So, we’re off the races and here are the first few topics that will be coming out in the next few months:

1. Biomimicry and the Green New Deal (November)
2. Biomimicry and materials science (December)
3. Biomimicry makes the case for species conservation (January)
4. Medical applications of biomimicry (February)

I tell this story because I want it to inspire you to get out there and shout about what you love, what fascinates you, not because you hope it gets you something but just because you love it so much that you can’t keep it to yourself. I’m thrilled by this development in my writing. Shocked even. And even if no one liked the glass sponge tweet, it wouldn’t have mattered because I love it and wanted to share it.

The big publishing take-away
That’s the bit no one ever told me about publishing. In the age when people are obsessed with platform and followers and likes and retweets, too many of us have forgotten about joy. That’s the thing to focus on. That’s the secret sauce that keeps us going. Fill up your head, heart, hands, and feeds with joy, and see what happens. It’s a skeleton key that unlocks doors we didn’t even know were there.