Less than three decades from now, in 2041, the United Nations estimates that the population of the world will reach 9 billion people. That is a lot of mouths to feed, to put it mildly.
Agriculture must urgently address three sets of issues:
The Diplomatic Courier recently spoke with Dr. Gustavo Gaviria Angel, member of the Board of Directors of the Sustainable Food Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015. Dr. Gaviria was Ambassador for Colombia to the Shanghai 2010 Universal Exposition and serves as Chairman of the Board of Industrias Aliadas S.A. He is past Chairman of Cafeteros de Colombia, Colombia’s largest coffee grower and exporter association, and External Consultant to the International Finance Corporation (IFC). We spoke with him at his office in Bogotá, Colombia.
On April 3rd, the Energy, Resources and Environment Global Leaders Forum at the John Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies welcomed Dr. Robert L. Thompson to speak on the important matter of global food security within the next 40 years. The question posed in Dr. Thompson’s speech was one of growing importance as the years go by: How do you feed a population of 9 billion people when climate impacts are going to impose immense risks? While there is no simple answer, Dr. Thompson did successfully offer prospective solutions to the growing issue of food security and climate change in his hour long presentation.
Dr. Thompson’s background makes him an ideal speaker on food security and the environment. Dr. Thompson has served as a professor for the University of Illinois, where he holds the Gardner Endowed Chair in Agricultural Policy. Previously, he served as Director of Rural Development and Senior Advisor for Agricultural Trade Policy at the World Bank, CEO of the Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development, and Assistant Secretary for Economic at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These positions, along with many other positions surrounding agriculture, make Dr. Thompson well versed in issues surrounding global food security and our environment.
Dear Mr. President,
You have many pressing priorities on your plate as you enter into a second term, but one area where your leadership can continue to make a difference here at home and abroad is a focus on global food security. How to feed a hungry world in a sustainable manner is one of the most vexing problems we will have to face in the coming years, but not an insurmountable task.
This report, compiled by Chief Analyst Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett and edited by Chief Editor Steve Keller, presents the top insights from Wikistrat's latest simulation. This report is based on the collaborative efforts of over 60 Wikistrat analysts from around the world.
In September of 2012, Wikistrat ran a two-week simulation that explored what it would take, in terms of a crystallizing event, to push either climate change or the environment in general to the top of the global political agenda. So far, the global climate change debate has been centered on historical trends, unfolding data points, and hotly-contested computer modeling of different global futures. Plenty of people are convinced and plenty are skeptical, but more simply don’t care or pay much attention because it just doesn’t matter–enough. Simply put, what this global debate has lacked to date is a truly crystallizing event that forces humanity to admit it has entered The Age of X. This brainstorming mini-simulation aimed to generate a range of plausible scenarios of just such an event–not a trend, but a globally-recognized event of 9/11-like, “this-changes-everything” magnitude.
In this simulation, Wikistrat stipulated that climate change is real and accelerating, while leaving open how it is ultimately interpreted and responded to, by humanity as a whole. Wikistrat also stipulated that, while climate change may well evolve into a life-dominating variable on Earth, that impact is not necessarily wholly good or bad–just inevitable. Taking into account all of these long-term trends, this Wikistrat simulation generated roughly two-dozen scenarios of various globally crystallizing environmental events. This short report presents the highlights of these analytic brainstorming efforts.
By some estimates, over a billion individuals across the globe face undernutrition while many more live with erratic access to clean water and unreliable electricity. Imagine being hungry at seven years old or walking six kilometers every day to stay hydrated in Africa. As nations prepare to gather for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vladivostok, Russia in September 2012, food and energy are two areas where the international community can make quantifiable steps toward better cooperation and sustainability.
Food and Hunger
When the world’s largest exporter of wheat, corn, and soybeans faces its worst drought in 50 years, the world shudders, grocery prices sky-rocket, and experts start warning of a “food crisis” that will hit the poorest and most fragile communities the hardest. In the United States alone, one in five children is hungry. By no means limited to the rural areas, childhood hunger is acutely evident in various elementary schools in Northern Virginia where spring and summer breaks—times when families must feed their little ones—are dreaded. Although recent federal agricultural aid by President Barack Obama will likely ease the economic pressure, the relief stops short of being an international solution. Indeed, world food prices increased 6 percent in July with a 23 percent rise in corn prices, according to the United Nations.
As Bjorn Lomborg, a self-described “skeptical environmentalist," predicted days before the Rio+20, representatives emerged disappointed with the summit’s results.
The Rio+20, or the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, hosted 188 nations in Rio de Janeiro to discuss new forms of sustainable development. Some 45,000 people, including governmental, private sector, and NGO representatives, revisited the issues laid out twenty years ago at the 1992 Earth Summit, but they also sought to “move away from business-as-usual,” and combine decreased environmental harm with increased job opportunities worldwide.
The summit produced a nonbinding declaration, and several companies pledged to switch to clean energy sources or cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by a certain date. But experts were left wondering if these long-term and relatively low-pressure solutions actually constitute a “move away from business-as-usual.”
Economic security and political instability are immediate problems that capture attention and require urgent action. Unfortunately, as a result, long-term challenges like sustainable development often get dropped from public policy and the public dialogue. Yet, figuring out how to sustainably meet the needs of the world’s growing population is vital to billions of people and to the future of the planet. That is why the United Nations has put sustainable development issues at the forefront of the global agenda this week.
The UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, has brought together heads of state, diplomats, business executives, and civil society activists to share ideas and lessons learned, to promote creativity and cooperation, and to find ways to advance sustainable development. While tens of thousands of people are in Rio for the conference, you don’t have to be there to understand its importance: the health of the planet and of all its inhabitants depends on our collective ability to create a sustainable future.
The United States clean energy industry certainly cannot count on Congress these days, but at least it has Ghana.
With clean energy momentum stymied on Capitol Hill, Foggy Bottom and Arlington have stepped in to provide some steam for a somewhat floundering industry. The Department of State has struck numerous deals with countries like Ghana to promote clean energy initiatives, which benefits the U.S. firms poised to take advantage of newly liberalized, barren overseas power markets. The Department of Defense, with its deep pockets and a mandate to get 25 percent of its power from clean sources by 2025, also has the tools to emphasize clean energy technology.
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