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October 31, 2008

Sustainable Agriculture

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the toughest nut to crack in the GIO study of Water and the Oceans is also the biggest: agriculture.

Though the subject of sustainable agriculture comes up often in our meetings – rightfully so, considering that 80 percent of the world’s freshwater resources are used for growing food – it is almost always accompanied by heavy sighs and impromptu bathroom breaks. It is a subject that tries the patience of even the most passionate water management experts. It is highly emotional, and often political.

Indeed, addressing sustainable agriculture is not easy. But nobody said this was going to be easy. We have heard many viable strategies that would ease the agricultural demand on freshwater resources. Drought resistant seeds show promise. Drip irrigation is appropriate for certain crops. And only planting crops that are appropriate for the climate in which they are grown is a popular suggestion.

All of these things are important steps towards meeting the world’s growing demand for both food and water. But one can’t help wondering: Are we thinking big enough? For example, if all the regional climates of the world are going to be changing significantly in the next 50 years, do we need to start shifting the world’s agricultural centers today? Will the vast farm plots of the Midwestern United States need to be moved north into Canada? Can we grow sufficient quantities of food in indoor or even urban environments, without straining energy resources too much? In other words, will the next green revolution be truly green?

As you can see, these are big problems that require big thinking. We’re hoping to gain more insight on this are in our two remaining deep dives on Water and the Oceans, and would love any thoughts you might have on the subject. We’ll also be exploring the challenges and opportunities that come with having an over-abundance of water. Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro will be ideal locations for those discussions.

October 31, 2008 in Water and the Oceans | Permalink


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It's really surprising when you think how little food do we harvest from the oceans. Not only that water covers 80 percent of the planet it's also 3D meaning that you may have multiple layers of food production (think fish farms on top of each other). I believe that, as of now, we exausted our land food producing capacity and will simply have to turn to the oceans. Just my 2c. Cheers, Amar

Posted by: Dubai Boy | Oct 31, 2008 10:46:52 PM

Looking forward to the discussions @ the GIO - http://www.cleantech-europe.com

Posted by: Thomas Schulze | Nov 4, 2008 10:17:10 AM

If trade barriers were lower, it would make it easier to grow food in cheaper places (labor, land, water) for sale in more-expensive places (Dubai, Singapore).

I guess that the Doha Development Round should have had "and Environment" added to the title!

Posted by: David Zetland | Nov 20, 2008 7:10:15 PM

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