IPS Newsin theirCombating Desertification and Droughtin a post reproduced here holds that the issue of land degradation impacting all countries in all continents would require governments, land users and all different communities of a country to be part of the solution.
ANKARA, Jun 17 2019 (IPS) – The coming decades will be crucial in shaping and implementing a transformative land agenda, according to a scientist at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) framework for Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).
UNCCD-Science Policy Interface co-chair Dr. Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, who spoke with IPS ahead of the start of activities to mark World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on Monday, Jun. 17, said this was one of the key messages emerging for policy- and other decision-makers.
“The main message is: things are not improving. The issue of desertification is becoming clearer to different communities, but we now have to start implementing the knowledge that we already have to combat desertification,” Akhtar-Schuster told IPS.
“It’s not only technology that we have to implement, it is the policy level that has to develop a governance structure which supports sustainable land management practices.”
IPBES Science and Policy for People and Nature found that the biosphere and atmosphere, upon which humanity as a whole depends, have been deeply reconfigured by people.
The report shows that 75 percent of the land area is very significantly altered, 66 percent of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative impacts, and 85 percent of the wetland area has been lost.
“There are of course areas which are harder hit; these are areas which are experiencing extreme drought which makes it even more difficult to sustainably use land resources,” Akhtar-Schuster said.
“On all continents you have the issue of land degradation, so there’s no continent, there’s no country which can just lean back and say this is not our issue. Everybody has to do something.”
Akhtar-Schuster said there is sufficient knowledge out there which already can support evidence-based implementation of technology so that at least land degradation does not continue.
While the information is available, Akhtar-Schuster said it requires governments, land users and all different communities in a country to be part of the solution.
“There is no top-down approach. You need the people on the ground, you need the people who generate knowledge and you need the policy makers to implement that knowledge. You need everybody,” the UNCCD-SPI co-chair said.
“Nobody in a community, in a social environment, can say this has nothing to do with me. We are all consumers of products which are generated from land. So, we in our daily lives – the way we eat, the way we dress ourselves – whatever we do has something to do with land, and we can take decisions which are more friendly to land than what we’re doing at the moment.”
UNCCD-Science Policy Interface co-chair Dr. Mariam Akhtar-Schuster says things are not improving and that the issue of desertification is becoming clearer to different communities. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS
UNCCD Lead Scientist Dr. Barron Joseph Orr said it’s important to note that while the four major assessments were all done for different reasons, using different methodologies, they are all converging on very similar messages.
He said while in the past land degradation was seen as a problem in a place where there is overgrazing or poor management practices on agricultural lands, the reality is, that’s not influencing the change in land.
“What’s very different from the past is the rate of land transformation. The pace of that change is considerable, both in terms of conversion to farm land and conversion to built-up areas,” Orr told IPS.
“We’ve got a situation where 75 percent of the land surface of the earth has been transformed, and the demand for food is only going to go up between now and 2050 with the population growth expected to increase one to two billion people.”
That’s a significant jump. Our demand for energy that’s drawn from land, bio energy, or the need for land for solar and wind energy is only going to increase but these studies are making it clear that we are not optimising our use,” Orr added.
Like Akhtar-Schuster, Orr said it’s now public knowledge what tools are necessary to sustainably manage agricultural land, and to restore or rehabilitate land that has been degraded.
“We need better incentives for our farmers and ranchers to do the right thing on the landscape, we have to have stronger safeguards for tenures so that future generations can continue that stewardship of the land,” he added.
The international community adopted the Convention to Combat Desertification in Paris on Jun. 17, 1994.
At the same time, they will look at the broad picture of the next 25 years where they will achieve land degradation neutrality.
The anniversary campaign runs under the slogan “Let’s grow the future together,” with the global observance of WDCD and the 25th anniversary of the Convention on Jun. 17, hosted by the government of Turkey.
APO Group – Africa Newsroom / Press release informs that despite a difficult business environment in Iran . . . , 865 exhibitors from 21 countries present the entire value chain at Iran agrofood 2019. Here it is.
