Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently announced a new $10 billion fund to help fight climate change and save the planet, and scientists, environmental activists, farmers, and sustainability organizations the world over – including in Israel – are paying attention. Israel’s ecosystem is home to hundreds of groundbreaking green and clean technologies and research-on-the-go to meet the impacts of climate change and would love to draw more attention to these solutions.
“I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share,” Bezos wrote in an Instagram post when announcing his commitment to fund climate change research and awareness.
As such, his new Bezos Earth Fund may want to make travel plans to visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Negev and Arava deserts, the Galilee and Golan Heights to get a first-hand view of internationally recognized agricultural prowess, water conservation policies and renewable energy projects already working to answer the climate change conundrum.
“This is no longer a niche subject just for nature-lovers,” President Reuven Rivlin said days before Bezos’s announcement, as he received a plan called Change of Direction 2020 to address climate change. “There is no reason why Israel, which proved a long time ago that it is a powerhouse in innovative technology, should not be a beacon of excellence for the whole world in the field of sustainability.”
“Climate change creates a genuine emergency, around the world and in Israel. But the scientists tell us that there is still a window of opportunity for change. Time is short and change must happen this year. Israel must and can contribute to the global effort. Amongst other things, in the field of technological innovation and creative social solutions,” said Dr. Dov Khenin, a former Knesset member who is helming the Change of Direction 2020 initiative that proposes achievable policy aims for Israel in the fields of energy, transportation, agriculture, food, urban planning, and education.
Also this month, Tzipi Livni was among 23 former foreign ministers from around the world to sign a statement issued by members of the Aspen Ministers Forum, urging world leaders to act “boldly” to protect nature.
“The world has a moral imperative to collaborate on strong actions to mitigate and adapt to the current climate change and biodiversity crisis. Ambitious targets for conservation of land and ocean ecosystems are vital components of the solution,” reads the statement. “Humanity sits on the precipice of irreversible loss of biodiversity and a climate crisis that imperils the future for our grandchildren and generations to come. The world must act boldly, and it must act now.”
Israel has always shared its knowledge to help the world better raise crops, advance sustainable agriculture, improve dryland development and find efficient ways to adapt to climate change. Global collaborations now underway include pollination technology without bees, growing wine grapes in desert conditions, and developing more resilient corals.
“A greener future is a rosier future and a more equal future for everyone. We need to start working on it today, setting achievable and clear targets and rushing to meet them,” said Rivlin.
“These changes can also improve our daily lives, here and now,” said Khenin.
NoCamels lists eight ways (of many) Israel is helping to solve climate change effects:
Israeli digital farming tech
“If nothing is done against climate change, Africa won’t be able to feed her children and that means war,” Amadou Sidibe, an architect turned agricultural developer in southern Mali, told Reuters in a feature story on climate change this month.
The Reuters article highlights Israeli technology that Sidibe brought to Mali to create his country’s first automated greenhouse replete with a computer-controlled watering system designed by an unnamed Israeli company.
Israeli agricultural companies export their technology the world over. In January, NoCamels ran a feature on digital farming and state-of-the-art technology developed locally by Netafim.
Moreover, the annual AgriTech Israel exhibition draws representatives from the world’s governments, manufacturers, farmers, academic institutes, investors and entrepreneurs to Tel Aviv to see the newest agricultural technologies aimed at solving climate change consequences.
Israeli methods for pollination without bees
Colony collapse disorder and bee die-offs are a global problem. In Israel, so far, honeybee populations have been able to maintain stable numbers thanks to agriculture research, technology initiatives and a national strategy to plant nectar-rich seedlings annually.
Fast Company ran a feature this month on Israeli-made artificial pollination robots that are helping bees and will change the way we grow crops.
In fact, the Israeli bee tech scene is abuzz with new solutions to help combat colony collapse and improve natural pollination. BeeHero uses beehive sensors to monitor hives. Edete (featured in the Fast Company piece) has an automated fruit orchard pollination system that does not require bees. BioBee mass-produces the earth bumblebee for natural pollination of various crops.
Israeli food tech
A recent major scientific analysis of global meat consumption suggested that not only does eating high levels have negative health consequences, as world population grows and demand increases, it will also prove detrimental to the environment, increasing carbon emissions and reducing biodiversity.
“What’s happening is a big concern and if meat consumption goes up further it’s going to be massively more so,” Professor Tim Key, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford and co-author of the analysis told the Guardian in 2018. “On a broad level you can say that eating substantial amounts of meat is bad for the environment.”
