By Synna Geissler
In many parts of the world, people have faced environmental challenges by building static engineered interventions, such as seawalls to protect cities from flooding or air filters to keep the air clean. Although these measures prove to be very effective, at least in the short term, they tend to be very expensive and only deal with the symptoms of these adverse effects of climate change, not the causes.
What are Nature-based Solutions?
Nature-based solutions on the other hand, focus on keeping a whole cycle going. They are locally adapted, inspired by nature, and at the same time cost-effective. Rather than fighting nature, you are working with it!
Research shows that nature-based solutions can even provide up to 37 percent of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to keep global warming below 2 degrees and ultimately meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
In short, they are measures to protect, sustainably manage or restore natural ecosystems such as food and water security, climate change, disaster risks and human health. They are inspired by nature and focus on bringing an ecosystem into harmony to address several of our most pressing societal challenges at once.
Small Tree, Big Impact
A problem such as flooding in coastal areas, for example, can in this sense be addressed with measures that take advantage of ecosystem services, such as tree planting. The advantage of planting trees (mangroves), rather than working with traditional man-made, grey infrastructure such as walls or dikes, is that it not only reduces storms and flooding, but also creates new habitat for fish, birds and other plants that promote biodiversity. They also filter water, provide valuable timber and food for coastal communities, and can store large amounts of carbon.
Nature-based Solutions in Cities
But besides preserving and restoring natural ecosystems, nature-based solutions can also be used to create new ecosystems, such as creating greener cities. A problem in cities today is that forests and wetlands are being replaced by buildings and non-permeable infrastructure, which prevents rainwater from being absorbed by the ground. This consequently allows flooding to occur. Wastewater that is then washed into lakes or rivers simultaneously pollutes drinking water and harms animals and humans.
By incorporating green roofs, rain gardens or constructed wetlands into urban development, harmful runoff and flooding can be minimised as rainwater is immediately absorbed. Additionally, nature-based solutions help keep cities cooler in the summer, support birds and other pollinators, and benefit people’s mental and physical health.
What to Be Aware of
However, even with nature-based solutions there are a few things to consider. For example, when planting trees, it is important not to plant just any trees (especially not alien species), but rather to be oriented towards the indigenous vegetation and to grow only trees that are native to the area. Alien species can actually do more harm than good. They could overtake and drive out local species or cut their water supply, amongst other detrimental factors.
At Greenpop, we use nature-based solutions like biomimicry, which refers to the process of mimicking the areas where we plant. This means that we look at native species and their growth, and mimic the natural system to provide resilience for that particular location.
Join Us for the Eden Festival of Action 2022!
Looking to learn more and get your hands dirty for the planet? Join Greenpop at their 10th annual environmental festival, the Eden Festival of Action, from 2 – 9 October 2022.
Greenpop’s restoration festival combines practical ecosystem restoration work like tree-planting, with a full line-up of workshops, talks and activities from sustainability experts. The evenings are filled with campfire sessions, storytelling and music from some of South Africa’s finest musicians.
Expert facilitators: Nature-based Solutions
Greenpop’s expert facilitators work with nature-based solutions to relieve myriad environmental challenges, including the worst effects of climate change, disaster risk, and biodiversity loss.
Biomimicry Ethos and Life’s Principles with Jane Lourens
Join Jane in exploring Biomimicry ethos – the integration of living systems thinking and Biomimicry Life’s Principles into products, processes and systems to create conditions conducive to life and a flourishing ecosystem of regenerative living.
Wild Foraging with Roushanna Gray
Veld and Sea founder, Roushanna Gray will be hosting a foraging workshop at the event in the surrounding forest. She shares her wild foraged food experiences, from harvesting to meal preparation, bringing nature to the table.
Natural Building with Ansgar von Oertzen
After studying architecture in Germany, Ansgar von Oertzen found his passion for sustainable and natural building with eco-architects in Cape Town. Based on the Garden Route, Ansgar is an renowned local expert who will be sharing his knowledge of various building methods from cob construction, straw bale or light straw clay building to rammed earth construction, adobe, and sandbag.
Permaculture Principles with Alex Kruger
Alex Kruger will be sharing in Permaculture & Agroforestry first principles – Applying succession processes we see in the forest to regenerative agriculture. “Learning from the forest so we can do things better, grow food and wood materials in a sustainable way, which mimics nature, and supports restoring natural systems”.
Scientists have found that trees communicate in various ways, one of them being fascinating fungal networks below the earth.
For this year’s Women’s Day in South Africa, we want to introduce a woman in sustainability who inspires us daily. After earning a Master’s degree in Development Studies, she joined Greenpop in 2014. When she is not heading up programmes across Sub-Saharan Africa, you can find her spending time with her family, tending to her garden, practising Italian, and searching for the best pizza in the Mother City. Get to know Zoë Gauld-Angelucci!
World Environment Day is organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and has been held annually since 1974. The goal of the day of action is to promote environmental awareness and draw attention to crucial concerns around our planet’s survival, that require active engagement and commitment. Today, the day represents one of the largest global platforms for environmental action, with millions of participants from around the world. Each World Environment Day focuses on a specific issue that reflects urgent problems and challenges of our time, such as climate change, biodiversity loss or pollution.
Greenpop Foundation NPC is a registered non-profit organisation. Registration Number (NPO): 151-411 NPO.