Human Effort Planet Care

15: Amphibious water bomber super scoopers


Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) – climate change – is contributing to fires in the wilderness that are larger, more frequent and more devastating.


Various aircraft have been used over the years for firefighting..  The yellow and red amphibious water bombers or “super scoopers” Canadair CL-215 and the CL-415 are the most commonly used.

They are assembled at the Bombardier Aerospace facility near North Bay/Jack Garland Airport in North Bay, Ontario, and tested on Lake Nipissing. In 2018, there were 165 in-service CL-215 and CL-415s serving 11 countries.

The CL-415 can scoop up to 1,620 US gallons (6,140 liters) – that is  6,140 kilograms / 13,500 pounds – of water from a nearby water source in ten minutes, mix it with a chemical foam if desired, and drop it on a fire without having to return to base to refill its tanks.

In 2019 the European Union set up a RescEU fleet of seven Canadairs and six helicopters from six EU member states: Spain, Italy, France, Sweden, Croatia and Greece.

They are also available to other European countries and adjoining states, which can request to use the planes in an emergency to fight forest fires across Europe. Most recently they were used during the forest fires of California in August-September, 2020.

Discover solution 16: turning animal dung into electricity

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Planet Care

13: Amphibious housing that adapts to water level


Since 1880 – 140 years ago – global mean sea level has risen about 8–9 inches (21–24 centimeters), with about a third of the rise coming in a sixth of that time – the last 25 years.

From 2018 – 2019 alone, sea level rose 0.24 inches (6.1 millimeters) to a height of 3.4 inches (87.61 mm centimeters) above the 1993 average. Data from a U.S. Geological Survey estimates sea levels could rise another 19 in. (48 cm) in the next 30 years.


Amphibious houses that combine the best features of floating house boats with the best features of elevated buildings.

House boats have been with us for centuries and are designed to adapt to changes in water level, but cannot safely withstand storms with high winds or floods with fast moving water.

Elevated homes are safe from flooding and wind if constructed properly, but can feel isolated from their neighbours and the surrounding environment due to their high decks and extensive stairs.


The Netherlands is a country with a long history of mitigating flood damage and adapting to flood risk, with 60% of the country below sea level.

The development and implementation of flood resilient infrastructure has become an important part of the Dutch culture.

The flood threat in the Netherlands is not only related to rising sea-levels, rivers also pose a risk of flooding. This risk is increased by climate change as it causes more frequent and extreme rainfall.

An answer to this can be found on the Maas river, in Maasbommel, where the country’s first amphibious houses were realized in 2005.

Designed by a team led by Adrianus Gerardus Gregorius van Haastert, Richard Jacob Looij and Josephus Antonius Wilhelmus Hockx and built by the construction firm Dura Vermeer Beton & Waterbouw BV, the development encompasses 14 floating houses / house boats plus 32 real amphibious houses plus.

The amphibious houses in Massbommel float like house boats sited on a floating concrete “hull.” However, they are also secured against strong winds and waves by permanent mooring posts driven deep into the ground, similar to those used to elevate homes.

In every day non-flood conditions, the houses rest on the river bank, allowing for convenient water access and creating a flat walkable space between homes. When waters rise, the posts guide the building to rise and lower, in place, according to changing river levels.

Unlike a house boat, the amphibious houses also have basements, decks, and small gardens all supported by their foundations. They feature flexible pipes for electrical, water, and sewer lines that will keep the home “on the grid” even in a flooding event.

Dura Vermeer have also built floating houses near the Limburg village of Ohé en Laak. These homes, known as the Meuse Villas, consist of a concrete floating barge, including the shell, and each home weighs approximately 100 tons.

Although the technology of amphibious houses proved itself during a flood in 2011, the concept has only been moderately adopted in the Netherlands.

The obstacle has been obtaining building permission, due to regulators being unfamiliar with the concept and hesitance to approve building in areas that were considered dangerous. Another important difficulty is that an unconventional building approach leads to higher construction costs, combined with a limited market of possible owners.


