Dr Florian Graichen outlines the challenges and opportunities of our generation

1 May 2023

Scion general manager for forests to biobased products and University of Waikato Honorary Professor Dr Florian Graichen provided a sense of hope during his recent public lecture at the University of Waikato as he presented to a lecture theater of people inquisitive about climate solutions.

His presentation - 'The biggest adventure of humanity’ - outlined the challenges and opportunities of our generation, and looked at how Scion is responding to climate change using innovation.

He referenced several Scion-led projects that show positive disruption including used textiles to reinforce roading, biodegradable vineyard net clips, biodegradable nursery pots, New Zealand’s first commercial scale anaerobic digestion bioenergy plant, and the use of marine biofuel to support sustainable shipping.

He noted how, like other future threats, people can be slow to react and unsure about the best course of action. However, he said, “if we continue to rely on business as usual, solutions from the past and incremental change to tackle these challenges, we’ll fall well short of finding any solutions."

The destruction of Cyclone Gabrielle and other adverse weather events this year is a strong reminder of this.

Graichen said that our current approaches and way of thinking got us into the situation we are in.

“Climate change is the challenge of our generation. It’s a global disruptor - economically, environmentally, and socially.

“But I also want to leave you with a different message; climate change is also the opportunity of our generation. There are enormous opportunities and rewards for the continents, countries and companies that are (becoming) disruptors rather than disruptive.”

L to R: Energy & Resources Minister Hon. Megan Woods, Scion senior scientist Dr Suren Wijeyekoon, and Scion general manager for Forests to Biobased Products Florian Graichen. Minister Woods hopes the facility will be a beacon for further bioenergy projects.

During the presentation, he said, “we can, and are, innovating a different way forward, a way paved with opportunities and rewards”, urging New Zealanders to grab the opportunities of a generation around climate change mitigation.

Graichen explored how we can move with urgency and still benefit from the global transition to a circular bioeconomy and how that transition might assure prosperity and equity for everyone and asked:

  • How do we address the urgency of responding to climate change and biodiversity loss without missing the big opportunities?
  • The world is moving towards 10 billion people. How do we meet the increased demand for sustainable feedstock for both our existing and the new and emerging sectors, and the growing world population?
  • How do we take a more people-centred approach to local economic development?

Graichen said we must disrupt before we are being disrupted.

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”

Graichen's public lecture can be viewed below.