National pavilions of Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy, Russia and Turkey
TEHRAN, Islamic Republic of Iran, June 5, 2019/APO Group/ —
Despite the currently difficult business environment in Iran, as many as 865 exhibitors from 21 countries will be presenting their products, solutions and technologies “from field to fork” at iran agrofood 2019. More than 40,000 trade visitors from all over Iran and neighbouring countries are again expected. Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy, Russia and Turkey will be represented with official pavilions this year. iran agrofood consists of the five partial events iran agro, iran food + bev tec, iran bakery + confectionery, iran food ingredients and iran food + hospitality and has been organised by the German trade show specialists fairtrade (www.fairtrade-messe.de) and its Iranian partner Palar Samaneh (www.Palar-Samaneh.com). The 26th edition will take place from 18 to 21 June 2019 at the Teheran International Fairground.
The exhibitors come from Austria, Brazil, China, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Mongolia, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Seven official national pavilions
Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy, Russia and Turkey are present at iran agrofood 2019 with official national pavilions. The Netherlands and Switzerland are represented through stands of their embassies.
Following the successful participations in 2017 and 2018, Brazil will again be present this year with an official pavilion at iran food + hospitality, organised by the Brazilian Embassy in Tehran. 10 Brazilian companies will present the finest meat, coffee and food from Brazil.
China participates with 19 exhibitors at iran food ingredients, iran food + hospitality and iran food + bev tec.
The official German Pavilion is presented by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, in cooperation with the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA) and supported by VDMA Food Processing and Packaging Machinery. Altogether 15 German companies take part in iran food + bev tec & iran food ingredients.
Not less than 24 Indian exhibitors display their products at iran food ingredients & iran food + hospitality, supported by the India Trade Promotion Organisation ITPO, the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India ASSOCHAM, and the Cashew Export Promotion Council of India CEPCI.
For many years Italy has been one of the most important exhibitor nations at iran food + bev tec. While the Italian participation in recent years has been organized solely privately, the 2019 Italian participation featuring 22 Italian exhibitors is for the first time complemented by an official Italian pavilion with the support of the Italian Trade Agency ITA.
The Russian Federation presents itself for the first time at iran agro 2019 with two official pavilions. One from the Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia’s most populous republic. And another from the Kabardino-Balkar Republic in the North Caucasus. Both pavilions are officially supported by the Russian Export Center. A total of 9 Russian exhibitors will present technologies for agriculture, milk production and water treatment.
As in previous years, Turkey will again be officially represented this year at iran food + bev tec & iran food + hospitality. The Turkish pavilion with 11 exhibitors is supported by the Turkish Ministry of Trade.
The 26th edition will take place from 18 to 21 June 2019 at the Teheran International Fairground
Iran agrofood 2019 presents the entire value chain “from field to fork”
Iran agro 2019 – The agricultural event within iran agrofood
Contact Iran: Palar Samaneh Co. Ms Ladan Maleki Apt.1, Amin Building (No.18) – Amini Alley South Shiraz St. Molasadra IR – Tehran 14358-93681 Tel: +98 21 88 05 94 57 +98 21 88 05 94 58 +98 21 88 05 94 59 Fax: +98 21 88 04 48 17 firstname.lastname@example.org www.Palar-Samaneh.com
fairtrade – Valuable business contacts: fairtrade (www.fairtrade-messe.de) was founded by Martin März in 1991. Since long, fairtrade ranks among the leading organisers of professional international trade fairs in emerging markets, especially in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Managed by its shareholder and his son Paul März and committed to the values of a family business and the team spirit, fairtrade maintains a powerful network of partnerships throughout the world. fairtrade organizes shows in the sectors Agrofood, CIT Solutions, Energy, Industry and PlastPrintPack and strives for a high level of customer satisfaction.
By means of innovative products and excellent service fairtrade organizes professional platforms for valuable business contacts between exhibitors and visitors. fairtrade is a member of UFI The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry and AAXO The Association of African Exhibition Organisers. The management is ISO 9001:2015 certified.
Palar Samaneh: Based in Tehran Palar Samaneh (www.Palar-Samaneh.com) has organised over 50 international trade fairs of major importance in Iran over the past 10 years. Having played an important role in the growth of the Iranian trade fair market, Palar Samaneh makes use of this knowledge for the benefit of its customers.
