Can AI Save The World?

Ever wonder if there will be a day where Earth begins to run out of natural resources? According to some recent research we have already come to that day. 

On August 1st, 2018, earth reached what scientists call “Overshoot Day.” This is the point when humans essentially have consumed more natural resources than the Earth can even produce.  In 2018, it took seven months to consume a year’s worth of Earth’s resources.

In a span of 40 years, we have seen a 60% decline in the world’s wildlife.

With the help of technology, researchers believe we have the chance to begin to reverse some of these damages and begin to move toward a more sustainable planet.


Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics can combine with traditional agricultural methods to provide automated data collection and better decision-making possibilities.

Utilizing this technology, the systems can interact with crop cultivation – analyzing the best times to spray and harvest.  This approach decreases the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Farming practices not only will become more efficient, but the approach leads to greater long-term sustainability.  Data crunching allows for the ability to collect and analyze large amounts of data to provide better results.

Natural disasters also take a toll on earth’s ecosystem. Hurricanes, droughts, mudslides and wildfires can have long-term effects on the earth’s resources including destruction of crops and soil contamination.  Researchers are using this new technology to analyze large amounts of weather data regarding weather patterns and natural disasters.  AI and machine learning models can provide new insights and make more accurate climate model predictions based on large amounts of data.


Artificial Intelligence technology already provides useful information to combat air pollution. Inexpensive “smart sensors” relay accurate air quality data that provides real-time data to scientists. 

In 2021, The Environmental Defense Fund will be launching a satellite that monitors methane gas emissions from space.  Methane levels lead to global warming and analyzing such data can help researchers take action. The data produced will be accurate enough to find leaks in gas pipelines.

AI has also advanced to make autonomous vehicles possible.  Such technology reduces oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.  

Furthermore, the use of solar panels and wind turbines help provide renewable energy.  Such cost-effective resources enable the use of a smart grid which can provide users with data regarding their energy usage. This data is also used by energy providers to gain a better understanding of energy consumption and make adjustments to maximize efficiency.


Offshore drilling, cargo transport and trash have polluted our oceans and lakes creating dangerous environments for organisms in the water.  AI is playing a major role in combating water pollution.  Researchers are currently developing an AI controlled autonomous floating garbage truck to help get rid of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Machine learning technology is able to track and follow marine litter allowing quick responses.

More than 2 billion people worldwide are affected by contaminated water. The Flint, Michigan water crisis is a good example of how even countries with good water infrastructure are still susceptible to such issues.

One new technology is called Clean Water AI.  The device helps detect and classify bacteria. The application of this technology requires two steps; first, scientists use sets of infected images to train machine learning algorithms, next the scientists deploy a prototype for testing.  Through such technology, the machine learning algorithm can enable data crunching and provide real-time data to the user.


Nanotechnology is a form of technology designed at the molecular level.  One area where this technology is being used is the energy sector, where nanotechnology is helping reduce the demand for lighting.  Photovoltaics use this technology to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Chemistry and pharmaceutical companies are using nanotechnology, or nanomaterials, to boost resource efficiency and replace dangerous chemicals.  It can also create new forms of drug development, find cancer treatments, and optimize medical diagnosis.  

Scientists are currently researching ways to use nanotechnology to clean up radioactive waste. In addition, batteries contain metals such as cadmium and leave behind dangerous waste – nanotechnology can potentially help clean up this mess.

Land Monitoring Using Remote Sensing

Keeping a close eye on land through remote sensing can help scientists evaluate environmental impacts.  Remote sensing is the process of detecting physical characteristics of land by measuring its emitted radiation at a distance.

Through such technology, organizations have been able to track where and how industries are turning ecological sensitive areas into construction zones.  Essentially, there are three types of data researchers analyze through remote sensing; high-resolution data, medium resolution data and panchromatic data.  Sonar systems on ships can also help create images on the ocean floor.

In one project, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has teamed up with NASA to develop an algorithm that allows detection of deforestation from palm oil expansion through the use of remote sensing data. Over a six-year period, researchers have used remote sensing tactics that are executed through a high-resolution satellite data image set. These images can help researchers analyze annual vegetation, land that is susceptible to wildfires and any changes to the landscape.

What Does The Future Look Like?

 Our planet continues to face serious problems regarding the sustainability of natural resources. Pollution on land, in the air and at sea are creating a more toxic planet and living space for humans.  With the help of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data crunching, researchers can enable machines to combat pollution.  Using these technologies, waste can be cleaned up, greenhouse gas emissions can be decreased and Earth can become a more sustainable planet.