What's Happening with Challenge the Winners?
Periodically we catch up with our former winners and post the latest updates to our Facebook page. This month we thought we would share some highlights from all four winners of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. 2011 winner, Blue Ventures is working with other participants from the Challenge and garnering partnerships for new programs. Meanwhile, Allan Savory is having a breakout year after he and his team won the Challenge in 2010. The 2009 winning team, Smart Cities group out of MIT Media Lab, have completed the bike and scooter and are manufacturing the car-- taking their solution one giant step towards reality. John Todd, our inaugural winner, is advancing his research at a site in Costa Rica and recently had a film made about his work.
We've Included links to all the organizations in this report. Please take the time to delve deeper into each project and consider supporting their work—Not to mention the work of BFI.
2011 Winning Solution: Blue Ventures
Blue Ventures not only received incredible press of their work after winning the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, but have quickly leveraged the prestigious situation and $100k prize money. Founder of Blue Ventures Al Harris explains, " We are in discussions with a number of contacts we met as a result of the Challenge—from architects interested in collaborating on a community ecolodge we're building in Madagascar, to collaborative proposals we're developing with Frontline SMS (a finalist of the 2012 Buckminster Fuller Challenge) to apply their technology across conservation programs." They have already submitted a bid for the proposal to the UK government's Department of International Development. They are also looking to exchange community engagement strategies and discuss potential ecotourism ideas with the 2010 Challenge winner Allan Savory.
Program Manager, JenJoy Roybal said, "We've always known there were synergistic opportunities among the entrants to the Challenge. We've been loosely thinking of them as solution sets. It's important that we continue to help cultivate these relationships. Cross-pollination of ideas and sharing best practices across this type of work is equally valuable to us as awarding the prize. We are witnessing the strengthening of whole systems practice overall, it's a very exciting time for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge Project and those who enter."
Harris says they've seen particular interest in their holistic approach to addressing marine conservation challenges as a result of the award — people interested in understanding not just the specifics of they we do, but how the whole-systems approach that they promote is far stronger than the sum of its parts. "So we're on a mission to share information about how this works, and to do so in as many fora as we can get to!"
They'll be running a couple of high profile side events at the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association(WIOMSA ) symposium, a regional scientific/conservation symposium in Mombasa, Kenya in October 2011. Both events focus on their integrated community-based approach to marine conservation, and how they're trying to leverage their experiences across the broader Indian Ocean.
More recently Blue Ventures has been making a big push to create a community-run ecolodge in Andavadoaka, their main project site. Land on which to build the lodge has been located, and Blue Ventures is now raising funds to begin construction. The lodge, which will be fully managed by the community and will employ local villagers, is helping to diversify income for a community that currently relies on dwindling marine resources.
Learn more about Blue Ventures and support what they do: Blue Ventures
2010 Winning Solution: Savory Institute
Allan Savory and the Operation Hope team have been very busy since winning the Challenge in 2010. After attending the Sages and Scientist event hosted by Deepak Chopra, with BFI Executive Director, Elizabeth Thompson, they garnered the attention of actor Ian Somerhalder, star of Vampire Diaries and Lost. Shortly thereafter Ian took a tour of the African Center for Holistic Management, in Zimbabwe. He was so impressed that he decided to produce a documentary on Allan and his work.
"When we wrapped [Vampire Diaries] April 18, 2011 I flew to Zimbabwe where I was doing a documentary," Somerhalder told ENews at the Teen Choice Awards in L.A. "I met a scientist named Allan Savory," he continued. "He's figured out a way to reverse climate change, literally through agriculture. So I'm directing this
documentary about him with Geoff Shotz, our camera director on Vampire Diaries... The goal of the movie is to win Allan Savory a Nobel Prize for agriculture, which has never been done." Somerhalder, who testified before Congress last month about wildlife conservation, is set to interview former president Jimmy Carter for the Savory documentary.
"You look at things like An Inconvenient Truth, which Al Gore did, it never once mentions [how] agriculture contributes more to climate change than anything else in the world," he said. "It makes me crazy to think about, so we're going to change that."
Even with steady results, the work Allan and his team had been doing for the last 30 years was not fully embraced by mainstream decision makers until the Savory Institute was awarded the Buckminster Fuller Challenge in June 2010 at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Since winning the Challenge Savory says he has felt a major shift in perception and acceptance of his work. On June 11, 2011, Allan Savory gave the keynote address at the United Nations Land Day 4 event in Bonn, Germany, which focuses on combating desertification. This event took place during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Vice President Honourable J.T.R.Mujuru of Zimbabwe visited the Africa Centre for Holistic Management with a team of top officials to experience first hand the incredible results from Holistic Management and Holistic Planned Grazing. As a result, Allan is working to help scale the practice to more African countries. Here in the States the Savory Institute is working with USDA's Risk Management Agency to heal the land in the Republican River Watershed that runs through Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. The practice and word continue to spread worldwide.
An article titled 'Greener Pastures: How Cows could help in the Fight Against Climate Change' by Judith Schwartz was featured in last month's Conservation Magazine and first showed up on BBC-owned Guardian publication. The article opens with what is perhaps one of the most important messages the Savory Institute wants to convey to the world:
What goes on in the stomachs and under the hooves of cows might be the key to turning deserts back into grasslands, and even taming climate change.
Savory is excited to see more and more of the 'mainstream' being open to the idea that mimicking nature can produce strong results on grasslands. He makes it all sound so simple in this excerpt from the article, "All we've done really is make the rainfall more effective." Parched and unproductive regions throughout the world are not necessarily suffering from less rain, he says. "The problem is that the water leaves too quickly, through runoff or evaporation from bare soil. Water needs to infiltrate and remain in the soil, entering the stream and river system, and leave only through plant growth or by entering aquifers. "All of this we're doing with the livestock," says Savory. "We keep operating on sound scientific principle, enhancing the organic matter and porosity of the soil, and keeping water in the system."
