Saturday, June 3, 2017

"Will the sport of scuba diving end by 2050?" a review of the article by Lauren Mowery

#scuba #padi #laurenmowery #drewrichardson #parisaccords #globalwarming #oceanconservation #2050 #coralreefs #scubadiving

So, the latest political debate is the, "Paris Accords." Before these two articles, I knew very little about it, but after reading up on it, I'm seeing the same pattern that has always existed. First, a little clarification. I do not lean towards a political ideology. With this said, I have a lot of opinions about many things, but this commentary will be about two things: scuba and responsibility (and how I tie the two together).

The articles that I'm going to discuss are reprinted at the bottom with direct links to where I found them, however without the inundation of the crazy amount of ads that make it almost impossible to actual navigate it. I'd recommend reading it from here, rather than there.

Scuba, first. 

The article, "Will the sport of scuba diving end by 2050?" written by Lauren Mowery. This is 100% PADI advertising propaganda! I don't know who these people think they are, but no one writes like this, let alone talks like this. As far as the content, I'll address it as well. These articles are PADI's way creating an outward appearance of independent thoughts around scuba, diving, and the environment. Every time I've tried to have a discussion with a PADI instructor I've always encountered this wall as if they've been trained to never talk to anyone about their training practices, about their divers, or about the inner workings of the PADI enterprise. It's like it is a cult and any time questions anything about it, they immediately go on the defensive. I don't get it. Now, to be fair, I love confrontation, but I'm also not afraid to admit when I'm wrong and at the very least be able to sit down and have a conversation about the topics at hand. For me, the topics generally revolve around scuba!

"Yesterday, Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement. Donald Trump -- not all Americans. In fact, the majority of the U.S. wanted to remain in the accord. Politics aside, while nobody yet knows the true impact of this potentially fateful decision, scientists have already modeled a variety of detrimental repercussions from preventing a global temperature increase of 2 degrees. In some areas of the world, the effects of climate change are real and evident."

The majority of the US? Really? As I came to find out, I knew very little about what this "accord" was all about. As far as global warming, while there is an upwards trend in the overall temperatures that will impact the planet, I believe it is too late to fix the problem. That doesn't mean that I don't believe we shouldn't try to stop making it worse, but I know what drives the politics associated with decisions of everything tied to the factors that lead to this calamity -- greed and money! The easiest argument for me about one of the greatest factors aiding this issue is the process of animal agriculture, eating and use of animal products, and the correlating damages caused by the infrastructure around it. This editorial does not revolve around around this topic so I won't go into it with any greater detail, but suffice it to say, if divers are being addressed, the first most logical step in effecting the oceans, waterways, lakes, rivers and streams are to stop removing their inhabitants! It really seems like an incredible conflict of interest to go diving and that evening enjoy a meal consisting primarily of the creatures you just swam with.

"As a 17-year open water diver certified by PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), I've witnessed the rapid degradation of our coral reefs. Gray, broken, and dead. Dwindling schools of colorful fish. Increasingly, that description fits a large number of dive sites around the world. Last month, I dove in the Bahamas. Not long after, Nevis. After we surfaced near St. Kitts, the dive master admitted nearly 80% of the surrounding coral was declared lifeless. Confirming these anecdotal impressions was the recent news about the Great Barrier Reef: In the last two decades, the 25 million-year-old ecosystem has bleached to the point of fear for its total and complete extinction."

Why do PADI divers tell everyone that they are a PADI diver? I rarely if ever hear non-PADI divers (non-dive professionals) throw in the fact that they are a diver from this particular certifying agency, their certification date, and then tell their listening public what that agency acronym stands for. I realize that this is an article that non-divers may read, but the typical conversation goes like this, "Hi, I'm Carlos. I learned to dive 11 years ago. The things I love most about diving are..." As you see, straight to the amazing thing that divers love about the activity all the while leaving out their certifying agency. 

