Providing safe, nutritious and abundant food is a goal for every nation. Meeting these goals rests on the global agricultural enterprise, an enterprise that will face increasing challenges in future decades. These challenges stem from demands for higher yields. They stem from the need for food with complete nutrition for the developing world. They stem from the need to reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture by reducing agrochemical use and soil loss. They stem from increased pest and pathogen pressures. And, in the face of a climate that is changing in ways that we don’t always precisely understand, they stem from the need for water.
In the United States, agriculture use 80% of total water consumption. Long-term droughts in the US have lead to the depletion of aquifers, water shortages both in urban and rural areas, and in some cases, loss of crops and farmland with severe economic consequences. In many parts of the developing world, the situation is much more grim. Here, not only is there concern for adequate water supplies for agriculture and industry, there are shortage of clean, easily accessible water for human consumption. In particular, the diversion of human activities towards obtaining water has profound personal, economic and societal consequences. Ban Ki-moon has related water shortages to poverty and social unrest. “They cause social hardship and impede development. They create tensions in conflict-prone regions. Too often, where we need water we find guns.” 1
How can Universities address these challenges and concerns? Food and water are complex problems that no one academic discipline can solve. Yet, there is no better place to address these challenges than at a University where we have engineers, social scientists, business, law, medicine and the fundamental academic disciplines all together in one unit. Universities also have the opportunity to address food and water issues on a global scale, far beyond the means of a single institution. Collaboration among Universities and consortia such as the McDonnell Academy extend the reach and multiply the impact of our work.
Multi-university workshops will be planned to further our collaborations in this area.
The Symposium will also showcase 3 Minute Thesis® presentations from graduate students working on a range of population aging topics at partner universities.