In Israel, a host of local startups and companies have been working to develop “clean meat” solutions.
Israel’s Aleph Farms unveiled the world’s first slaughter-free steak a little over a year ago, grown from animal cells using 3D technology. In October, Future Meat Technologies, an Israeli company that also develops lab-grown meat announced that it was opening the first cultured meat production plant near Tel Aviv later this year, backed by a major food company.
And there are also proposed solutions to replace meat altogether with innovative alternatives. Israeli startup Redefine Meat, which is developing tech to 3D-print vegan meat substitutes, made of plant-based formulations to emulate the appearance, texture, and taste of natural meat, is one example. Rilbite, a developer of a minced meat alternative, is another.
Saving coral reefs
More than half of the Earth’s reefs could be under threat by 2030, according to the World Resources Institute.
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To save Red Sea coral reefs from the threat of climate change, scientists from Israel, Eritrea, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Djibouti have joined forces to collaborate on research projects and find ways to protect the natural world.
The main goal of this collaboration is to help “develop more resilient corals, which will protect reefs and the livelihoods of people who depend on them.”
Israel has other coral reef research projects underway, including a research group – made up of marine biologists and designers – who 3D printed the world’s first bioplastic and ceramic tile coral reefs to shed light on the complex relations between coral architecture and fish recruitment.
Israeli desert viticulture
One of the main effects of climate change is the weather. And Israel is recognized for its abilities to make the desert bloom. The wine community has its eyes on the Negev to see how climate change will affect their industry.
“Climate is becoming more and more unpredictable,” Aaron Fait, a biochemistry professor at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told The New York Times. “The desert model is a way to study how climate change will affect wine worldwide.”
The New York Times ran a feature in September 2019 on a group of European and Israeli researchers now testing 30 varieties of wine grapes and how they grow in Israel’s desert conditions.
Desert viticulture knowhow is expected to be in high demand as the frequency of droughts and heatwaves rises.
Europeans “are looking at Israel and the way we are dealing with harsh conditions and trying to learn from it,” Naftali Lazarovitch, a soil scientist at the Blaustein Institutes of Desert Research in the Negev, told the newspaper. “We produce more with less, that’s our objective.”
Another branch of Israeli wine research garnering interest is that of Dr. Meir Shlisel, an expert in wine chemistry from Tel-Hai College, who spends his days analyzing grape molecules.
Shlisel’s lab is now developing “Superwine,” what may be the world’s first officially healthy wine.
Climate-resilient plants and Israeli water technologies
Climate change, scientists warn, will create a need for plants to be able to withstand extreme growing conditions. Again, Israel’s deserts are fantastic research grounds for testing traditional growing techniques alongside new technologies.
The country’s water challenges and its cutting-edge solutions — from seawater desalination and drip irrigation to water conservation, water recycling, wastewater treatment, and water purification – has helped turn this country into a leader in the development of advanced water technology and certified expert in growing groups under harsh conditions.
There are numerous studies underway testing which crops can survive the heat and still pack a nutrient-rich bite. Among them, a sea bean study by researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and local farmers testing how to grow these plants with a greater yield and without losing their nutrients.
Renewable energy is deemed a key climate solution and Israel is considered among the leaders in the field.
The country’s startups are renowned for developing green energy sources by harnessing solar radiation, wind, biogas/biomass, earth’s heat, and other non-perishable natural resources.
Indeed, if there’s one thing Israel enjoys a lot of – it’s sunlight.
With energy shortages in its early years, this country has been using solar energy since the 1950s. Moreover, solar fields sprawled out in the desert confirm Israel’s commitment to CO2 reduction and renewable energy.
Thanks to advanced technology, a photovoltaic power station in the desert has become a great example of how Israeli technology can provide clear solar energy to the electric grid.
Climate-impact on forests
The Australian wildfires showed how a changing climate can impact and threaten the world’s forests.
Forestation projects in Israel have global significance as environmental groups warn that climate changes – temperature, rainfall, and other factors — will directly and indirectly affect the growth and productivity of forests.
The Yatir Forest, on the southern slopes of Mount Hebron, has been called a green refuge in the Negev because it is said to have helped fight climate change.
Viva Sarah Press is a journalist and speaker. She writes and talks about the creativity and innovation taking place in Israel and beyond. www.vivaspress.com
Ricky Ben-David contributed to this report.