As far as dead reefs, I remember seeing dead coral on the Great Barrier Reef in 2008 and thought it was terrible. However, the coral that is dead doesn't need protecting, the remaining living coral does. When ever an argument about the damage done to the fragile dive sites around the world emerge, it's always about the damage that is done. Perhaps, it is only a matter of semantics but to demonstrate the necessity for conservation, intervention, and even protection, one typically asks for what they need to manage what is left. "Only 20% of the reef system remains..." versus "80% of the reef is dead." When ever someone asks for help, they ask for what they need, describes their current condition, and even it's current state -- "I only have 200psi left -- NOT, I've used 2800psi. It even seems quite futile to even want to help when one becomes aware that 80% of anything is gone. Calls to action make more sense when one's audience understands how little of something is still there.

Similarly, describing a 25 million year old ecosystem is incorrect. Living coral is built on the skeletons of those communities that came before. What one sees are it's current residents. Stating that a 25 million year old ecosystem is 80% dead again reiterates the impossibility of saving anything. Stating that the reef system is 100 years old, 50 years old, and the like and stating that only 20% of it is left really describes how much damage and in such a short period of time has effected it. It would also be more accurate in stating that areas that have received protection have seen a measurable revitalization in the last 20, 30, or 40 years since practices were implemented. One cannot see or measure change in a 25 million year old system in proportion to a person's lifespan and the truth is, no one cares about what was here or what will be here in 25 million years -- SAD, but true.

"While the ramifications of a dying ocean far outweigh the interests of a sport, the question should still be asked: what will happen to SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) diving if our coral reefs are dead?"

Really? I learned to dive in Lake Mead. A reservoir. The majority in the US learns to dive away from reef systems. While there are very impressive ecosystems, "The Florida Reef (also known as the Great Florida Reef, Florida reefs, Florida Reef Tract and Florida Keys Reef Tract) is the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States." [1] If you are lucky enough to live in Southern Florida, or Hawaii, then you are in the minority. Cold water diving in fresh water lakes and reservoirs; kelp forests of the Pacific coast, and inlet water ways like the Puget Sound in the PNW; and wreck diving and cave diving on the east coast are HUGE dive attractions. I've even dove in a hot water spring in Homestead Crater, Utah!

"I contacted the PADI organization for their thoughts on the looming crisis. Divers serve as one class of guardian to our aquatic habitats, bearing witness to changes while vested in their protection. I connected with Dr. Drew Richardson, President and CEO, PADI Worldwide. He's been with PADI for thirty years, diving since 1971. I've been lucky enough to have dived on all continents and both the Arctic and Antarctic polar ice environments. I love the adventure and exploration diving offers he said." 

"Looming crisis?" Divers should be the best, first group to take action to protect aquatic habitats, but they only do so in token and superficial means. As far as connecting to a scuba certification agency for their thoughts on environmental awareness and actions the world need to take, that's like asking automobile mechanics to lead the fight for zero-emissions vehicles. PADI, SSI, SDI, NAUI, and the dozens of other certifying agencies primary goal is the marketing of scuba. So much so, that when one thinks of scuba the reason one agency comes to mind versus another is that they have done a better job of marketing it, not because they are the best or they have a global voice for environmental change! Then, to contact the CEO of PADI to talk about the looming crisis is laughable. I'm going to make it a point to contact Mr. Richardson, to ask what I believe to be the bigger crisis effecting all diving, and I'll post the outcome...

"I posed a few questions in the interview, touching on dive community responsibility, science and innovation, and great places to still experience the beauty of our underwater world. Fortunately, the answers aren't as gloomy as you'd expect."

"Climate change, ocean warming, acidification, and bleaching events are killing our reefs. Given the current pace of decline, what do you think is the future of the sport?" 

"Unquestionably, there are serious and formidable issues threating the world's coral reefs. That said, I'm a firm believer in engagement, problem identification and mitigation. My life philosophy is to remain optimistic and focused on a future hope. In my mind, there is no other option. Hope is the anchor to the soul. The danger is that we lose hope, or we feel like there's nothing to be done. In the wake of our 50th anniversary at PADI, we have deepened our commitment to ocean health and conservation. Our 25 million divers across the planet are becoming active as a force for good and driving towards a healthier planet and healthier reefs on local, national and international levels. The PADI organization is committed to being a global force for good. We are passionate about creating a preferred view of the future in healthier oceans. As the largest diver training organization in the world, has the reach and influence to mobilize divers to be citizen activists. We train one million new divers each year across the planet who can engage in strategic alliances, have a powerful voice and get involved in real solutions to drive change."

