The new ‘space’ cold war plows forward as countries, companies and CEOs with too much money partake in an epic and expensive pissing match. Meanwhile, 7.8 billion people on Earth confront more pedestrian problems and are caught in the rising tide of a climate crises that companies are selling as an exercise in personal responsibility instead of irresponsible corporate pollution. Prince William decided to poke fun at the Cold War-era Moonshot project, coined by John F. Kennedy during the space race, with his Earthshot Prize.
Earthshot will award five, one million-pound prizes each year for the next ten years for innovative solutions to global climate change. Each category aims to answer a specific goal outlined by scientifically agreed targets gathered from global measures of sustainability. The first, is Protect and Restore Nature and aims to support people who conserve our existing green areas and biodiversity and those who are working to grow our natural environment. The Republic of Costa Rica won the award in 2021 for restoring their forests by paying citizens to plant trees and restore ecosystems. Pole Pole Foundation was a finalist for providing food and farming skills to people experiencing poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who often resort to poaching gorillas to feed their families. The other finalist was Restor, an open data platform connecting people and data in the name of conservation.
Other Earthshot categories include Clean Our Air, Revive Our Oceans, Build a Waste-Free World, and Fix Our Climate. The winner of the prize for clean air demonstrates Earthshot’s focus on initiatives that have major impacts on local populations and change communities for the better. Takachar developed an affordable, portable technology that converts agricultural waste into bio-products in New Delhi, where burning agricultural waste has severe consequences on people’s health. Vinisha Umashankar, a teenager in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu came up with a design for a solar-powered ironing cart to replace charcoal carts. Meanwhile, the Blue Map App is China’s first public environmental database where citizens can advocate for change.
Coral Vita and their coral farms won the Revive Our Oceans prize for replanting coral into dying ecosystems. Leaving Seawalls in Sydney, Australia is bringing marine species back to lifeless seawalls; and Pristine Seas creates marine protected areas around the world.
The City of Milan won the Waste-Free World award by enforcing a food-waste policy that redistributes uneaten food to food banks and charities, recovering 130 tonnes of food a year. Sanergy recycles sanitation and organic waste in Eastern Central Africa by using black soldier fly larvae to turn the waste into agricultural products for local farmers. As the world faces more catastrophic events and water stress, access to clean drinking water is a global concern. WOTA developed a highly-efficient, compact water treatment solution, turning wastewater into clean drinking water.
The Fix Our Climate Winner and finalists are doing incredible work to replace non-renewable energy with renewable alternatives. Enapter won the award with technology that turns renewable electricity and water into emission-free hydrogen gas. Their AEM Electrolyser can replace common hydrogen with this green alternative, and its modular design allows users to easily scale. Reedi Capsules is renting out solar-powered energy capsules in Nigeria. SOLshare created the first peer-to-peer solar energy exchange network to provide renewable energy to underserved populations.
Our obsession with space and the actors on that stage often makes us lose sight of exciting technologies developed on Terra Firma. And let’s be real, most of us won’t live to see the day people readily fly into space, but we will live to see the devastation of climate change.