In addition to their exhibition organization department, its stand building unit serves individual exhibitors as well as country pavilions all over the Middle East and the CIS-countries.
Hunger continues to rise in the Near East and North Africa region where over 52 million people are undernourished.
Conflicts and widening rural-urban gaps hamper the region’s efforts to end hunger by 2030.
8 May 2019, Cairo/Rome – Hunger in the Near East and North Africa region (NENA) continues to rise as conflicts and protracted crises have spread and worsened since 2011, threatening the region’s efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including Zero Hunger.
Conflict continues to be the main driver of hunger across the region. More than two-thirds of hungry people in NENA, approximately 34 million people, live in conflict-affected countries, compared to 18 million hungry people in countries that are not impacted directly by conflict.
Stunting, wasting, and undernutrition are also far worse in conflict countries than in the other countries.
“Conflicts and civil instability have long-lasting impacts on the food and nutrition security of both affected and surrounding countries in the regions” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa.
“The impact of the conflict has been disrupting food and livestock production in some countries and consequently affecting the availability of food across the region,” he added.
“Rising hunger is also compounded by rapid population growth, scarce and fragile natural resources, the growing threat of climate change, increasing unemployment rates, and diminished rural infrastructure and services” Ould Ahmed underscored. The report highlights that the region is not facing just a hunger crisis as some of the highest rates of obesity are also found in countries within the region, putting pressure on people’s health, lifestyles and national health systems and economies. Addressing obesity requires food systems that ensure that people have access to healthy nutritious food and also increased public awareness and information on the risks associated with overweight and obesity.
Inadequate rural transformation hampers efforts to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2030
The report shows that not only do conflicts undermine the region’s Zero Hunger efforts, but also the degree of rural transformation.
“Countries that are not in conflict and have gone furthest in transforming rural areas in a sustainable way including through better management of water resources, have achieved better food security and nutrition outcomes than those in conflict or with lower levels of rural transformation,” Ould Ahmed said, noting how the report stresses that more efforts are needed to boost rural employment, stimulate economic growth in rural areas, reduce urban-rural gaps, and improve agricultural productivity and rural infrastructure and services.
The report highlights how unemployment, particularly for young people and women across all age groups is a significant challenge in the NENA region and is often higher than in other regions of the world. This is aggravated by rural-urban gaps – with significant disparities in living standards and poverty rates between rural and urban areas – and differences in labour productivity between traditional agriculture and industry and services. This gap is deepened by differences in access to education, health as well as other public services and housing.
At the same time, rural areas accommodate around 40 percent of the population, where the majority of poor are living. The report shows that the average wages for those employed in agriculture are likely to be far below those of workers outside the sector. Partially as a result of lower wages in agriculture, rural areas in the NENA region generally have higher income poverty rates than urban areas. On average, rural poverty is about twice as high as poverty in urban areas.
Transforming agriculture to achieve Zero Hunger
At a regional level, there are significant opportunities for transforming agriculture in a sustainable way, starting with the provision of improved access to markets for farmers, promoting investments in agriculture, transfer of technology and other innovations, more efficient and effective management of water resources, as well as key policy changes that support the shift from subsistence farming to commercial and diversified production systems.
“There is a great need to encourage our region’s farmers to produce according to the comparative advantage of the region,” Ould Ahmed said, highlighting that the NENA region has a great potential in the production of crops and livestock products that are least intensive in arable land and water and more intensive in use of labour.
The report highlights that greater efforts and actions are needed to support the development and implementation of policies and programmes to abolish rural-urban differences.
Key facts and figures
Number of hungry people in the Near East and North Africa: 52 million, 33.9 million are in conflict countries directly and 18.1 million in non-conflict countries.
Children under five affected by stunting (low height-for-age): 21.1 percent.
Children under five affected by wasting (low weight-for-height): 8.7 percent.
Children under five who are overweight (high weight-for-height): 9.1 percent
Note to editors: NENA countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
In effect, three ways cities can help feed the world . . . without costing the Earth, per Silvio Caputo, University of Kent seem to be one of the few options remaining for life on earth to carry on.