Spoken like a true politician! "I'm a firm believer in engagement, problem identification and mitigation." I have to totally disagree. So much so, that PADI has a reputation that precedes itself. Three areas in particular: quantity of certifications issued (over quality of diver produced); the lack of accountability (producing poorly trained divers that effect the industry negatively); failing to supporting it's instructors (when an accident happens, the instructor is thrown under the bus). PADI's recent 50 year anniversary coupled with their 25 million divers presented an interesting perspective that many don't correlate. Right about that time, PADI was sold for $700,000,000. While the value of a company is often the number of shares outstanding multiplied by it's stock prices, because they are not publicly traded, coming up with a value isn't as clear cut. However, I divided the 25 million divers into the $700 million dollar sale to come up with a value of $28 per diver. I know that this is not a clear value of the business, but in regards to where the value in a business like PADI is (or should be), the divers ARE the business! They are mine. I ran the same equation and came up with $244.42 per certification; $269.86 per diver. I'm not going to disclose how much income I've made or the number of students I've had in the last 9 years, but as you can see, each student is more valuable to me; even from a financial perspective.

"As the largest diver training organization in the world, [PADI] has the reach and influence to mobilize divers to be citizen activists. We train one million new divers each year across the planet who can engage in strategic alliances, have a powerful voice and get involved in real solutions to drive change."

So, how many does this reach extend to, then? As the largest training organization, that would also mean that they are responsible for the largest drop out rate, largest proportion of accidents, law suits, and even the greatest amount of damage to reef systems by PADI's newly trained divers. The industry estimates that 80% of those that take diver training are no longer in it; 50% within 5 years, and that the average diver logs 6 dives a year! Without experience, how can one learn to do anything but be on the reefs? Proper buoyancy and mastery of skills take years. How does that create reach? Even with attrition rates high as this, divers that invest into scuba diving are often 45 years of age, fully employed, and occupy themselves with other activities than just scuba. 

"As for the future of the sport of scuba diving, I feel there are strong tailwinds which will drive future growth in scuba diving. These include a growing middle class, a strong interest in adventure/action sports, strong global tourism trends, and environmentally conscious millennials to name a few. We are all about a future of engaging millions of new divers, training them well to be confident and comfortable divers, encouraging and enabling them to seek diving adventure and exploration of the planet's underwater realm and paying it forward as good stewards of ocean and marine life health. Baselines on coral reef communities may shift due to a variety of drivers, but there will be a strong and growing interest in underwater exploration and immersion - it's a transformational and life-changing personal journey that we look forward to offering up to the planet for decades to come."

Tailwinds? You mean they are being pushed? Being pushed isn't a reflection of the diver (or industry) willing to make differences to the fragile ecosystem we've been speaking about. "Stewards of the ocean and marine life health." When? For decades to come? There is enough evidence to prove that in all reality, it COULD BE too late. Here are some articles that talk about the possibilities. There are populations of marine that are gone! Yes! They are gone; will never come back; are critically endangered; and while some successes are being seen, we are at that point that the "hail mary pass" is the hope many are looking for. I've got the impression that what most are saying is that someone else will do the work. Mr. Richardson is right about one thing, scuba is transformational and it was definitely life-changing! Scuba, especially those that focus on it as their sole sporting activity will attest to that. I question whether scuba divers will have any impact on the greater global community if they can't even do it for themselves.

It May Soon Be Too Late to Save the Seas
https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-04-27/it-may-soon-be-too-late-to-save-the-seas

Is It Too Late to Avoid the Worst Impacts of Climate Change?
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reducing-atmospheric-co2/

Is it Too Late to Save the Ocean?
http://vergecampus.com/2016/05/late-save-ocean-pollution/

It might be too late to save the oceans
http://www.rawstory.com/2015/08/it-might-be-too-late-to-save-the-oceans/

Unsustainable fishing
http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/problems_fishing/

"What can divers do to help, whether in their personal lives or within the framework of the sport?" 

