FUTURE OF FOOD: How will humanity ensure a steady supply of staple crops, like this maize, as population swells and climate changes? Image: Courtesy of CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture
Farmers have coped with fickle weather since the dawn of human agriculture, and may have even kicked off local climate changes with early forest-clearing and the like. But agriculture has never before faced the extent of the challenge posed by contemporary global warming, which could result in an increase in extreme weather or simply subtle shifts in rainfall patterns that ultimately leave vital crops parched.
Pair that with a world population growing in both absolute terms and hunger for agriculturally intensive products such as meat and you may have a recipe for disaster. In recent years, food crises have helped spur regime change while yields of the world's most important staple crops have begun to falter after decades of healthy supplies.
In a bid to examine and encourage sprouts of hope, Arizona State University, the New America Foundation and Slate are hosting a Future Tense event on the future of agriculture under a changing climate, set for April 12 in Washington, D.C. Among other illuminating discussions, I will be moderating a panel on present, past and future food crises with Hans Herren, president of the Millennium Institute and past World Food Prize winner, and Ed Carr, a climate change advisor to the U.S. Agency for International Development and author of the provocative book Delivering Development: Globalization's Shoreline and the Road to a Sustainable Future (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
I am also set to moderate a panel with Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group, Bill Hohenstein of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Megan Stasz of the Grocery Manufacturers Association on how we might adapt ourselves—and our food systems—to the coming change.
The question is: Do we have another (truly) Green Revolution in us after decades of complacency?