Climate change is underway, and human activities such as urbanisation, industrialisation and food production are key contributors. Food production alone accounts for around 25% of global carbon emissions. Ironically, the changing weather patterns and more frequent extreme weather events resulting from climate change also put the world’s food supplies at risk.
Food production drives deforestation, meaning there are fewer trees to absorb carbon dioxide, which contributes to the greenhouse effect. What’s more, the fertilisers and pesticides used to protect crops have caused a dramatic decline in insect populations, and in soil fertility, by affecting the microbial organisms that enrich the soil and enable plants to gain nutrients.
At the same time, the world population is rising and there are expected to be more than 9.5 billion people on Earth by 2050. In response to these projections, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is campaigning for a 60% increase in food production by 2050, by intensifying agriculture to be more productive and use fewer resources, all without increasing the amount of farm land.
It’s not yet clear exactly how this “intensification” should happen. Alternative methods, such as organic farming, are respectful of soil ecology and insect life and can restore soil fertility. But they cannot, at present, produce as much food as industrial agriculture.
Yet the idea that we need more food is debatable. Although, according to the FAO, there are 821m people globally suffering from hunger, the world produces 50% more food than is needed to feed the global population. Another estimate from biologist and author Colin Tudge suggests that the current food production can feed as many as 14 billion people. But one third of this food is wasted because of distorted supply systems, unjust food distribution and unhealthy and unsustainable diets.
So, the efforts of experts in the food sector should not concentrate on agriculture intensification, but rather on strategies to change patterns of consumption and waste at a local and global level. My own research on urban agriculture and sustainable cities suggests there are three main areas where effective changes can be made.
1. Recycling food waste
Food consumption needs to become “circular”. This means that organic waste such as food scraps does not go to landfill, but is instead transformed into compost (which will be needed in a transition to organic agriculture) and biogas.
At present, organic waste is only recycled to a small extent, with some countries such as Germany and the Netherlands leading, while others including Italy and Belgium lag behind. But there are new technologies emerging to make this process easier.
For example, the Local Energy Adventure Partnership (LEAP) has created an anaerobic digester designed for an urban context: this machine can transform organic waste from residential or commercial buildings into compost and biogas that can fuel urban food growing.
Some experts also suggest that some food waste – if treated properly – could be used as animal fodder: a practice currently forbidden on hygiene grounds. If reinstated, this measure could reduce the environmental impact of grain cultivation, as less is grown to feed livestock.
2. Urban farming
Another option is to decrease demand for agricultural land by growing food in cities, where more people need it, thereby reducing the distances food has to travel. This would also allow producers to map and match consumers’ demand more effectively, by producing close to the places where food is consumed.
There is a lot of research on urban agriculture and how cities can support it, spanning from vertical farms – hydroponic systems enabling cultivation on vertical surfaces – to principles for planning cities that facilitate the use of land, rooftops and other spaces to grow food into a continuous green infrastructure.
In this area, too, it’s possible to find innovations designed to make urban farming easier and more sustainable. For example, The Farmhouse is a modular housing system suitable for vertical stacking that enables all residents to grow food. And Blockchain Domes is a patented system that uses excess heat from computer servers to provide optimal thermal conditions for greenhouses in colder climates.
3. Changing diets
The third option is to encourage people to change their diets. Growing middle-income groups in developing countries are consuming ever higher quantities of meat, cheese and eggs. In China, since 1990, consumption of beef and poultry has quadrupled. But the diet of farmed animals is heavy in grains, which instead could be used to feed people more efficiently. Also, cattle farming requires vast quantities of water and grassland, sometimes obtained through deforestation.
Getting people to eat less meat will help to ease the pressure on the world’s food system. In cities, governments, research institutions, communities and businesses can collaborate on food initiatives to give people healthier, cheaper and more sustainable choices – but this requires political will and organisation between different levels of government.
Clearly, each of these approaches has a limited scope of action, compared to agricultural techniques or strategies which can be deployed at an industrial level. But with so many promising proposals, there can be a many-pronged approach that that makes efficient use of the existing resources in cities, while also changing consumers’ habits. Together with these three changes, more effective policies for food justice and sovereignty can establish fairer food supply chains and more just distribution of food around the world.