"Loads. Start with the man in the mirror, stay informed and do what you can to make the world a better place and become a more powerful catalyst for change. We already are seeing this in thousands of individuals on a local level and we are helping to get their messages out. All of us who care about these issues can amplify engagement efforts to support life below the waters of this world and support initiatives which promote the sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources. We encourage divers to align with like-minded business and organizations. The diving community will become powerful change agents who share a like-minded love, mission and passion to be a force for good and tackle and mitigate the problems which threaten our ocean planet."

I think this will be the first question I ask Mr. Richardson. "When did you look in the mirror and decide that you have to set an example?" Awareness isn't a first step as you can be laying on the couch eating fish and chips and "feel" motivated but never change. When he speaks of the thousands of individuals, is he referring to vegans? I never got that memo. I became vegan before learning to dive! How about Greenpeace or WWF? Surely they are part of the thousands that are part of that crew? Possibly, but they do it for a living. Even those that occasionally volunteer for them have other things they care about. The ironic part about the oceans and protecting it is that it's survival is the planet's survival. Everyone's short-sightedness is in part because they are not properly informed, but the greater issue is that the planet needs uniform and complete agreement and collaboration for this process to succeed. What that really means is that EVERYONE has to be on board. The US can't be solely responsible for fixing the world's problems. Our neighbors and even those across the globe must have a consensus and a uniform plan to attack the problem. We can't even feed, clothe, and shelter the world's less fortunate, so saving scuba won't be on the top of anyone's list.

If I had to summarize, in my opinion, it's too late. The planet will survive without us, however we will not survive without her. Until everyone can uniformly and unequivocally decide to stop shitting on her, nothing will change. Token measures, token accords, and goodwill gestures aren't enough. Margaret Mead has been attributed in saying, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." While I believe that individuals can make local differences, these thoughts emerged in the late 1970's and our planet has seen a global population boom adding an additional 3 billion people. If estimates are correct, the planet will see 9.7 billion by 2050. 

Take a look at the following for some interesting facts about food production and the planet's challenges that lie ahead:

The Global Food Challenge Explained in 18 Graphics
http://www.wri.org/blog/2013/12/global-food-challenge-explained-18-graphics









































































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ADDITIONAL SOURCES
 [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Reef

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Will the sport of scuba diving end by 2050?
https://www.forbes.com/sites/lmowery/2017/06/02/will-the-sport-of-scuba-diving-end-by-2050/

"Will The Sport Of Scuba Diving End By 2050?"

Lauren Mowery
https://www.instagram.com/chasingthevine/
https://twitter.com/chasingthevine


Yesterday, Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement. Donald Trump -- not all Americans. In fact, the majority of the U.S. wanted to remain in the accord. Politics aside, while nobody yet knows the true impact of this potentially fateful decision, scientists have already modeled a variety of detrimental repercussions from preventing a global temperature increase of 2 degrees. In some areas of the world, the effects of climate change are real and evident. Consider our ocean reef systems.

As a 17-year open water diver certified by PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), I've witnessed the rapid degradation of our coral reefs. Gray, broken, and dead. Dwindling schools of colorful fish. Increasingly, that description fits a large number of dive sites around the world. Last month, I dove in the Bahamas. Not long after, Nevis. After we surfaced near St. Kitts, the dive master admitted nearly 80% of the surrounding coral was declared lifeless. Confirming these anecdotal impressions was the recent news 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/07/the-great-barrier-reef-a-catastrophe-laid-bare 

about the Great Barrier Reef: In the last two decades, the 25 million-year-old ecosystem has bleached to the point of fear for its total and complete extinction.

While the ramifications of a dying ocean far outweigh the interests of a sport, the question should still be asked: what will happen to SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) diving if our coral reefs are dead?

I contacted the PADI organization for their thoughts on the looming crisis. Divers serve as one class of guardian to our aquatic habitats, bearing witness to changes while vested in their protection. I connected with Dr. Drew Richardson, President and CEO, PADI Worldwide. He's been with PADI for thirty years, diving since 1971. I've been lucky enough to have dived on all continents and both the Arctic and Antarctic polar ice environments. I love the adventure and exploration diving offers he said.

