Global conservation challenges are very complex. Take your pick: climate change, deforestation, water security, overfishing--the list of problems goes on. That's why it's important to step back and consider the people working around the world to find solutions that make a difference. It's why I was delighted to attend the Solution Search: Adapting to a Changing Climate awards here in Arlington, Virginia on October 24.
Developed by Rare in 2011, Solution Search is a contest to illuminate successful innovations in community-led conservation and give them a global platform. Instead of dwelling on the problems, we seek out what's working and figure out how we can do more of it.
Climate change is felt locally, so it's a problem well-suited to small scale innovation and experimentation. And, the need is critical. Longer droughts, bigger floods, stronger hurricanes and rising seas are having the greatest impact on the planet's most vulnerable people. Communities around the world understand that investing in nature can bring substantial returns for both their livelihoods and the environment. This year's contest uncovered a range of inventive and exciting projects from 37 countries.
It was an honor to present the Judge's Choice award to India's ENDEV- Society for Environment and Development. ENDEV distributed indigenous and salt-tolerant rice varieties to farmers in coastal India. The seed bank helps ensure that paddy agriculture, a staple food of the region, can succeed in the face of storm surges and coastal flooding.
The People's Choice winner, SOIL, was selected from 11,000 public votes for their EcoSan project to safely convert human waste into compost for agricultural use in Haiti. Both winners received $20,000 grants to advance their projects.
The event was very inspiring and gave me great hope for the future. Finalists also included projects to boost reef resilience in Tuvalu, protect homes from brushfire in Togo, restore mangrove forests in Bangladesh and use cook stove waste to improve soil nutrients in Africa. The passionate, hardworking people behind these ideas are helping to solve large and overwhelming environmental problems at the local level. They are, in short, changing the world.
The theme of this year's search also confirmed that various solutions are required to fight climate change. Now is the time to think beyond traditional sea walls, levees and other concrete "gray" infrastructure. Nature itself--oyster reefs, salt marshes and other "green" infrastructure--must also be part of the solution. The projects honored last night demonstrate that local communities are pressing forward with nature-based climate adaptations to secure people's food, water and safety. Some projects go above and beyond natural infrastructure to test technologies and concepts never before attempted.
The world needs these innovative ideas just as we need Solution Search to give them a place to be heard and brought to scale. While it's important to study the problems, finding the solution is what makes the difference.
Finally, the celebration reaffirmed my belief that the merger between TNC and Rare is going to be a great combination and we will do even more for conservation together than we would alone. Rare is a proven champion of changing hearts and minds to get conservation done. TNC's scale will bring together more hearts and minds to change. Solution Search is just one example of that. There is much more to come, and I'm looking forward to it.
[Top: Award Winners and presenters at the Solution Search Event. Image Source: Mark Godfrey/TNC; Bottom: People's Choice Winner, SOIL, from Haiti, Image Source: Rare]