Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Wollongong's online course, How to Survive on Earth: Energy Materials for a Sustainable Future. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsWell, nature is really our only guide as to how to do this properly. You look at this incredible environment here, created by living things, capturing the energy from the sun, using that energy to do a whole lot of jobs, including creating pure water, breathable air, all of the food we eat, recycling our wastes, our traditional [INAUDIBLE] conventional wastes. So nature is the model to me. I mean, that's where we've got to go.

Skip to 0 minutes and 36 secondsI think one of the things we really need to develop now are technologies that are what I call multipotent, or do more than one thing at once. And there's a number of these technologies around. A good example is concentrated solar thermal technologies, which can generate electricity. They can desalinate salt water to create fresh water supplies. You can use them to generate steam that can be used to clean up pollution. They can even fabricate new materials. When you get very high temperatures in these plants, you can break apart the CO2 atom itself and create the carbon. So it's those sort of approaches that engineers and others will discover in future, I think, are going to be the really important ones.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 secondsWe've got a world that's awash with pollution, with the oceans and the plastics and whatever else in it. It's facing a food security crisis, obviously the climate problem. There's lots of other pollution problems. So we need those multipotent technologies to move us quickly from this world awash with problems to one which has the solutions.

Mimicking Nature

Humans have come up with many amazing technologies to help us survive on Earth thus far. However, many of these threaten the very environment that sustains us.

There are many experts that argue we should focus more and more on the sustainable way in which Nature works and copy its essential processes.

In the above video, Tim Flannery argues for us to learn from Nature and develop technologies that are “multipotent” (do more than one thing at once). Tim Flannery urges us to move from this world awash with problems to one which has the solutions.

Conversation Starter

Let your imagination run wild.

Can you think of a multipotent technology that could reduce pollution and increase sustainable energy usage?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

How to Survive on Earth: Energy Materials for a Sustainable Future

University of Wollongong

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: