Co-Ops at Earthshot
On December 2nd, climate activists, politicians, and celebrities from around the world gathered at the MGM Music Hall in Fenway, Boston, to celebrate the 2022 Earthshot Prize Awards. Among the attendees were Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub Co-Ops, Elana Lane and Brittany Segill.
Founded in 2020 by Prince William and the Royal Foundation, the Earthshot Prize aims to cultivate climate optimism and inspire action to address the biggest environmental challenges faced today. A reference to the success of President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot, the Earthshot Prize is centered around five ‘Earthshots’, a series of goals to be met by 2030 for the improved and sustainable life of present and future generations around the world.
The five Earthshots include: Protect and Restore Nature; Clean Our Air; Revive Our Oceans; Build a Waste-Free World; and Fix Our Climate.
Each year through 2030, five winners – one per Earthshot – are awarded with £1 million to further advance their innovative climate solutions. Prizes can be awarded across all sectors, to a range of individuals, collaborators, and teams.
Co-ops Elana Lane and Brittany Segill reflect upon their experience attending this year’s Earthshot Prize Awards.
“It was honestly mind-blowing,” says Lane, a third-year undergraduate Computer Science and Design student at Northeastern, and the Social Media and Marketing co-op within the Climate Justice & Sustainability Hub. “Just to see the number of people who were invited to attend and obviously care about the work. And as a student, it was great to see people who are making really interesting achievements in their fields.”
Segill, a second-year Master’s student in the Environmental Science and Policy program, and Sustainability Project Coordinator for the Climate Justice & Sustainability Hub, had never heard of the Earthshot Prize Awards before receiving an invitation. “After my own research, I realized this was a really big event,” she explained. “It’s cool to see all the increased awareness and effort being put into making [climate action] appealing to people who might not otherwise be as interested.”
Featured guests and award presenters at the ceremony included the Prince and Princess of Wales, Sir David Attenborough, Clara Amfo, Daniel Dae Kim, Rami Malek, Catherine O’Hara, and Shailene Woodley, along with musical performances by Chloe and Halle Bailey, Billie Eilish, Ellie Goulding, and Annie Lennox.
Elizabeth Solomon, Elder at the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag, opened The Earthshot Prize ceremony with an acknowledgement of Lands and Peoples. “It was a very heartwarming speech she gave, it was very eye-opening,” says Segill.
Mayor Michelle Wu also spoke at the event, welcoming The Earthshot Prize to Boston.
Members of the audience also came from diverse cultural and generational backgrounds. “I sat next to an older couple,” says Lane. “When the performers would come out, the couple would ask me who those performers were, and we would explain right before the announcers would give the same spiel basically. It showed a little bit of a difference in culture, but then also the fact that we were at the same event at all showed it’s a cross-generational interest being shown.”
Five prize winners were awarded from among a collection of 15 finalists at the ceremony.
The Protect and Restore Nature winner was Kheyti, an Indian startup that developed the “Greenhouse-in-a-Box”, an affordable modular greenhouse designed for small-hold farmers.
The Revive Our Oceans prize was awarded to the Indigenous women of the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia. Here the Queensland Indigenous Women Rangers Network is working to build and train the next generation of women rangers, who combine Indigenous knowledge with modern technologies for the conservation of key ecosystems and cultural tradition.
The Build a Waste-Free World prize was awarded to Notpla, a London-based startup that developed an alternative to plastic made from seaweed and plants.
Lane was particularly struck by the work of Mukuru Clean Stoves, a social enterprise from Kenya that designs, produces, and distributes cleaner-burning, affordable stoves to low-income households. Winning the Clean Our Air prize, Mukuru Clean Stoves use processed biomass made from charcoal, wood, and sugarcane, which creates 90 percent less pollution than an open fire and 70 percent less than a traditional cookstove.
“It stood out to me because it was so personal to the person who started it,” Lane explains. Founder and CEO of Mukuru Clean Stoves, Charlot Magayi, sought to find an safer alternative solution to charcoal after her young daughter was severely burned by a charcoal-burning stove.
“That story also stuck with me because she’s a Black woman, and she took initiative to solve an issue that was affecting her and the people around her,” says Lane. “It’s really inspiring to see someone that looks like you make that kind of change.”
Segill also remembers the Fix Our Climate winner, 44.01. Named after the molecular weight of carbon dioxide (CO2), 44.01 is an Oman-based company that removes CO2 from the atmosphere permanently by mineralizing it in peridotite, a type of rock found in abundance in many parts of the world.
“I think it’s because I have more familiarity with Earth processes and mineralization,” Segill explains, “but this one seems really exciting.”
The continued human emission of greenhouse gases like CO2 into the atmosphere has wide-ranging and devastating impacts upon the planet, starting with a gradual increase in global temperature.
To keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, a threshold at which the scientific community agrees we will face increasingly frequent and extreme weather events like floods, heatwaves, and droughts, many companies are exploring the potential for mitigation technology that can remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
44.01 accelerates the natural process of peridotite CO2 mineralization by pumping carbonated water into the seams of peridotite deep underground.
“To Prince William, and royalty, and anyone who’s rich and famous, £5 million isn’t that much,” says Segill. “But to the people who won and to the lives that are going to be affected by the different innovations and initiatives, it’s life-changing.”
“It all feels very ‘Save the World’,” adds Lane, reflecting upon the nature of the five Earthshots and the work of the finalists. “It’s a very general ask. But I like how general the Earthshots are because you get such a wide breadth of ideas on how to go about solving these problems.”
Information about the 2022 Earthshot Prize winners and finalists can be found on the Earthshot Prize website.
Written by Daria Healey, December 2022.