This article originally appeared on Fast Company, it was republished by the World Economic Forum on 8 March 2019. It is to be noted that in the eastern end of the MENA region, notably in the Gulf Cooperation Countries, Asian populations and investments happily cohabitate with the respective native minorities.
By Parag Khanna, Senior Research Fellow, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
This excerpt is from Parag Khanna’s book “The
future is Asian”. The book was chosen as February’s book for the World
Economic Forum Book Club. Each month, a new book will be selected and discussed
in the group. The author will then join in on the last day of the month to
reply to some questions from our audience.
When we look back from 2100 at the
date on which the cornerstone of an Asian-led world order began, it will be
2017. In May of that year, sixty-eight countries representing two-thirds of the
world’s population and half its GDP gathered in Beijing for the first Belt and
Road Initiative (BRI) summit. This gathering of Asian, European, and African
leaders symbolized the launch of the largest coordinated infrastructure
investment plan in human history. Collectively, the assembled governments
pledged to spend trillions of dollars in the coming decade to connect the
world’s largest population centers in a constellation of commerce and cultural
exchange—a new Silk Road era.
The Belt and Road Initiative is the
most significant diplomatic project of the twenty-first century, the equivalent
of the mid-twentieth-century founding of the United Nations and World Bank plus
the Marshall Plan all rolled into one. The crucial difference: BRI was
conceived in Asia and launched in Asia and will be led by Asians. This is the
story of one entire side of the planet—the Asian side—and its impact on the
Asians once again see themselves as
the center of the world—and its future. The Asian economic zone—from the
Arabian Peninsula and Turkey in the west to Japan and New Zealand in the east,
and from Russia in the north to Australia in the south—now represents 50
percent of global GDP and two-thirds of global economic growth. Of the
estimated $30 trillion in middle-class consumption growth estimated between
2015 and 2030, only $1 trillion is expected to come from today’s Western
economies. Most of the rest will come from Asia.
Asia produces and exports, as well as
imports and consumes, more goods than any other region, and Asians trade and
invest more with one another than they do with Europe or North America. Asia
has several of the world’s largest economies, most of the world’s foreign
exchange reserves, many of the largest banks and industrial and technology
companies, and most of the world’s biggest armies. Asia also accounts for 60
percent of the world’s population. It has ten times as many people as Europe
and twelve times as many people as North America. As the world population
climbs toward a plateau of around 10 billion people, Asia will forever be home
to more people than the rest of the world combined. They are now speaking.
Prepare to see the world from the Asian point of view.
To see the world from the Asian point
of view requires overcoming decades of accumulated—and willfully
cultivated—ignorance about Asia. To this day, Asian perspectives are often
inflected through Western prisms; they can only color to an unshakable
conventional Western narrative, but nothing more. Yet the presumption that
today’s Western trends are global quickly falls on its face. The “global
financial crisis” was not global: Asian growth rates continued to surge, and
almost all the world’s fastest-growing economies are in Asia. In 2018, the
world’s highest growth rates were reported in India, China, Indonesia,
Malaysia, and Uzbekistan. Though economic stimulus arrangements and ultralow
interest rates have been discontinued in the United States and Europe, they
continue in Asia. Similarly, Western populist politics from Brexit to Trump
haven’t infected Asia, where pragmatic governments are focused on inclusive
growth and social cohesion. Americans and Europeans see walls going up, but
across Asia they are coming down.
Rather than being backward-looking,
navel-gazing, and pessimistic, billions of Asians are forward-looking,
outward-oriented, and optimistic.
These blind spots are a symptom of a
related oversight often found in foreign analyses of Asia, namely that they are
actually about the United States. There is a presumption that Asia (and frankly
every other region as well) is strategically inert and incapable of making
decisions or itself; all it is waiting for is the US leadership to tell them
what to do. But from the Asian view, the past two decades have been
characterized by President George W. Bush’s incompetence, President Barack
Obama’s half-heartedness, and President Donald Trump’s unpredictability.