The strength of Savory's ideas may derive from the fact that he brings an outsider's eye—even a poet's eye—to environmental cycles. (Nature writer Gretel Ehrlich, who has spent time with Savory in the African bush, calls him "the best observer of wildlife I've ever met.") Seen from a holistic perspective, the secret of Dimbangombe is no secret. It simply required looking back to the land's prehistory—and learning a management principle from no management at all. Holistic planned grazing and the Savory Institute was featured in the June issue of Cowboy’s and Indians magazine and can be seen here.
Source: Savory Institute Blog
The team also made TED's top Ads Worth Spreading Challenge with this video of Allan making a call to nominate the most influential people in the world to visit the African Center for Holistic Management to learn about reversing desertification.
To keep up with Allan Savory and the team go to the savoryinstitute.com.
2009 Winning Solution: Smart Cities Group
The MIT Smart Cities Group is now working with a Spanish company called Denokinn to commercialize the CityCar project. Mobility-on-Demand (MOD) systems utilize fleets of shared-use lightweight electric vehicles placed at automatic charging racks throughout a city that are connected to a smart grid system. The CityCar and RoboScooter, both folding vehicles, along with the Green-Wheel Bicycle, minimize parking space and can be picked-up and dropped-off at any rack. This systemic approach to transportation maximizes mobility and dramatically reduces congestion and pollution through energy and land-use efficiency. A new car company formed by Denokinn called, "Hiriko" will develop, test, and manufacture the CityCar.
Smart Cities research group will be working with Hiriko to develop the first full-scale drivable prototype in Spain due to be finished in October 2011. The completion of the prototype brings them one big step forward in realizing the vision of Smart Cities and Prof. William J. Mitchell as expressed in their Challenge application.
The research at Smart Cities group led to a major publication, Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century, by William J. Mitchell, Christopher Borroni-Bird, and Lawrence Burns, (MIT Press, January 2010). Professor William J. Mitchell was the director of the Smart Cities group from its founding in 2003 until his passing in 2010.
Most recently an article came out in Fast Company about their work, written by Frank Moss (now former director of the Media Lab) in his new book The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices: How the Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab Are Creating the Innovative Technologies That Will Transform Our Lives .
Kent Larson is now the faculty leader for the CityCar and Mobility-on-Demand project. A new website was created called Changing Places. The group focus now includes mass customized housing, and moving forward they will begin to look at the intersection of architecture, mobility, energy, and the environment--All very much in the spirit of Buckminster Fuller's larger goal to make the world work for 100% of humanity.
Video: Project Lead, Ryan Chin shared an update at Architecting the Future events in DC in 2010.
Winning Solution 2008: John Todd
In 2008 Dr. John Todd won the first International Buckminster Fuller Challenge. His entry titled Design for a Carbon Neutral World: The Challenge of Appalachia was informed by a lifetime commitment to the development of ecological design. He has been a major visionary in the field for more than a quarter century.
Todd created the "living machine" — an advanced, ecologically engineered, wastewater treatment system that mirrors the process of decomposition that occurs in the natural world. Living Machines use plants, animals and naturally occurring bacteria to degrade nutrients, separate out heavy metals and break down toxic compounds. Diverse communities of bacteria, algae, microorganisms, numerous species of plants and trees, snails, fish and other living creatures interact in the system to create an attractive environment and cleanse the water.
He first put his theories to the test in Massachusetts in 1984, applying his technique in a Cape Cod community that was dumping its sewage and other waste into a pit just 25 feet above the drinking water table. The twelve day cleaning process resulted in 100 percent of nearly all major pollutants being removed. He also helped create the first state-of-the-art "green building' and his work and principles have been integrated into municipalities across the world. More recently he has set up shop in Costa Rica.
source: University of Vermont Profile
In 2009 a reforestation and carbon sequestration project was launched in Volcano Miravalles in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The plan is to replace the once forested, overgrazed grasslands with a working landscape of trees. Ocean Arks International, an organization founded by John and Nancy Jack-Todd, has partnered with Re-mineralize the Earth to "design an Earth-healing economic landscape with short and mid- term economic value. This will be followed by a slower maturing, long-term forests that will eventually be capable of supporting an economy decades and even centuries into the future." This research-action project will be instrumental in scaling the strategies John Todd has spent a lifetime cultivating, to places like the Appalachian Region.
John Todd's many other awards include Global Visionary Award from the City of Chicago, Bioneers Lifetime Achievement Award, the Charles and Ann Morrow Lindbergh Award for technological innovation on behalf of the environment and Environmental Merit Award from the US EPA. Recently he completed "Living Technologies in an Age of Limits: The Promise of Ecological Design", as a chapter in a book edited by David Orr. In 2007 he wrote a white paper for the Lewis Foundation entitled A New Shared Economy For Appalachia: An Economy Built Upon Environmental Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, Renewable Energy and Ecological Design, of which the winning proposal is based on (www.oceanarks.org).
Todd's work, values and principles continue to be celebrated and revered. In 2009 Kristen Alexander of Middleway Media completed a film about John Todd and the living machines. A video clip can be seen below.
Kristin Alexander is director, cinematographer and editor and Ken Alexander is cinematographer and editor.
In 2009 John Todd completed his part in the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL), a state-of-the art education center and natural wastewater treatment facility located in central New York. The video below is a clip done for the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt 'Why Design Now' challenge and explains the process.