Tree cocoons

I hate lotteries, especially all the advertising they send in the post, but the Postcode Lottery’s Green Challenge always brings a smile to my face. This is an annual event in which sustainable entrepreneurs present their new ideas. A jury awards the best idea with 500,000 euros to develop the business plan further.

This year Jurriaan Ruys from Land Life Company and a Delft graduate won with a kind of incubator for young trees and plants. A cocoon is placed around a seedling when it is planted, and this increases the chance of survival in dry areas in which nothing normally grows or flowers. The cocoon has a water reservoir and is full of fungi that help the plant become big and strong. The whole thing is robust and therefore protects the plant from wind and animals, but it is also biodegradable.

Brilliant! Another discovery at the Green Challenge was edible water bottles, instead of throwing them away you can tuck into them! And another: milk from a brewery, so that no animals are needed which saves a huge amount of fertiliser, methane emissions, and so on.

Each year when the Green Challenge takes place I think, as long as such creative, green spirits are walking the world we’ll eventually find a solution to the global climate and environment crisis.
And then of course I read something else and my spirits sink again. Like last spring, on ‘The Netherlands profits from new trade route through melting polar ice.’ The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis has calculated the economic effects of the ice melting in the North Pole for the Netherlands. The conclusion: the Netherlands benefits considerably if ships can travel this route. In fact, it could shorten the route between north-east Asia and north-west Europe (which currently passes through the Suez Canal) by a third.

Result: cost savings in transport and increased trade flows. Further- more, in the search for new oil and gas fields, the Russians and others would like to see the ice melt sooner rather than later.

So there you are with your tree cocoons and your edible water bottles, while meanwhile world powers and multinationals are only interested in seeing the world go down the drain as soon as possible, because short-term economic interests almost always take precedence.

And at the next climate summit in Paris, will all those countries succeed in looking further than just the money to be made in the short term? It’s not looking good, but then again it didn’t look so good for young trees in arid areas either a while ago. And, as far as that is concerned, a little creativity, perseverance and money can go a long way. I suggest giving everyone attending the climate summit a seedling in a tree cocoon – maybe then they will understand.

Tonie Mudde is the Chief Science Correspondent at de Volkskrant. He studied Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft from 1996 to 2003

Tonie Mudde is the Chief Science Correspondent at de Volkskrant. He studied Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft from 1996 to 2003


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