Bringing Moonshots Back To Earth

Written by Drew Pearce For DropBox. This piece was published first on DropBox website. See the original here

Using solar power to provide clean water

In the early 90s, Swedish inventor Petra Wadström and her family were living in Australia when she had an epiphany inspired by the intense sunlight surrounding her. She came up with an idea to use sunlight to heat and purify water.

She created a small, portable ”jerry can” that could be used by people living in extreme poverty in remote areas where many have to spend much of their day walking long distances to collect water.

"We'd like to tell the world about how you can still get things done with limited resources."

One of these change makers is Nancy, a mother of four living in Kenya. In addition to dealing with the problem of providing clean water for her family, she was encountering societal pressures about the brutal tradition of FGM/C. By standing her ground and refusing to let that happen to her daughters, she gained the respect of her whole community. 


“Now a lot of women throughout in the community talk with her, get her support and ask for her advice,” says Wadström. “She can move the needle on this bad tradition to face that down and bring in some good ones instead. She said ‘I’m proud to be Kenyan because we have a culture of sharing. We are neighbors. We always share. Now she can share Solvatten and the empowerment that she has. She feels confident and proud that she’s been able to stand up for her family. She can provide clean water to her family. She has this technology and even the men are wanting to be taken care of. So the water is changing the whole society.”

Wadström shares stories of change makers like Nancy in newsletters that go out to their sponsors, who in turn, share the stories on their social media channels on important dates, such as World Water Day. The sponsors become de facto ambassadors spreading the word about Solvatten to their networks. 

Though Wadström sees both the good and bad sides of technology, he says “I’m a believer that we’ll be able to fix stuff. We are prioritizing the right things. When you hear tech pioneers are shooting for Mars, we should really be doing things here on Earth. 


As the father of two young children, Wadström says that though he’s an optimist about the potential for technology to help humanity, it’s important to get his children to understand that we have to do this together as a species. “We have a purpose. We should be feeling purpose in our lives. We can’t fight about the limited resources. We have to find a way to to share them.”

To learn more about the work these companies are doing, visit Climeworks.comai-4-all.org, and Solvatten.org.