Graduation year: 2022
Semester/year area of interest proposed: Spring 2020
Major status: ENVS minor
Other major (if applicable): International Affairs Major
Minor(s) (if applicable):
Climate change is the number one risk that the world faces today. The 1.5 degree in warming will put food production at risk, which will contribute to widespread food shortages and hunger. One of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 is to end hunger and promote improved agricultural practices. This is not to say that we are not already dealing with a global food crisis. In 2017, 821 million people were undernourished. In sub-Saharan Africa, the problem worsened, with 20.7% of people undernourished in 2014, and 23.2% in 2017. Similar trends can be seen in South America (United Nations 2019). The betterment of agricultural technology over the century has allowed us to produce more food, but the world is experiencing adverse effects from this. There is an uneven distribution of food yields, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. The problem is cyclical, the improvement in agricultural technologies have led to land and water degradation, as well as increased greenhouse gas emissions (Rosin et al. 2011). From 2005 to 2008, food prices have increased by 83%. A few short-term causes of the food crisis are the decline of agricultural production, increased production costs, increased demand from emerging economies, as well as the increased demand for biofuels. Some long term causes of the food crisis are the decline in investment in agricultural productivity, decline in state involvement in agricultural production and trade, as well as a global shift to export crops (Cohen et al. 2009).
Due to the global scale, complexity, and drivers of the food crisis, individual states have turned to international institutions for management. There has been increased “cooperation and policy coherence across the UN system, the Bretton Woods Institutions, regional bodies, and the Group of 20 (G-20) leaders” (Margulis 2013). When thinking of new farming practices, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization approaches them through the lens of mitigation, and adaptation. Adaptation is the reaction to climate change, where there is an attempt to reduce the vulnerability of human/ non-human systems by maintaining adaptive capacity and systems resilience. Mitigation is an attempt at solving its root causes, where greenhouse gas emissions are decreased and carbon sequestration is increased (FAO 2012). A major player in the financing of solutions for the global food crisis is the World Bank Group. Some of the major goals of the World Bank Group is addressing the current food crisis with the context of climate change kept in mind. The five major goals of the World Bank Group is “raising agricultural productivity; linking farmers to markets; reducing risk, vulnerability, and gender inequality; improving non-farm rural employment; and making agriculture more environmentally sustainable, as well as a source of positive environmental services” (World Bank Group 2014).
Land degradation is described as the “reduction or loss of ecosystem services, notably production service.” Land degradation is a noteworthy problem due to its effects on food security, and agroeconomic productivity. According to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), over 250 million people are directly affected by land degradation, and around 1 billion people who depend on the productivity of the lands they cultivate are at risk (Sivakumar 2011). One aspect of land degradation is the decrease in soil fertility, which has been one of the main contributors to the food crisis globally. This is especially true in Africa, where soil fertility depletion is the major biophysical cause of food insecurity (Sanchez 2000). In former French West Africa, the transition from pastoral farming to the heavily industrialized farming of export crops due to colonization severely damaged the potential of the land to support people (Hodge 2014). Without arable land, the increasing demand for food cannot be met. Many of the world’s soils are depleted of Soil Organic Carbon (SOC), mostly worsened by industrialized agricultural practices. Ideally, SOC is to be replenished through the products of photosynthesis. Doing so would improve the soil structure, which would allow for higher water retention and drainage, leading to better resistance against flooding and drought. Soils with high SOC are healthier and have higher biodiversity of the soil food web, which could mean higher agricultural yields (Rhodes 2014).
This topic is highly significant to environmental studies due to its connection to several relevant disciplines. First, the topic has many connections to biology. The question of soil viability, water usage, and climate science, are all relevant to environmental studies. Additionally, the examination of actors in this issue area through an international affairs perspective is similar to that done in the field of environmental studies.
- Are there measures that are being taken by international actors to address soil degradation?
- How has international governance surrounding the food crisis changed over time? Has governance changed to adapt to climate change?
- What are the measures taken by different international governing bodies to avoid overlapping mandates?
- What type of reaction is most effective in addressing the food crisis (national, regional, intergovernmental, or supranational)?
- IA 212 (International Organization) Spring 2020. In this class, I will look the role of international organizations in the global food crisis and agriculture.
- IA 257 (Global Resources Dilemma) Fall 2021. This class would help me understand how resources are used in the world, which could inform this topic.
- HIS 300 (Historical Methods) Fall 2021. This course would help me develop the skills to interpret qualitative data.
Here are the required breadth courses I will include in my ENVS major/minor: BIO 201, IA 340, HIST 261. These are in addition to my ENVS core courses, and the area of interest courses I propose above.
Revisions to date
- February 26th: I spoke with Jessica about the work I had done so far for my Area of Interest summary. During this time, I was advised to focus on a specific object/ actor that is important in the food crisis. I then decided to focus on the biophysical aspects of soil, and how that relates to the global food crisis.
- April 14th: I spoke with Kyle Lascurettes, who gave me advice on both organization, and content. Kyle suggested that I examine the role of World Trade Organization, and the stalling of the Doha round and how that may relate to the food crisis. I was also advised to structure my writing in a way that is more clear, where the paragraphs are split into clear sub themes moving from broad to more specific.
- Cohen, Marc J., Clapp, Jennifer. 2009. Centre for International Governance Innovation. The Global Food Crisis : Governance Challenges and Opportunities. Studies in International Governance. Waterloo, Ont.]: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
- FAO, 2012. Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in Agriculture.Climate Change and Food Security- Learner’s notes published by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Link.
- Hodge, Joseph Morgan, Hödl, Gerald, and Kopf, Martina. 2014. Developing Africa : Concepts and Practices in Twentieth-century Colonialism. Studies in Imperialism (Manchester, England). Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.
- Margulis, Matias E. 2013. “The Regime Complex for Food Security: Implications for the Global Hunger Challenge.” Global Governance 19, no. 1: 53-67.Link.
- Rhodes, Christopher, J. 2014. “Soil Erosion, Climate Change and Global Food Security: Challenges and Strategies.” Science Progress (1933-) 97 (2): 97–153.
- Rosin, Christopher, Paul Stock, and Hugh Campbell. 2011. Food Systems Failure: The Global Food Crisis and the Future of Agriculture. London, UNITED KINGDOM: Routledge. Link..
- Sanchez, Pedro A. 2000. “Linking Climate Change Research with Food Security and Poverty Reduction in the Tropics.” Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 82 (1): 371–83.Link.
- Sivakumar, Mannava V. K. 2011. “Climate and Land Degradation.” In Sustaining Soil Productivity in Response to Global Climate Change, 141–54. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.Link.
- United Nations. 2019. “The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019.” New York, N.Y.: United Nations.Link.
- World Bank Group. 2014. World Bank Group A to Z. Washington: World Bank Publications. ProQuest Ebook Central.