The earth’s artificial lungs
One of the problems that is highly ranked on the list of environmental issues is deforestation; the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a non-forest use. It has been estimated that about half of the Earth’s mature tropical forests —around 7.5 million km2- have now been destroyed. Some scientists have predicted that unless significant measures are taken on a worldwide basis, by 2030 there will only be 10% remaining, with another 10% in a degraded condition. Besides the lost of hundreds of thousands of irreplaceable species, deforestation is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect and thus to global warming. Furthermore, it disturbs the hydrological cycle, increases rates of soil erosion, and affects the biodiversity.
Hence, forests fulfil a very important role on earth, a role that is of vital importance for the human species; photosynthesis. This is a process in which plants convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds, using the energy from sunlight. In plants, algae, and cyanobacteria, photosynthesis uses carbon dioxide and water, releasing oxygen as a waste product. In addition to maintaining normal levels of oxygen in the atmosphere, photosynthesis is the source of energy for nearly all life on earth, either directly, through primary production, or indirectly, as the ultimate source of the energy in their food. Since photosynthesis is vital for all aerobic life on earth, rainforests are sometimes called “the lungs of the earth”. However, as described above, the alarming deforestation rates strongly affect the Earth’s lung capacity, threatening all fauna to extinct.
But do not worry, the solution is here! In collaboration with the Technological University of the Philippines, The Mapua Institute of Technology succeeded in creating an artificial replacement of the tree. The Imung© -a compression of the words ‘imitation’ and ‘lung’- is able to imitate the process of photosynthesis that usually takes place in the plants, and is thus capable of converting carbon dioxide (and water) into oxygen. Important to note is that the Institute certainly did not aim at destruction of all trees, their incentive was to grant the international cummunity more time to come to an unanimous decision on the re-forestation policy.Additionally, the Imung© might also play an important role in the fight against Global warming due to its photosynthesizing capacities.
Nevertheless, a suchlike technology always carries negative implications with. A major, undesirable consequence of the invention of the Imung© involves the consideration between biodiversity and the monetary gain. Even though the aim of the project was not the substitution of trees, the existence of the Imung© eases the government’s decision when it comes to an economic profit versus the biodiverse gain. Since forest conversion is more profitable than forest conservation, the soil can be used in multiple ways once the trees are removed and the threat of oxygen shortage is past, governments might be more inclined to not support the re-forestation program. In order to prevent unequal participation in the program, the importance of unanimity is stressed; every country purchasing Imung©’s should be an active participator regarding the re-forestation and conservation of biodiversity.
The Imung© will be presented at the 2040 World Fair in Mumbai, and the following three pavillions are the last three competitors in a design-competition;
1. A pavillion made out of CO2-compounds
2. A pavillion, representing a leaf
3. A pavillion in the shape of a lung, as a visual representation of the Imung©