I posed a few questions in the interview, touching on dive community responsibility, science and innovation, and great places to still experience the beauty of our underwater world. Fortunately, the answers aren't as gloomy as you'd expect. I've published the interview in its entirety, below.

Climate change, ocean warming, acidification, and bleaching events are killing our reefs. Given the current pace of decline, what do you think is the future of the sport? 

Unquestionably, there are serious and formidable issues threating the world's coral reefs. That said, I'm a firm believer in engagement, problem identification and mitigation. My life philosophy is to remain optimistic and focused on a future hope. In my mind, there is no other option. Hope is the anchor to the soul. The danger is that we lose hope, or we feel like there's nothing to be done. In the wake of our 50th anniversary at PADI, we have deepened our commitment to ocean health and conservation. Our 25 million divers across the planet are becoming active as a force for good and driving towards a healthier planet and healthier reefs on local, national and international levels. The PADI organization is committed to being a global force for good. We are passionate about creating a preferred view of the future in healthier oceans. As the largest diver training organization in the world, has the reach and influence to mobilize divers to be citizen activists. We train one million new divers each year across the planet who can engage in strategic alliances, have a powerful voice and get involved in real solutions to drive change.

As for the future of the sport of scuba diving, I feel there are strong tailwinds which will drive future growth in scuba diving. These include a growing middle class, a strong interest in adventure/action sports, strong global tourism trends, and environmentally conscious millennials to name a few. We are all about a future of engaging millions of new divers, training them well to be confident and comfortable divers, encouraging and enabling them to seek diving adventure and exploration of the planet's underwater realm and paying it forward as good stewards of ocean and marine life health. Baselines on coral reef communities may shift due to a variety of drivers, but there will be a strong and growing interest in underwater exploration and immersion - it's a transformational and life-changing personal journey that we look forward to offering up to the planet for decades to come.

What can divers do to help, whether in their personal lives or within the framework of the sport? 

Loads. Start with the man in the mirror, stay informed and do what you can to make the world a better place and become a more powerful catalyst for change. We already are seeing this in thousands of individuals on a local level and we are helping to get their messages out. All of us who care about these issues can amplify engagement efforts to support life below the waters of this world and support initiatives which promote the sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources. We encourage divers to align with like-minded business and organizations. The diving community will become powerful change agents who share a like-minded love, mission and passion to be a force for good and tackle and mitigate the problems which threaten our ocean planet. Local fishing practices and pollution are other contributors to reef decline. 

What can divers do to positively impact those practices? 

Stay informed, get engaged, initiate conversations and educate others about the issues. We all can make informed choices about how we live our lives, what we eat who we do business with etc. We can support set asides, marine protected areas and hope spots and support sustainable development and life practices. Support the development of social norms and institutions that allow the responsible management of reefs. Policy-makers might help local communities and people live with reefs sustainably, and encourage people to be more invested in their local reefs. We don't get to live in an ideal world, we live in this one. You've likely read about 3-D reefs. 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/3d-printed-reefs-coral-bleaching-climate/ 

What's your thought on how quickly those can be created to contribute to reef health and regeneration? What else may help, if anything?

I love the innovation and hope that is driving this initiative. Artificial reefs have been around a long time with mixed success. Time will tell if 3-D reefs can help restore on any longer-term or mass scale. 

What dive areas are still in good shape for viewing colorful fish and a lively reef? 

There are hundreds across the planet. As for tropical marine ecosystems-places like Palau, Sipadan, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Indonesia and the Philippines. In the Caribbean Bonaire, Saba, much of the Bahamas, Las Rocas, and many areas in the Red Sea and the Maldives. There remains much beauty to be seen.

