Sustainability is a journey not a destination, and the global agriculture industry is working to balance meeting global needs while maintaining the health of the environment that supports the industry.
That’s according to Jack Bobo, who works at Nature United using his expertise to oversee global food and water policy, and spoke this week at the Grow Canada conference in Ottawa.
Bobo says there is not a point in time when the food system globally was working well, but we are at the lowest point in human history for childhood mortality and population of undernourished people. Even with the triumph of lowering some statistics, he says there are still 800 million people going to bed hungry. It is clear there is progress to be made, and Bobo says a key part of making progress is recognizing how far we have come.
Farmers are on the right track in food production, he says, and the goal is to accelerate gains faster.
There are visible problems the agriculture industry is facing that are concerning the public, such as deforestation and lack of water, the industry is succeeding at the work necessary to continue to move in the right direction, as sustainability is a journey, not a destination, he says.
Bobo says there is no set definition of sustainable agriculture as the industry improves and evolves through time. The agriculture industry today is far better than it was 30 years ago and the trajectory remains the same for the progress of the next 30 years. He says farmers are actually aligned with environmentalists but there is different language use between the industries. Environmentalists call for sustainable farming while farmers have already answered the call through good management practices. Large steps in sustainability within the agriculture industry are not due to policy or consumer demand, but because farmers wanted to do a better job on their farms from day to day.
Bobo says there is a positive response to his message of the role environmentalism plays in the agriculture industry moving forward. He works to deescalate the tension between groups with differing opinions to open the door for constructive cooperation to create lasting solutions. He says there is a need for understanding and cooperation between people of differing opinions. He points out how collaboration results in solutions that are realistic to apply in everyday agriculture.
The next 30 years are the true test for the agriculture industry. He says between now and 2050 the population will continue to grow quickly and after 2050 population growth will slow dramatically. If the agriculture industry can make it through to 2050 without damaging the planet, he has confidence we are in the clear.