Light sciences can help to achieve the SDGs, found the International Year of Light some years ago. Let’s have a look at SDG1, SDG2 and SDG3.
The International Year of Light has been held in 2015, the very same year of the UN vote about Agenda 2030. In their final report, published in 2016, the organizers made the effort to write a chapter about of the science of light could help to achive tsome SDGs. They kindly allow us to reproduce their views in this blog: some food for thought about initiatives for IYBSSD 2022. We begin with SDG1, SDG2 and SDG3. Three other posts are to come.
SDG: No poverty
SDG2: Zero hunger
SDG3: Good health and well-being
The food and agriculture sector is essential to sustainable development. Indeed, ending hunger, ensuring food security, and promoting sustainable agriculture are key objectives of the Sustainable Development Goal targets. In many developing countries, agriculture is also the backbone of the economy, and is a key for long-term and inclusive growth due to its strong multiplier impact on other sectors. Good health and well-being are also fundamental for the development of society.
Light-based technologies for agriculture
Light-based technologies can play an important role in improving agriculture and farming through the area of agri-photonics. Lasers and imaging sensors on planes can be used to map soils and crop density, and reflectance data from vegetation can be used to determine very specific information such as the amount of nitrogen present in plants. Lasers and telescopes can be used to monitor evaporation and guide decisions on irrigation, and with appropriate lighting, vegetables and fruits can be grown indoors outside of their normal season, opening up possibilities for year-round crop cultivation, even in inhospitable regions.
Light for diagnotics, monitoring and even treatments
Optical technologies play a key role in medicine from simple diagnostics and monitoring, to advanced treatment options, and research. Photonics appears in very simple and widespread devices: clip-on pulse oximeters use the transmission of light from an LED through a finger to measure oxygen saturation and heart rate, and skin thermometers use infrared light detectors to provide a safe and reliable measurement of body temperature. Imaging and surgery have been revolutionized with the use of endoscopy and laparoscopy, and light-based technologies and lasers find important uses in many medical procedures including neurosurgery, dermatology, dentistry, vision correction, heart surgery, and reconstructive procedures.
Many light-based therapies have also proven effective for detecting and treating cancer. One example of a lightbased technique to treat cancer is photodynamic therapy, where a patient is given a nontoxic photosensitive drug that is absorbed by cancer cells. During surgery, a light beam is positioned at the tumour site, which then activates the drug to become toxic to targeted malignant cells.
A correct vision, essential for development
Recent years have seen dramatic strides in the field of telemedicine in general, the use of telecommunication and information technologies to provide access to medical services that would often not be consistently available at a distance. The smartphone may well be showing the way towards the democratization of healthcare in developing countries.
Another important issue faced around the world is that worldwide estimates of those who suffer from uncorrected defective eyesight range from the 100s of millions to over a billion adults and children! Far more than just an “inconvenience”, the worldwide lack of eyeglasses to correct vision prohibits people from working and taking care of their families and has a negative effect on children’s schooling and study.
A number of NGOs and industries are actively working on complementary approaches to solve these problems. One approach uses fluid-filled lenses where a user can self-adjust the eyeglasses, allowing a very convenient way to select the appropriate correction. Another idea uses low cost prefabricated lenses and a compact bending machine to create frames from spring steel; this approach can also encourage the establishment of sustainable businesses producing and selling these glasses in local communities.