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EXCELLENT TRUMP: 5 Reasons Trump Is Right To Pull Out Of The Paris Accord
http://www.dailywire.com/news/17086/excellent-trump-5-reasons-trump-right-pull-out-ben-shapiro

EXCELLENT TRUMP: 5 Reasons Trump Is Right To Pull Out Of The Paris Accord
By: Ben Shapiro 
June 2, 2017 

On Thursday, President Trump made the first major move of his administration since the appointment of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court: he withdrew from the Paris Accord, a non-treaty entered into by President Obama that committed the United States to serious economic deprivation in order to accomplish nearly nothing in terms of climate change. It’s true that Trump laid all that out in a well-written, fact-laden speech. The Left predictably went nuts — they’ve been lighting up buildings green (wasting energy) and quitting his economic council (who cares) and tweeting incessantly about the end of the world all day. But Trump is right. Here are five reasons why.

1. The Accord Was A Treaty, And President Obama Refused To Treat It Like One. President Obama joined the Paris Accord shortly before leaving office, but never sent the agreement to the Senate for ratification. There was good reason for that: it wouldn’t have been ratified. Instead, Obama simply assumed that America would now be bound by requirements to tamp down carbon emissions in serious ways. In his statement ripping Trump for pulling out of the agreement, for example, Obama stated, “the world came together in Paris around the first-ever global agreement to set the world on a low-carbon course and protect the world we leave to our children.” But none of that was true. Which meant that the accord was essentially symbolic, but would create a bevy of headlines about America abandoning global leadership every time we didn’t meet an arbitrary line not approved by the American people.

2. There Were Legal Implementation Problems With The Paris Accord. Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, spelled out that courts could theoretically use the Paris Accord to strike down Trump’s attempted rollback of carbon emissions regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Left claimed that this was empty talk — no enabling legislation regarding the Paris Accord had been signed, so it was symbolic. But these are the same people who now say the world will burn up because we’ve pulled out of the accord, and the same people who think the courts should ignore law in order to strike down executive orders they don’t like.

3. It Would Have Had No Impact. Obama himself says, “The private sector already chose a low-carbon future.” So if that was true, what’s the need for governmental cram-downs, exactly? Beyond that, Trump is correct that MIT has estimated that even if the Paris Accord were implemented with current commitments by the various countries, the global climate would be lowered by a grand total of 0.2 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. Meanwhile, we’d put crippling regulations on our economy. MIT and the Left insist that other steps would follow the Paris Accord — but there’s no evidence of that.

4. It Let Other Countries Free-Ride. Obama said in his petulant statement, “It was bold American ambition that encouraged dozens of other nations to set their sights higher as well.” This is absolute nonsense. One of the reasons to be skeptical of the Paris Accord is that it asked nations for non-binding commitments on climate change. Non-binding. As Oren Cass pointed out at Commentary: China committed to begin reducing emissions by 2030, roughly when its economic development would have caused this to happen regardless. India made no emissions commitment, pledging only to make progress on efficiency—at half the rate it had progressed in recent years. Pakistan outdid the rest, submitting a single page that offered to “reduce its emissions after reaching peak levels to the extent possible.” This is a definition of the word “peak,” not a commitment. ... An April report by Transport Environment found only three European countries pursuing policies in line with their Paris commitments and one of those, Germany, has now seen two straight years of emissions increases. The Philippines has outright renounced its commitment. A study published by the American Geophysical Union warns that India’s planned coal-plant construction is incompatible with its own targets. All this behavior is socially acceptable amongst the climate crowd. Only Trump’s presumption that the agreement means something, and that countries should be forthright about their commitments, is beyond the pale.

5. It Put America Last. Obama and the Left have claimed for years that “green jobs” will be produced by government. There is no evidence of that happening. It’s a chimera. Van Jones, Obama’s “green jobs czar,” couldn’t point to any job creation for which he was responsible. We do know that additional regulations would cripple key industries in the United States without making up for them with these magical new “investments.” The private sector, as Obama recognizes, is already moving toward more efficient energy solutions. But this agreement wasn’t about forwarding that. It was about creating public pressure for the US government to intervene in its own economy, without requiring anything of those with whom we compete. Good for Trump. The Paris Accord was a meaningless sham, designed mainly to shame the United States into harming its own economy for the vicarious pleasure of others.

