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FEEW believes that meeting global requirements of Food, Energy, Environment & Water in the 21st century will require technological, social, financial & political ingenuity. With the global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, we can expect intense competition for resources between nations and within nations.

It wasn't long ago when the spectre of rising prices led to serious introspection, globally. The Sunday Herald (March 11 2009), had reported “High prices have already prompted a string of food protests around the world, with tortilla riots in Mexico, disputes over food rationing in West Bengal and protests over grain prices in Senegal, Mauritania and other parts of Africa. In Yemen, children have marched to highlight their hunger, while in London last week hundreds of pig farmers protested outside Downing Street.” More recently, the United States’ National Intelligence Council in its report dated 10th May 2012 said that nations reliant on food imports, including Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sudan, are especially vulnerable to unrest. The report noted that more than 60 riots erupted worldwide from 2007 to 2009 as food prices surged.

According to the UN, food production will need to expand by 70 percent by 2050 as 2 billion people are added to the population. FAO estimates show that in 1960 an average hectare of arable land, supported 2.4 persons. By 2005 this figure had increased to 4.5 persons per hectare and by 2050, a single hectare of land would need to support between 6.1 and 6.4 people.

According to BP's Energy Outlook 2035, more than 80% of global oil reserves are located in nine countries and more than 60% of the world’s known reserves of natural gas are in just four countries. Demand for energy is forecasted to rise by 41 percent between 2012 to 2035. The share of fossil fuels - oil, natural gas and coal - is projected to make up around 80% of the total energy consumption. In face of a drastic need to control carbon emisions, such  a consumption mix poses a serious technological challenge. Even as far back as 1999, a UNEP poll of 200 scientists in 50 countries, had identified environmental change was one of the two most worrying problems for the new millennium.

And the other problem the poll identified was water scarcity. Recent humanitarian catastrophes, such as the Rwandan Genocide or the war in Sudanese Darfur, have been linked back to water conflicts. According to UNESCO, interstate conflicts have occurred mainly in the Middle East (disputes stemming from the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers among Turkey, Syria, and Iraq; and the Jordan River conflict among Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestine territories), in Africa (Nile River-related conflicts among Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan), as well as in Central Asia (the Aral Sea conflict among Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan).

FEEW believes that these imminent challenges are also great opportunities for science, business, and governments to collectively work towards global sustainability.



By Sadhika Kumar