The duo was looking to focus on real, proven lifelines we already have at our disposal, particularly when it comes to improving the outlook for easily ignored, under-privileged parts of the world where, so often, the climate crisis is most pronounced. Instead of trying to find the next place to go and live, the Earthshot Prize encourages investors and entrepreneurs to focus on repairing and rebuilding this planet.
From pioneering renewable energy technologies like commercial solar and hydropower to lifelines extended to some of the planet’s most vulnerable communities, the Earthshot Prize is there to celebrate and help the very best of human ingenuity.
How it Works
The Earthshot Prize comprises five categories. From each of those five categories, one winner is selected and awarded a cash prize of £1 million.
In early November 2023, it was announced that the non-profit GenV (Generation Vegan) would join the prize’s advisory panel for the 2024 awards. This means that innovative plant-based food technologies can now be considered under the category ‘Protect and Restore Nature’, which is an exciting step forward for a rapidly growing industry.
Here are the 2023 winners of those categories.
Protect and Restore Nature
Restoring nature is a fascinating topic. We know already that, in the vast majority of cases of destruction and abuse, nature is capable of restoring itself – often, in less time than we would imagine. Entire cities have been reclaimed by nature, even where the destruction seemed to go beyond what could be considered forgivable. Even Chernobyl, the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, has become an environmental haven in just 30 years.
In the past, we have written on pioneering subjects like soil regeneration – a topic covered extensively in Woody Harrelson’s documentary ‘Kiss the Earth’. We have also examined the ways in which the restoration of nature can be enhanced by other renewable practices – for instance, agrivoltaics.
This year, the Earthshot Prize for Protecting and Restoring Nature was awarded to the initiative Acción Andina, led by Andean communities looking to protect and restore their native forests, where more than 10% of the world’s plant and animal life are located. The destruction of Andean Communities’ homeland has taken place over decades thanks to over-farming, mining, rising sea levels, and deforestation – but hope for a fresh start remains.
Acción Andina is seizing that hope with both hands. Backed by two non-profits – Global Forest Generation and Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos – Acción Andina has united thousands of indigenous communities through practical measures that make conservation and restoration possible. They invest more money into these remote communities, vital training in conservation, and sustainable projects to enable the land to rebuild itself.
So far, thousands of hectares have been restored – much of which is native forest. Their mission will take them across South America, following the Andes and leaving a wake of new life behind them.
Clean Our Air
The climate crisis puts so many demands on us, but air pollution is arguably one of the most pressing concerns of the 2020s. Already, it has been declared a cause of death within the UK; it is also thought to contribute to more than 11% of deaths globally. The idea of the very air we breathe becoming something hostile – a threat to our most basic of needs – should be enough to prompt any individual or government to immediate action.
Fortunately, there are pioneers in this area looking to ensure that future generations are not devastated by high mortality rates and poor quality of life due to air pollution – and the Earthshot Prize may have uncovered one of the most exciting.
Based in Hong Kong, GRST is on a mission to make electric vehicles truly green. A liveable, tenable future is one that includes cars – millions of cars used on a daily basis around the world. While empty roads and massive investment into public transport would transform the outlook for lowering carbon emissions, it is nothing but a pipe dream.
GRST – which stands for Green, Renewable, Sustainable Technology – has wasted no time lamenting the inevitable. Instead, they are working on new ways to make the lithium-ion battery technology that makes EVs viable cleaner and safer.
GRST look at both ends of the production cycle for lithium-ion batteries. Not only have they devised new processes for ensuring their mass production produces less air pollution, but they have also utilised materials and resources that are better recycled. With recycling so easy, the world will depend less and less on mining new resources.
This is an exciting turning point for the EV market – and further proof that a future of cars not run by diesel or petrol is possible.
Revive Our Oceans
The world’s oceans are suffering a great deal from decades of abuse in the form of waste dumping, oil spills, excessive fishing, changing temperatures and weather patterns, and loss of marine life. We know that healthy oceans are a necessity, but efforts to clean them up are continuously hampered by illicit practices. Nations around the world have committed to a target known as ’30 by 30’, whereby 30% of the world’s oceans are protected by 2030, but we cannot come close to reaching that milestone without significant change.
WildAid was the 2023 winner of this Earthshot Prize category and one of the world’s greatest hopes for reaching 30 by 30.
WildAid’s Marine Programme is bringing together policymakers, charities and experts in marine conservation to ensure a consolidated, committed approach to keeping the world’s oceans healthy. It is there to provide guidance, tools, training, resources and technology to take a comprehensive approach to boosting Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
Build a Waste-Free World
S4S Technologies are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to creating a sustainable process for combating food waste and making use of agricultural by-products. Their emphasis is on smallholder farming – a major industry in India responsible for a huge portion of India’s population. But the market is volatile and, all too often, smallholder farmers are forced to waste valuable crops due to shifts in the market. This doesn’t just contribute to food waste but to rural poverty.
S4S are working to make food preservation feasible in these rural areas. Utilising solar technology to power conduction dryers and other vital equipment, a growing portion of India’s smallholder farmers are being empowered to reduce waste and earn more for their labour, and for valuable resources like water that are invested into each batch of crops.
Their focus is also on reducing gender inequality in this sector by focusing on women-owned smallholder farms and female entrepreneurs. Their results have been dazzling so far, and new interest from international investors as a result of the Earthshot Prize should empower them to continue transforming India’s agricultural sector.
Fix Our Climate
This is the topic on which everything converges – the state of our climate, and the levels of noxious gases turning it into a greenhouse, warming the global average temperature and contributing to lost habitats, erratic weather and natural disasters, food scarcity, air pollution, water shortages, and physiological stress throughout the animal kingdom.
Our treatment of the climate has historically been predicated on a short-term approach. Generations of business owners and directors – and entire governments – have chosen to overlook the long-term consequences of their actions in return for profit and the path of least resistance. Unless we can change that approach on a fundamental level and encourage policymakers to think long-term, nothing can be done.
This is the very crux of Boomitra’s purpose – to focus on the long-term impact of agriculture and innovate ways of making it sustainable. The population is growing – and, for obvious reasons, we cannot embrace a future without agriculture. Boomitra are ensuring we can embrace a future where agriculture remains at the centre of human life.
Boomitra focuses on the source – the farmers themselves, many of whom are desperately in need of support and guidance for coping with and tackling the climate crisis. They bring vital technologies for soil restoration which, in turn, makes the earth more capable of capturing excess CO2.
Boomitra is an example of the carbon credit system used right, rather than the more prominent examples of large businesses and energy suppliers merely buying carbon credits to shirk responsibility for their impact on the climate.
This is a vital lifeline, not just for farmers and ranchers but for every one of us. Keeping pace with a skyrocketing population at a time when the earth cannot sustain our current production levels requires innovation and passion, and that is exactly what Boomitra brings to the table.