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The Global Food Challenge Explained in 18 Graphics
by Janet Ranganathan Janet Ranganathan - December 03, 2013
http://www.wri.org/blog/2013/12/global-food-challenge-explained-18-graphics

This post is part of WRI's blog series, Creating a Sustainable Food Future. The series explores strategies to sustainably feed more than 9 billion people by 2050. All pieces are based on research being conducted for the 2013-2014 World Resources Report.

The world is projected to hold a whopping 9.6 billion people by 2050. Figuring out how to feed all these people—while also advancing rural development, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and protecting valuable ecosystems—is one of the greatest challenges of our era.

So what’s causing the global food challenge, and how can the world solve it? We begin to answer these questions through a series of graphics below. For more information, check out the interim findings of Creating a Sustainable Food Future, a report produced by WRI, U.N. Environment Programme, U.N. Development Programme, and the World Bank.

What's Causing the Global Food Crisis?

Feeding an Exploding Population

The world’s population is projected to grow from about 7 billion in 2012 to 9.6 billion people in 2050. More than half of this growth will occur in sub-Saharan Africa, a region where one-quarter of the population is currently undernourished. 

Shifting Diets

In addition to population growth, world’s per capita meat and milk consumption is also growing—especially in China and India—and is projected to remain high in the European Union, North America, Brazil, and Russia. These foods are more resource-intensive to produce than plant-based diets. 

The Food Gap

Taking into account a growing population and shifting diets, the world will need to produce 69 percent more food calories in 2050 than we did in 2006. 

It’s Not a Distribution Problem

We can’t just redistribute food to close the food gap. Even if we took all the food produced in 2009 and distributed it evenly amongst the global population, the world will still need to produce 974 more calories per person per day by 2050. 

Agriculture’s Environmental Footprint

But we can’t just produce more food in the same way as today—we also must reduce food’s environmental impact. Agriculture contributes nearly one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, uses 37 percent of landmass (excluding Antarctica), and accounts for 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawn from rivers, lakes, and aquifers. 

Climate Change and Water Stress Exacerbate the Challenge

Climate change is expected to negatively impact crop yields, particularly in the hungriest parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa. 

Growing water use and rising temperatures are expected to further increase water stress in many agricultural areas by 2025. 

The Energy-Food Nexus

Another major challenge is biofuels’ competition for land and crops. Producing 10 percent of all transport fuels from biofuels by 2050, as planned by some governments, would require 32 percent of global crop production but produce only 2 percent of global energy. It would also increase the food gap to roughly 100 percent. Conversely, eliminating the use of crop-based biofuels for transportation would close the food gap by roughly 14 percent. 

Food’s Role in Economic Development

Around 2 billion people are currently employed in agriculture, many of them poor. We need to close the food gap in ways that enhance the livelihoods of farmers, especially the poorest. 

The “Great Balancing Act”

Achieving a sustainable food future, then, requires meeting three needs simultaneously: closing the food gap, supporting economic development, and reducing agriculture’s environmental impact. 

What Are Some Solutions?

Reduce Food Loss and Waste

Roughly one-quarter of world’s food calories are lost or wasted between field and fork. Cutting this rate in half could close the food gap by about 20 percent by 2050. 

Shift to Healthier Diets

Beef is the least efficient source of calories and protein, generating six times more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of protein than pork, chicken, and egg production. Shifting just 20 percent of the anticipated future global consumption of beef to other meats, fish, or dairy could spare hundreds of millions of hectares of forest and savannah. 

Achieve Replacement Level Fertility

Reducing population growth can help hold down food demand. While most regions are projected to reach replacement level fertility—or the rate at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next—sub-Saharan Africa’s population is on course to more than double between now and 2050. 

Boost Crop Yields

Boosting yields is particularly important in sub-Saharan Africa, which currently has world’s lowest cereal yields but will account for one-third of all additional calories needed in 2050. 

Improve Land and Water Management

Conservation agriculture—such as reduced tillage, crop rotations, and mulching—increased maize yields in Malawi. Combining these techniques with agroforestry—intercropping with trees—further increased yields. These practices could be scaled up on more than 300 million hectares in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Shift Agriculture to Degraded Lands

Shifting agriculture land expansion to degraded lands can prevent deforestation, protect resources, and curb climate change. For example, more than 14 million hectares of low-carbon degraded lands in Kalimantan, Indonesia are potentially suitable for oil palm development. 