The United States’ laundry list of perceived
threats—from ISIS and Iran to North Korea and China—have their locus in Asia,
but the United States has developed no comprehensive strategy for addressing
them. In Washington it is fashionable to promote an “Indo-Pacific” maritime
strategy as an antidote to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, failing to see how
in reality Asia’s terrestrial and maritime zones cannot be so neatly separated
from each other. For all their differences, Asians have realized that their
shared geography is a far more permanent reality than the United States’
unreliable promises. The lesson: the United States is a Pacific power with a
potent presence in maritime Asia, but it is not an Asian power.
The most consequential misunderstanding
permeating Western thought about Asia is being overly China-centric. Much as
geopolitical forecasters have been looking for “number one,” many have fallen
into the trap of positing a simplistic “G2” of the United States and China
competing to lead the world. But neither the world as a whole nor Asia as a
region is headed toward a Chinesetianxia, or harmonious global system guided by
Chinese Confucian principles. Though China presently wields more power than its
neighbors, its population is plateauing and is expected to peak by 2030. Of
Asia’s nearly 5 billion people, 3.5 billion are not Chinese.
Asia’s future is thus much more than
whatever China wants. China is historically not a colonial power. Unlike the
United States, it is deeply cautious about foreign entanglements. China wants
foreign resources and markets, not foreign colonies. Its military forays from
the South China Sea to Afghanistan to East Africa are premised on protecting
its sprawling global supply lines— but its grand strategy of building global
infrastructure is aimed at reducing its dependence on any one foreign supplier
(as are its robust alternative energy investments).
China’s launching the Belt and Road
Initiative doesn’t prove that it will rule Asia, but it does remind us that
China’s future, much like its past, is deeply embedded in Asia. BRI is widely
portrayed in the West as a Chinese hegemonic design, but its paradox is that it
is accelerating the modernization and growth of countries much as the United
States did with its European and Asian partners during the Cold War. BRI will
be instructive in showing everyone, including China, just how quickly colonial
logic has expired. By joining BRI, other Asian countries have tacitly
recognized China as a global power—but the bar for hegemony is very high. As
with US interventions, we should not be too quick to assume that China’s
ambitions will succeed unimpeded and that other powers won’t prove sufficiently
bold in asserting themselves as well. Nuclear powers India and Russia are on
high alert over any Chinese trespassing on their sovereignty and interests, as
are regional powers Japan and Australia. Despite spending $50 billion between
2000 and 2016 on infrastructure and humanitarian projects across the region,
China has purchased almost no meaningful loyalty. The phrase “China-led Asia”
is thus no more acceptable to most Asians than the notion of a “US-led West” is
China has a first-mover advantage in
such places where other Asian and Western investors have hesitated to go. But
one by one, many countries are pushing back and renegotiating Chinese projects
and debts. Here, then, is a more likely scenario: China’s forays actually
modernize and elevate these countries, helping them gain the confidence to
resist future encroachment. Furthermore, China’s moves have inspired an
infrastructural “arms race,” with India, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and others
also making major investments that will enable weaker Asian nations to better
connect to one another and counter Chinese maneuvers. Ultimately, China’s
position will be not of an Asian or global hegemon but rather of the eastern
anchor of the Asian—and Eurasian—megasystem.
The farther one looks into the
future, therefore, the more clearly Asia appears to be—as has been the norm for
most of its history—a multipolar region with numerous confident civilizations
evolving largely independent of Western policies but constructively coexisting
with one another. A reawakening of Western confidence and vitality would be
very welcome, but it would not blunt Asia’s resurrection. Asia’s rise is
structural, not cyclical. There remain pockets of haughty ignorance centered
around London and Washington that persist in the belief that Asia will come
undone as China’s economy slows or will implode under the strain of nationalist
rivalries. These opinions about Asia are irrelevant and inaccurate in equal
measure. As Asian countries emulate one another’s successes, they leverage
their growing wealth and confidence to extend their influence to all corners of
the planet. The Asianization of Asia is just the first step in the Asianization
of the world.
According to Yale Climate Connections, in a February 20, 2019, Food & Agriculture topic article, it is said that “Researchers look for ways to meet rising global food demand. The challenge: produce 50 percent more food while reducing GHG emissions by one-third.”
Feeding the world’s rapidly expanding population –
currently at 7.6 billion and expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050 –
without exacerbating climate change will require the closing of three
significant gaps, according to a new report, “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.”
