Modular construction: Using Lego-like blocks to build structures of the future

Buildings don't have to be permanent — modular construction can make them modifiable and relocatable.

  • Modular construction involves building the components of a habitable structure in a factory, and then assembling those components on-site.
  • The history of modular construction stretches back centuries, and it became briefly popular in the U.S. after World War II, but it's never quite caught on.
  • Construction firms like iMod Structures, which constructs buildings that can be modified and relocated, may soon change that.
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Humans aren’t overpopulated. We’re aging and shrinking

Too few babies — not overpopulation — is likely to be a major problem this century.

PhotoSpirit via Adobe Stock
  • A new study used demographic data to explore current and projected population changes around the world. Europe and Asia are shrinking, while Africa is still growing.
  • For the first time in history, people aged 65+ outnumber children younger than five.
  • Underpopulation will cause serious challenges for sustainability.
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Water recycling: "Toilet to tap" is future of clean drinking water

As droughts threaten water supplies across the planet, some municipalities aim to utilize an untapped resource: sewage water.

Am.p Photographer via Adobe Stock
  • Water recycling, or water reclamation, involves cleaning water with filters and chemicals to make it environmentally safe.
  • In Texas, El Paso's water utility is taking this a step further by building a closed-loop system that will directly convert sewage water into drinkable water.
  • Unsurprisingly, surveys show that most people don't like the idea of drinking recycled water, but public outreach programs seem able to change minds.
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Vertical farming: disrupting agriculture

A new agricultural revolution could forever change the planet.

Credit: Freethink Media / Plenty, Inc.
  • Vertical farming leverages cutting-edge technology to grow food in a new and better way.
  • One of its many benefits is that it can increase crop yield by 700 percent.
  • Vertical farming can help relieve pressure on scarce resources and boost Earth's biodiversity.
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We need sustainable space tech. One solution - bees?

It's time to rethink how satellites and other objects are made and eventually destroyed.

  • The objects humans send to space teach us a lot about the universe, but they are also cluttering it up. While some objects are close enough to be retrieved, others become dangerous, fast-moving bullets that can cause serious damage.
  • In addition to cleaning up what's already there, MIT Assistant Professor Danielle Wood says that we need to think more sustainably about the technology used in future missions. "We have to ask the question, will we respect the rights of people and the environment as we go forward in space," Wood says.
  • One possible solution is a wax-based fuel source (made of beeswax and candle wax) for satellites that would be less toxic and more affordable than currently used inorganic compounds, and that would help bring the objects closer to Earth for deorbiting and destruction.

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