Increase Aquaculture’s Productivity

As wild fish catches have plateaued, aquaculture has expanded, producing nearly half of fish consumed in 2009. To grow in a sustainable way, aquaculture will need to produce more fish per unit of land and water and reduce its reliance on wild-caught fish for feed. 

Closing the Food Gap

No one solution can create a sustainable food future. A menu of consumption- and production-focused strategies, including those presented here, can close the food gap and generate environmental, health, and development co-benefits. But governments, business, and others need to act quickly and with conviction to scale these solutions up. 

*Includes all crops intended for direct human consumption, animal feed, industrial uses, seeds, and biofuels.

Sources for Graphics

1.Growing Population: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (UNDESA). 2013. World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision. New York: United Nations. Total population by major area, region, and country. Medium fertility scenario.

2.Shifting Diets: Bunderson, W. T. 2012. “Faidherbia albida: the Malawi experience.” Lilongwe, Malawi: Total LandCare.

3.Food Gap: WRI analysis based on Alexandratos, N., and J. Bruinsma. 2012. World agriculture towards 2030/2050: The 2012 revision. Rome: FAO.

4.Food Distribution: WRI analysis based on FAO. 2012. “FAOSTAT.” Rome: FAO; United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (UNDESA). 2013. World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision. New York: United Nations. Medium fertility scenario.

5.Agriculture's Environmental Footprint: WRI analysis based on IEA (2012); EIA (2012); EPA (2012); Houghton (2008); FAO (2011); FAO (2012); Foley et al. (2005).

6.Climate Change and Crop Yields: World Bank. 2010. World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change. Washington, DC: World Bank.

7.Growing Water Stress: World Resources Institute and The Coca-Cola Company. 2011. “Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas Global Maps 1.0.” Accessible at http://wri.org/aqueduct. Cropped areas from Ramankutty, N., A. T. Evan, C. Monfreda, and J. A. Foley. 2008. “Farming the planet: 1. Geographic distribution of global agricultural lands in the year 2000.” Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 22: GB1003, doi:1010.1029/2007GB002952.

8.Energy-Food Nexus: Heimlich, R. and T. Searchinger. Forthcoming. Calculating Crop Demands for Liquid Biofuels. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute.

9.Food and Development: World Bank. 2012. World Development Indicators. Accessible at: http://databank.worldbank.org/Data/Home.aspx (accessed December 13, 2012).

10.Great Balancing Act: WRI.

11.Annual Crop Production: WRI analysis based on Bruinsma, J. 2009. The Resource Outlook to 2050: By how much do land, water and crop yields need to increase by 2050? Rome: FAO; Alexandratos, N., and J. Bruinsma. 2012. World agriculture towards 2030/2050: The 2012 revision. Rome: FAO.

12.GHG Emissions from Animal Products: GLEAM in Gerber, P. J., H. Steinfeld, B. Henderson, A. Mottet, C. Opio, J. Dijkman, A. Falcucci, and G. Tempio. 2013. Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Rome: FAO.

13.Current and Projected Fertility Rates: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (UNDESA). 2013. World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision. New York: United Nations. Total fertility by major area, region, and country. Medium fertility scenario.

14.Cereal Yields: Derived from FAO. 2012. “FAOSTAT.” Rome: FAO; graph by IFDC.

15.Maize Yields in Malawi: Bunderson, W. T. 2012. “Faidherbia albida: the Malawi experience.” Lilongwe, Malawi: Total LandCare.

16.Degraded Lands in Kalimantan: Gingold, B. et al. 2012. How to Identify Degraded Land for Sustainable Palm Oil in Indonesia. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute.

17.World Fish Production: FAO. 2012. “FishStatJ.” Rome: FAO.

18.Closing the Food Gap: WRI analysis based on Alexandratos, N., and J. Bruinsma. 2012. World agriculture towards 2030/2050: The 2012 revision. Rome: FAO.

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