What was missing
- Clear distinction between “enough food” vs. “food security”
- Discussion of the most effective inducers of behavioral change
- Urban governance, and its role in shaping resource consumption
Watch these areas
- Standardized water footprints
- Governance of land acquisitions
- Managing the terrestrial landscapes that sustain rainfall
What was missing
I probably shouldn’t be so presumptuous as to think that I know what was missing from a week-long conference on water and food security, wherein I couldn’t even attend all the sessions – but I’m going to try anyway 🙂
A better distinction between “enough food for billions” and “food security of billions”
The first is a technocratic issue ( which is more or less solved), and the second is a political economic issue ( which is for far from solved). It would be worthwhile to deploy additional energy on the second issue.
Johan Rockstrom talking about “feeding the billions.”
Copyright Patrick Keys, All Rights Reserved.
The headline of the week may have been (some variation of) “Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism.” Aside from me being frustrated that the article makes such a broad generalization about the scientific findings, its frustrating when an experienced journalist misspells the name of one of the world’s most prominent scientists on water issues (its Malin, not Malik, Falkenmark).
Professor Malin Falkenmark, Stockholm University
The problem with the headline about vegetarianism is that it suggests that the world is one unit, and that somehow resource constraints would affect the world in a more or less uniform way. Barring the emergence of some centralized global government, this won’t happen. Some people will always be able to afford meat and will consume it. In 50 years, some people will probably still eat as much as modern Americans. The question is how are we going to create a world that is food secure for billions. I’m very confident that we will go through multiple advances in crop science, etc. that will allow us to feasibly grow more than enough food for 9 billion people. Imagine 6-10 tonnes of harvest per hectare. I’m 100% a techno-optimist in that regard. I’m not, however, optimistic that we are guaranteed to sort out how to ensure that people are food secure, meaning that the food that is produced can reach people who have the purchasing power to acquire it. Ultimately, “food security of billions” will boil down to the ability of those billions to purchase what they can’t grow themselves, and that is a complicated issue that was addressed by Malin Falkenmark in her talk(s), but by very few others.
Discussion of the most effective inducers of behavioral change.
Urban governance, and the role it could take in shaping resource consumption.
Watch these areas
Standardized water footprints, instead of context-less water footprints
Governance of land acquisitions
Managing the terrestrial landscapes that sustain rainfall
Copyright Patrick Keys 2012, All Rights Reserved.
On Thursday I attended the high-level panel on “feeding the billions“. Based on comments by the panelists that were hinting at the importance of “valuing water”, I wanted to get an unequivocal answer to whether or not water pricing was a good approach to manage water scarcity.
2012 Stockholm Water Prize Laureates Seminar. Copyright Patrick Keys, All Rights Reserved.
So, rather than clumsily ramble through a question, I wrote the question out in specific words to try and avoid any weaseling in the responses that I received. It’s not often you have such a high-powered captive audience, and I wanted to make the most of it!
Professor Emeritus Tony Allan, Kings College London
Professor Johan Rockström, Stockholm Resilience Centre
Dr. Colin Chartres, Director General, International Water Management Institute
Professor Emerita Rita Colwell, University of Maryland
Rationing vs. Pricing
A signal of scarcity is needed
Yesterday was a little different than the previous three days, because rather than only take notes of what others have been saying, I had the opportunity to present some of my own research
In 2009-2010, I spent nine months at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (on a University of Washington sponsored fellowship) modeling the influence of small reservoirs in a small arid basin in the Upper Nakambe basin, on the Volta river, in Burkina Faso. Long story short, I thought I was going to update a model, and I ended up starting from scratch (with an “empty” WEAP model).
An excellent experience, since I learned about spatial averaging of climate data, land use and land cover datasets, how to incorporate small reservoirs into a water resources model, and the methods for how to calibrate and validate a hydrological model. Awesome experience, and I learned a ton. The title of this work was: “Small reservoirs in the Upper Nakambe, and potential trade offs with large water storage”
Dusting things off
Alas, after this process, the model went largely unused, and I moved onto other things. Then, earlier this year my supervisor on the project suggested I pick things up again and add a ‘climate change’ scenario – which was part of the original plan. I did this (using a warmer climate scenario, rather than climate change scenario, for lots of boring reasons that I won’t get into now), and again it sat for a bit, until a….
A few days ago, it was suggested that I present my work informally at the Stockholm Environment Institute’s booth at world water week…. So I put together a quick talk and prepared to present things yesterday at 1pm.
Right before the talk was about to start there were a grand total of zero attendants. No pressure! … But also a little disappointing.
Then, low and behold three very special guests serendipitously appeared:
1. Director of Waternet (which is among other things, a scholarship program for African graduate students) who is an expert on water resources … And happens to to be able to translate back and forth between English and French.
2. A representative from DGRE (Direction Générale des Ressources en Eau aka Directorate General of Water Resources; Burkina Faso), and
3. The Incoming administrator of the Nakambe River basin
So… Pretty much the best audience possible.
The director of Waternet translated huge chunks of the talk when the information was not clear from me, and I was able to answer and the specific, and direct questions of the most relevant stakeholder from the region’s management community.
The outcome of this interaction was that my research advisor now has an invitation to get in touch when she is in Burkina this fall, and there is a strong possibility that the work will be incorporated or perhaps expanded to good effect in the region.
An outstanding result from an unexpected presentation.