The gaps highlighted in a recent World Resources
Institute (WRI) report involve:
supply, simply producing enough to meet rising demand;
for food production: The report estimates that if current production rates
continue with the same yields, an additional area almost twice the size of
India would be required to produce enough food; and
increased greenhouse gas emissions likely to be produced by the additional food
production needed by 2050.
Feeding a rapidly growing population in a
sustainable way is a challenge, researchers have grappled with for some time.
“If you just wanted to feed the world and you didn’t worry about the
environment at all, you know that’s probably not that hard because we just
basically go and chop down a lot more land, a lot more forest,” says lead
author Tim Searchinger. “But the challenge is inherently producing all that
more food plus not converting additional land – that’s where the challenge is.”
Searchinger is a Princeton University research
scholar who collaborated with an array of international researchers over the
past six years to produce the WRI report. A synthesis version was released in
December 2018, and the roughly 500-page full report is to be published this
Challenges in feeding 10 billion people by 2050
The synthesis report outlines a variety of options
and opportunities to meet the rapidly growing need for nutrition while at the
same time working to mitigate climate change. Ultimately, the authors seek to
answer the question: “How can the world adequately feed nearly 10 billion
people by the year 2050 in ways that help combat poverty, allow the world to
meet climate goals, and reduce pressures on the broader environment?”
“If you want to solve climate change, you have to
solve this question,” Searchinger says. He points to estimates that agriculture
and associated land use change could make up 70 percent of “allowable emissions
from all human sources” by 2050 if current practices continue.
“That would basically leave almost no room for any
other emissions, so it would basically make solving climate change impossible,”
he says. “So we have to figure out a way to do both and figure out a way to
produce 50 percent more food with [approximately] two-thirds fewer emissions –
so that’s the challenge.”
The report joins a growing list of documents
proposing solutions to climate change that revolve around food and agriculture.
Peter de Menocal, dean of science, professor of earth and environmental
sciences, and director of the Center for Climate and Life at Columbia
University, points to Project Drawdown as another analysis focusing on
Project Drawdown includes a ranked list of climate solutions, and three
of the top five involve food and agriculture. The third-ranked solution is to
reduce food waste, number four is a “plant-rich diet,” and fifth on the list is
“tropical forests,” which de Menocal notes is related to palm oil and other
agricultural uses. He emphasizes the need to take real actions soon.
“I think ultimately we’re in for a big surprise, a
big shock if you will, and so I think that transition can be lessened by
becoming aware of what the solutions look like and how individuals can change
their behaviors to align with the fact that we’re living on a single planet
with ever expanding numbers of people,” de Menocal said in an interview.
A menu of sustainable food futures — not a la carte
The WRI report provides a “menu for a sustainable food
future” detailing 22 approaches that could help fill the three gaps, including
ways to increase agricultural efficiency and produce more food while using less
land, fertilizer, and other resources. Along with other measures, the report
focuses on restoring certain types of land, like peatlands and forests;
reducing greenhouse gas emissions; holding steady the use of biofuels;
increasing fish stocks; and reducing the consumption of meat – particularly
ruminants like cows, sheep, and goats.
However, this “menu” isn’t an a la carte array of
pick-and-choose options. “Significant progress in all 22 menu items is
necessary to close the three gaps, requiring action by many millions of
farmers, businesses, consumers, and all governments,” the report cautions.
Getting the cooperation of all stakeholders –
essentially the entire world – is, unsurprisingly, a difficult feat.
Governmental cooperation to preserve land, rather than converting it to
agriculture, is imperative. That’s clearly a challenge for the many leaders who
are under pressure to convert forests and other types of land for agricultural
purposes to meet immediate food needs and produce foods for export.
Political leadership ‘just overwhelmingly
Changing political leadership can also speed-up or
slow-down change. According to Searchinger, Brazil had made a lot of progress
in reducing deforestation, but recent changes in leadership make the future of
such progress uncertain. “Politics is critical,” he says. “Politics is just
overwhelmingly important – this is mustering the political will,” Searchinger
says. “This is true of everything to do with climate change.”
