Last week I visited the ‘Our Time on Earth’ exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London. The exhibition explores ideas from around the world as to how we can live on the planet in a way that doesn’t destroy the ecosystems we need to survive.

With climate changes happening 70 years earlier than predicted, at OnePlanet we believe  we must face this reality and implement adaptation methods that simultaneously regenerate Earth – ‘Positive Adaptation’. Here are some examples from the exhibition of how Indigenous knowledge and technologies might be applied in different settings across the world to build resilience to changing climates.

Balinese Subak for sustainable water management

Subak is a cooperative water management system for rice fields in Bali that dates back to the 9th century. Tri Hati Karana is a local wisdom that seeks harmony between people, god and their environment. These values underpin the Subak irrigation system. They are thought to have enabled the Balinese to become some of the most abundant rice growers, even in the face of social and environmental challenges.

Approximately 4 billion people experience severe water scarcity for at least one month each year. Higher temperatures and more extreme weather events are predicted to worsen this, with the average length of drought increasing to two months at 1.5oC global temperature rise. Could solutions to a water crisis be found in Subak water systems?

Indian root bridges for sustainable transport networks

In north-east India, Indigenous Khasi and Jaintia communities have crafted intricate bridges from living fig tree roots. The ancient skill connects remote villages to nearby towns when monsoons cause flooding. The root bridges grow stronger over time and are more resilient to extreme rainfall than cement and steel. They also absorb carbon from the atmosphere, help stabilise soils and prevent landslides.

European researchers have examined how this Indigenous technology can be used in cities to adapt to climate changes. Incorporating root bridge technology into urban transport networks has the potential to increase biodiversity, air and water quality as well as improve physical and mental health.

Floating reed homes of Iraq for resilience to rising sea levels

Once the largest wetland system in Western Eurasia, the Iraqi marshlands were inhabited by the Ma’dān. Their villages were irregular clusters of small floating islands constructed from layers of mud and the stalks of giant reeds. The Ma’dān lived in harmony with their ecosystem until they were displaced by military powers draining the marshes of water in the 1990s.

Latest estimates predict that as many as 630 million people could be displaced by sea level rise from rising global temperatures. Combining the floating reed technology of the Ma’dān with prevailing coastal infrastructure solutions can help adapt to rising sea water levels and enable waterfront communities to stay together.  


Indigenous knowledge provides key insights to tackle climate change including understanding the interconnections of life and its ecosystems. The OnePlanet platform uses graph database technology to allow users to link up Outcomes, Actions and Indicators. Relationships can be visualised easily making our interconnectedness to the rest of the planet easier to understand. This can help us make more sustainable decisions.

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