How Girls Will Save the World With Climate Action
By Sarah Murry
It’s hard to imagine a future where humans’ primary edible protein comes from insects and the sea is the source of not only immunity-boosting nutrients, but also pollution-reducing livestock feed. Yet the inventive creators of InsectiPro, HEAL Fisheries, and Symbrosia — all of which embrace a sustainable future — absolutely can.
Talash Huijbers’ InsectiPro promotes using insects as alternative protein sources to combat food insecurity and rising waste; Gita Syahrani’s HEAL Fisheries aims to preserve critical peat ecosystems by cultivating the Snakehead fish as a health supplement; and Alexia Akbay’s Symbrosia posits that methane emissions from livestock can be slashed by 90% simply by adding a small amount of a single species of seaweed to their feed.
It’s this kind of bold thinking and creative problem-solving that will give communities the fighting chance they need to reverse — or at the very least slow the progression of — climate change. Both HP and MIT Solve want to invest in girls and young women like these social entrepreneurs with an eye toward nurturing the next big idea that can save the world.
Girls ages 13 to 18 can submit an idea until January 18 about how to address an environmental issue in their local community for the chance to win HP technology packages. One innovator will receive $10,000 and other eligible solutions can tap into an additional $40,000 in funding to develop and implement their ideas. Whether a concept, prototype, or fully operational solution, applicants are encouraged to take on regional challenges addressing water pollution, deforestation, air quality, biodiversity loss and beyond. Along with supporting organizations Lonely Whale, Conservation International, Girl Rising and The Female Quotient, the prize aims to empower the next generation of female activists, says Anneliese Olson, general manager and global head of print at HP.
“Climate change is the defining problem of our generation, and while it affects everyone, not everyone is affected equally,” she says. “We want young girls from around the world to see themselves as what they are — agents of change in their communities and beyond.”
Ten finalists will be announced at an MIT Solv[ED] event in March and will be eligible to participate in a Virtual Camp in Spring 2022. “More than anything, we want the Solv[ED] Youth Innovation Challenge applicants to feel empowered and that they are part of a global community that cares deeply about making the world a better place,” says Eliza Berg, lead, Learning and Solv[ED] Communities, at MIT Solve. “Young women with a diverse range of skills can find ways to tap into their unique strengths and collaborate with others to make positive change.”
The Garage sat down with MIT Solve’s Berg to talk about the Solv[ED] Youth Innovation Challenge and the skills that girls need to bring their climate action solutions into the world.
What do you want people to understand about the intersection of climate and gender?
Most important — and highlighted by HP’s Girls Save the World and Solve’s Global Challenges — is that over 80% of people displaced by climate change are women and girls. At the same time, women and girls can make an impact on mitigating the effects of climate change. And with more education, girls build greater resilience to the effects of climate change.
How can social entrepreneurship be taught?
We know that young people learn best by actually doing, and that’s why we’ve designed learning sessions and workshops that allow them to practice problem identification and solution design. Along the way, they get exposure to design thinking and systems thinking methodologies, as well as social innovation frameworks.
What do you think are the most important skills young female activists need to succeed?
I believe that everyone has something to bring to the ‘problem-solving table.’ Even though Solv[ED] focuses mostly on nontechnical skills like critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, empathy, and self-awareness, there’s also a need for people with a range of technical and specialized skills. It’s when those individuals and skill sets come together that exciting and magical things can happen!
What do you hope participants in the challenge will take away from the experience?
We need everyone to roll up their sleeves and take part in addressing these challenges, even — and especially — when we feel overwhelmed.
Why kind of mindset does a “Solver” demonstrate when it comes to seemingly intractable issues like the climate crisis?
The most important mindset is knowing that the climate crisis isn’t at all intractable. The biggest source of uncertainty in projections of climate impacts is human action, and every ton of carbon not emitted (or removed) matters, despite how it’s often portrayed.
Submit an application by 11:59am ET on January 18, 2022 via the MIT Solve platform: MIT Solve | Solv[ED] Youth Innovation Challenge.