Land use changes are critical especially in certain areas,
such as peatlands, wetland areas covering around 3 percent of the Earth and
storing massive amounts of carbon. When they are damaged, drained, or used for
agriculture, these areas contribute significantly to climate change. According to the International
Union for Conservation of Nature, damaged or drained peatlands are
“annually releasing almost 6 percent of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions.”
Searchinger notes that restoring or rewetting
peatlands previously damaged, drained, or used for purposes like agriculture
can go a long way toward meeting climate change goals and restoring ecosystems.
Some of these opportunities are immediate, such as rewetting peatland areas
that are seldom used for agriculture. “[We have a] huge opportunity to do
something right away just by restoring water to those peatlands,” Searchinger
With food supply problems come ‘human conflict’
In addition to the 22 items listed in the report,
de Menocal notes a few additional food and agriculture-related areas relevant
to climate change and food. He points to climate-related vulnerabilities in the
food system, including food distribution; and points also to threats to the
crops themselves, including environmental shocks, such as crops being decimated
by sudden storms and heat waves.
“Those food shocks are going to become increasingly
frequent and I think that’s going to do two things,” de Menocal says. “One is
it obviously reduces the food supply, but it also introduces uncertainty in the
food supply, and both those things are not great.”
Human conflict goes hand-in-hand with food supply
issues, de Menocal cautions. “With food insecurity comes human conflict,” he
says. “This is something that’s been well documented both in the prehistorical
record but also in the recent historical record such as Syria and of course
migrations out of North Africa into Europe. When people are hungry, they
migrate, and they’ll migrate to places where there’s food, which is typically
the wealthier nations.” He cautions that this migration can also lead to
political instability, and says these types of geopolitical concerns are
monitored not only by climate modelers and researchers, but also by government
intelligence agencies seeking to anticipate and mitigate conflicts.
The need for innovation and change
While analysts work to predict future conflicts and
issues, scientists are striving to make progress in the laboratory. New technological
innovations could help alleviate some major issues, but predicting the
trajectory of scientific developments is a huge challenge since breakthroughs
looking out several decades are unpredictable.
New technology could help improve crop yields; produce
crops with resistance to pests, diseases, and climatic conditions; and even
help develop feed additives to reduce the amount of methane cows emit, among
many possibilities. But technology is a wild card dependent on countless
unknown future factors. Innovations could take the form of anything from
increasing the efficiency of current methods to developing technology far
beyond anyone’s current imagination.
That said, plant-based meat substitutes are one
area of potential innovation. Producing beef and other ruminant meat is
resource-intensive and a major source of greenhouse gases going well beyond
emissions from cows themselves.
Searchinger says a variety of meat substitutes, or
even half meat/half mushroom mixes, have great potential, especially if they
become more economical. They are already a tasty choice, he adds: “Hamburger
substitutes are getting really good.”
He is undaunted by the notion of many people having
to shift their dietary habits. Searchinger points out that most of the world
doesn’t consume much beef, and that people in the U.S. and Europe eat about
one-third less beef today than they did in the 1960s.
Eating less meat is important, de Menocal agrees,
and he encourages his students to consider trying out “Meatless Monday” as part of a campus
initiative. “It’s just introducing people to the idea that you can eat well and
still do well by the planet,” de Menocal says. “Even small changes like that
make a big difference in terms of collective behavior.” Additionally, he points
to meat subsidies as a factor that impact consumption, particularly in the U.S.
These subsidies make meat far more affordable than it is in some other parts of
the world. “As long as there’s no accounting for the accompanying environmental
risks that come with meat production, then I think the price of meat will not
reflect its true cost to society,” de Menocal says.
By thinking about what’s on their plate and what’s
in their fridge, people can take their own steps toward a sustainable food
future. Searchinger urges people to cut down on eating ruminant meat – such as
beef and lamb – and work to avoid tossing out food. “[In the U.S.] people tend
to buy a lot of food and throw it in the back of the refrigerator and
‘rediscover’ things,” he says. Planning meals and shopping more efficiently,
keeping track of food items and using them before they spoil, and being sure to
eat leftovers before they go bad are just a few steps people can take that go a
“If we don’t meet these goals, we won’t solve
climate change,” Searchinger says.