Bungalow Boote (Bunbo) are very popular on the vast northern German waterway network, also on the Lahn river. Hulls are aluminum, superstructure made from wood. Typically used for charter (short-term, weekly), they are also good for older people and those with disabilities. Propulsion is electric, power is solar (100 watt) and cooking/heating by gas.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, architect Marek Štěpán of Tachov in the Plzeň Region, has designed and built a series of prefabricated one-bedroom floating homes called Freedomky, which can be towed to a selected venue, such as Charles Bridge in the up-and-coming district of Smíchov in Prague.

Discover solution 14: Solar panels that work at night

Elizabeth C English, Carol J. Friedland,  Fatemeh Orooji, “Combined Flood and Wind Mitigation for Hurricane Damage Prevention: Case for Amphibious Construction,” Journal of Structural Engineering, February 2017.

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Planet Care Your Home

7: Perfect Sense • a wearable air quality sensor


Some routes taken by schoolchildren to and from their schools are more polluted than others.


In April 2020, Ava Garside, 13-years’ old, in Year 9 at the Allerton Grange School, Leeds, England created a graphene-based, wearable air quality pin-badge sensor which collects data and detects the air quality of wherever you are, helping to detect the cleanest and healthiest routes to work or school.

For her “Perfect Sense solution”, Ava was named the Junior winner of the Youth Industrial Strategy Competition, a national STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) initiative coordinated by the government of the United Kingdom and the British Science Association.

She was also awarded the UK Space Agency SatelLife competition. She has since been working alongside scientists at the University of Manchester to develop the prototype further, but like many of the solutions presented on this website, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed things up.

Discover solution 8: aircraft that generate electricity.

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Human Effort Planet Care

1: Combining crop growing with forestry


Halting deforestation is a global challenge largely due to unsustainable agricultural practices that degrade natural ecosystems. Ninety percent of deforestation is the result of agriculture, with 60% due to the extension of agro-industrial intensive farming (soya, palm oil, corn…), and the remaining 30% caused by small-scale and subsistence farmers. Close to 20% of all carbon emissions result from deforestation and forest degradation.

With slash and burn subsistence agriculture, due to heavy seasonal floods, the exposed soil is washed away, leaving infertile barren soil exposed to the dry season. Farmed hillside sites have to be abandoned after a few years.


In 1977, a team led by Canadian forester John G. Bene published a seminal work “Trees, food and people : land management in the tropics” in which Bene coined the word agroforestry. This led to the setting up of an International Council for Research in Agroforestry, now the World Agroforestry Center headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.

Agroforestry is a land use management system in which smart reforestation goes hand in hand with crops or pastureland. This intentional combination of agriculture and forestry increases biodiversity and reduces erosion. Unlike full-sun fields, vulnerable and contributing to ecosystems degradation, agrofrestry is a way to preserve productive ecosystems and adapt to climate change.

One example of agroforestry has proved successful at the Quesungual Lempira Department, Honduras. Here, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) helped introduce a system incorporating local knowledge consisting of the following steps:

  • Hillside secondary forest were thinned and pruned, leaving individual nitrogen-fixing trees to help reduce soil erosion, maintain soil moisture, provide shade and provide an input of nitrogen-rich organic matter in the form of litter.
  • Maize, a local crop was then planted in rows beside the trees, then harvested, leaving their stalks used for nitrogen-fixing climbing bean plants.
  • Further intercropping was carried out with pumpkin, its large leaves and horizontal growth providing additional shade and moisture retention.
  • Pumpkins do not compete with the beans for sunlight since the latter grow vertically on the stalks.

Another agroforestry application is Taungya, a system originating in Burma. In the initial stages of an orchard or tree plantation, trees are small and widely spaced. The free space between the newly planted trees accommodates a seasonal crop. Instead of costly weeding, the underutilized area provides an additional output and income.

More complex taungyas use between-tree space for multiple crops. The crops become more shade tolerant as the tree canopies grow and the amount of sunlight reaching the ground declines. Thinning can maintain sunlight levels.

J. G. Bene, H.W. Beall, A. Cöté, “Trees, food and people : land management in the tropics,” International Development Research Centre, 1977. Daizy Rani Patish, Ecological basis of agroforestry. CRC Press.2008; Kate Langford, “Turning the tide on farm productivity in Africa: an agroforestry solution,“. World Agroforestry Centre, 8 July 2009.

Discover solution 2: How to make silk without killing silk worms.

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