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Environment

Singapore’s 100-foot concrete supertrees tower over Gardens by the Bay, part of the government’s attempt to create "a city in a garden." These mammoth steel and concrete structures serve as cooling ducts for conservatories, generate solar power, and collect rainwater. But supertrees are just one example of Singapore’s horticultural innovations. Singapore’s strides in modern agriculture herald the beginnings of a green revolution—including the Hort Park rooftop gardensand Sky Greens, one of the world’s first commercial vertical farms.

Climate Change Improving Cities and Lives

In our fast paced, evolving world public policy is often completely focused on growing economies, technology, and improving life. Unfortunately, this happens too often at the cost of the environment. The Carbon Disclosure Project works to reform this way of the world by working with cities to come up with ways of improving the way they operate.

To Feed the Future, We Need a Feast of Facts and a Famine of Fear

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.

Rural Agriculture in IndiaAgriculture must urgently address three sets of issues:

  • Reduce the hunger and malnutrition affecting 870 million people. We must address the fact that 165 million children under five years of age are stunted, and the number of stunted children is rising in sub-Saharan Africa, with 52 million children suffering from wasting, and with little improvement globally since 1990. For most of these children, the damage to their growth and development is irreversible and will impact the world for generations.
  • Provide sustainable solutions to extensive rural poverty on a large scale. Three-quarters of the world’s very poor people (incomes less than US$1.25/day in 2005 dollars) live in rural areas, and most get their main livelihoods from farming.
  • Mitigate 30 percent of the Green-House-Gas (GHG) emissions that are leading to world that could be hotter by 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Farhenheit).

Gustavo Gaviria PhotoThe 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.

***

Agriculture and Climate ChangeOn 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.

Ensuring Food SecurityDear 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.

Wikistrat: The Globally Crystallizing Climate Change EventThis 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.

2496383009 db719289dfBy 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.

516840As 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.”

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