Food and Land Use Coalition 2019 Global Report

The Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) has just released its own report, Growing Better: Ten Critical Transitions to Transform Our Food and Land Use. FOLU is the big bird under whose wing FABLE (my current project) lives. I had a small contribution to this, but little compared to my colleagues at IIASA, Andre Deppermann, who ran the GLOBIOM scenarios that underlie some of the FOLU narratives, and Frank Sperling, who helped to develop those narratives.

Executive summaries: short version, long version.

From Jeremy Oppenheim, FOLU principal and report lead co-author: “The report reveals for the first time that it is not only possible, but also economically attractive, to transform food and land use systems in ways that deliver greater food security, tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, improve human health and strengthen rural communities. Specifically, it proposes a concrete reform agenda centered around 10 critical transitions that stand to unlock 4.5 trillion USD in new business opportunities each year, while saving 5.7 trillion USD annually in damage to people and the planet by 2030.

“The report also lays out the consequences of failing to act decisively over the coming decade: namely, that we risk sleep-walking into an ecological and human disaster, the likelihood of which is increasing every year. We are at an important inflection point where leaders across the public and private sectors have a powerful opportunity to drive change to how we consume, how we use our land (potentially conserving more than 1.5 billion hectares by 2050), how we manage our oceans, and in how we harness the power of digitisation across the food economy over the coming decade. Seizing these opportunities is key to delivering the Paris Agreement on climate and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

My own reflection. I used to see reports like this as just so much noise. My time at IIASA (and working in Europe) has been valuable as a lesson in what they contribute to consensus building and the mechanics of change. I find it useful to view things through a more or less historical lens. I also can’t resist comparing the different approaches of Old and New World cultures to the same topics. When I see the energy Europeans put into consensus building (relative to North Americans), I imagine that it has much to do with avoiding the kinds of war that defined their history until the middle 20th century. I see it as front-loading as much conflict at the beginning of negotiations to reduce its importance as the negotiations mature and stakes increase. This makes them seem plodding and inefficient, the arguments annodyne, and the solutions less innovative. And they are — but it’s effective. Because I also tend to look for solutions to future problems in the prior experiences of other societies, I see the process-heavy, innovation-weary politics of Europe as a reasonable analogue-candidate for a future population-dense, demographically aged, wealthy and future-weary North America. So best to take note.

Update: A valuable lesson indeed. This thing is blowing up news sites: al_Jazeera; The Guardian; AlterNet; and according to my grandparents, Canada’s paper of record The Montreal Gazette.

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