NCSE conference links environment and security, new strategies needed

FSE director Roz Naylor participated in the lead plenary session integrating climate, energy, food, water, and health at the 12th National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment. The theme of this year's conference was Environment and Security, and included keynote talks delivered by Amory Lovins and Thomas Freedman.

While many of us here in the US wake up concerned about political, economic, and military unrest at home and abroad, billions still wake up with more basic, human security concerns, opened FSE director Rosamond L. Naylor in a plenary connecting climate, energy, food, water, and health.

Are we going to have enough to eat today? How am I going to feed my family or care for family members struggling with HIV/AIDS and other infectious diesease? Is there enough water to drink, bathe, and still water my crops?

Naylor emphasized the need to bring these human security issues back into the forefront of our global conscious. While these are 'humanitarian needs at the core', they are also related to national and international security.

"When people are desperate enough, and we've seen this particularly with the food price spike in recent years, they take to the streets, and sometimes when they take to the streets they realize they are disgruntled about a number of things in addition to food prices," said Naylor.

The Arab Spring and wave of rebellions throughout the Middle East last year demonstrate the connections between food security, unmet basic needs, and national security. It has been a chaotic time for world food markets, said Naylor.

Naylor's global statistics are discouraging. Over a billion people still suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition, 1/5 don't have physical access to water, and roughly 1.6 billion are facing economic water constraints (do not have the economic resources to access available water). Food and water insecurity are exacerbating the incidence and transmission of infectious disease.

At a time when investment is sorely needed, the Hill has been making dramatic cutbacks in foreign assistance and foreign investment is falling short. Efforts made by the private sector, philanthropy, and civil society, while valuable, remain siloed. Opportunties are being missed by not addressing the interrelated nature of food and health issues.

Despite this dire outlook, Naylor offered solutions to help us rethink our development strategy.

  1. Invest in more diversified and nutritious crops that have more climate adaptation potential.
  2. Consider new irrigation strategies, particularly in areas like Africa where 96% of the continent is still not irrigated. Not large dams, but small, distributed irrigation systems that rely on solar and wind.
  3. Integrate food and health programs and the way we think about domestic and productive water uses.

Naylor was joined on the panel by Jeff Seabright (Vice President, The Coca-Cola Company), Daniel Gerstein (Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology, U.S. Department of Homeland Security), and Geoff Dabelko (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars). The panel was moderated by Frank Sesno (George Washington University and Planet Forward). Video of the plenary can be found below: