Food, Energy and Water: The Nexus Determining Our Future

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By the second day of the World Water Forum 6, in Marseilles, France, talks were already starting to heat up!  Taking advantage of my Press badge, I decided to attend a closed-for-the-public session on “Transboundary Waters“. Never had I imagined before that representatives of countries, international organizations, and private and public sectors would agree on unifyng and synchronizing their efforts under the threat of a common enemy: Water Scarcity.

The meeting was chaired by Germany andco-chaired by Oman. Attendees included representatives of Austria, Botswana, France, Kyrgystan, Morocco, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, the European Commission, the IUCN, the World Energy Council, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Business Action for Water, the International Water Association, the World Water Council, theFood and Agriculture Organization, the WIWP, the UN Habitat, the UNCCD, the UN Industrial Development Organization and the WWF.  All the representatives agreed on the fact that WWF 6 provides a great opportunity for preparation and harmonization of their efforts. While in most conferences, it seems that conferences agents stick to their party’s interests, it was impressive to watch high level representatives expressing the need of a change of mindsets.

But can we really picture a better future when 2.6 million people worldwide do not have access to adequate sanitation, 1.3 billion people live without electricity and 1 billion people are undernourished? It might sound way too optimistic but the answer is: Yes, we can! We can design a greener future! The limits to global natural resources provide a great opportunity for bringing attention to efficiency and sustainability. The importance of these two parameters can be easily understood if we realize the connection among food, energy and water security. These three factors are interconnected and a possible crisis in any of them will directly affect the other two factors.

Considering the importance of this new nexus, it is crucial to plan our political, social and economic activities with respect to its fragile balance.  Green jobs, youth employment and social inclusion should play a key role to the transition from an unsustainable lifestyle to a nexus approach, that will make us able to control and support our consumption and demand according to our planet’s capacity.

But how can we define a green future? One of the most important of its aspects is the substitution of the use of finite fossil fuels by renewable sources of energy, like hydropower, solar power, wind power and biomass. It is also crucial to obtain sustainable and efficient rates of consumption and demand that does not violate and interrupt the ecosystems’ services and balance. Third, the involvement of the community has a special role in this “green future”. Local production and consumption will help heal existing environmental degradation, while growing a wide diversity of crops in a region (instead of mono-cropping) will preserve and strengthen the physical biodiversity. Additionally, we may want consider that a more sustainable economic human activity, would be meaningless without an adequate city and household planning that would limit energy consumption, energy losses and the waste production. Last but not least, education will help people develop ecological conscience and realize that we are just a part of the existence chain and not the leading species.

Courtesy of Liam Young and Darryl Chen, "Postcards of a Green Future"

Hence, it is evident that there is need for a holistic coordination. Water and energy shortages put a significant pressure on food provision, due to the fact that crops depend on water and fertilizers to grow. So a global water and energy crisis would interrupt the production of fertilizers and would turn the once flourishing yields to infertile hectares of land. Thus governmental actions do not seem enough. The challenge is placed upon everyone, the public sector, private sector and the international community, to develop and promote innovative solutions and demonstrate decisiveness and leadership. Partnerships and exchange of know-how are going to play a critical role to the success of this vital transition, while research is needed in order to explore and develop all the dynamics that are related to this nexus.

Nonetheless, the most important “ingredient” for a successful transition is human capital. During our lives, we have all experienced the unique things that motivated people can achieve. Raising public awareness will stimulate the acceleration of this process. Realizing the risk of sustaining our current lifestyles and the necessity of a radical and rather rapid change will give us the incentives to become the leaders of our “green future”. We do have the expertise and we are continuously expanding our knowledge. All we need to find is will to try to alter the forthcoming natural deterioration.

As for those of us who believe that there is not much time, there are always some others who believe that there might not be plenty of time, but there is enough. Don’t forget…all it takes is one decision! A change of mindset!

One thought on “Food, Energy and Water: The Nexus Determining Our Future

  1. The F.E.W. Nexus is definitely coming to the forefront, and is going to be the ultimate turning point for the future of our human species, in my opinion.
    The challenge of thinking in a Nexus perspective is central to the Green Economy, to the themes of Rio+20 and the consideration of sustainability development goals (http://www.water-energy-food.org).
    I can’t wait to see what solutions and commitments come from our global Rio+20 conference in June!

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