Food System Resilience in an Era of Globalization and Environmental Change

Aired on 10/19/2015

The panel discussion explored the concept of food system resilience in its broadest sense — the capacity to respond to disturbances in ways that maintain essential structure and function in an era of globalization and environmental change. For food systems, maintaining the capacity for food provisioning into the future is paramount. As food systems have become increasingly interconnected and interdependent globally, their resilience must also be considered in the context of this interconnectivity. The panelists discussed the sensitivity of local and global food systems to a diversity of disturbance, ranging from peak phosphorus, water scarcity and drought, to renewable energy policy.

Food System Resilience in an Era of Globalization and Environmental Change from Security & Sustainability Forum . See the Food System Resilience PPT_slides here


(Moderator) Dr. Hallie Eakin’s recent research investigated economic globalization, agricultural change, and rural vulnerability to climate in the context of comparative international projects involving case studies in Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, and Honduras. She is currently exploring coffee farmers’ adaptive strategies in Mexico and Central America. Dr. Eakin has consulted with the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency on projects in agricultural development, the use of seasonal forecasting in drought risk mitigation, and adaptation to anticipated climate-change impacts on urban water availability. She teaches courses on sustainable worlds.

Dr. Evan Fraser stared thinking about agriculture and food systems while spending summers working on his grandfather’s fruit farm in Niagara. There, he watched his stock-broker grandmother rake in an unconscionable amount of money on commissions from her clients’ investments while the farmers around were letting their crops rot because the cost of harvesting was higher than the cost of importing from the Southern US and Mexico. He decided, however, it was easier to write and talk about farming than actually try to make a living on it so passed on inheriting the family farm, opting instead for grad school. He did degrees in forestry, anthropology and agriculture at UBC and UofT. Since graduating from his PhD, he has worked in a policy institute with the Hon. Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, and began his academic career in 2003 at the University of Leeds in the UK where he developed a research program on rural land use and the socio-economic factors that make crops vulnerable to climate change. Throughout this time he has tried to adopt an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the challenges that face global food security. He is the author of approximately 50 scientific papers on these topics and has written two popular non-fiction books about food and food security including Empires of Food: Feast, Famine and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations. Currently, he holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Human Security in the Department of Geography where he teaches a 3rd year course on global food systems and an MA seminar on environment and development issues.

Dr. Jennifer Hodbod’s research focuses on food systems, with the overarching theme of “how do we make resilient food systems?” A key tenet of this research revolves around land-use change in food systems and the interactions and trade-offs that result from such change, commonly the trade-offs between production, consumption, livelihoods and food security. Jennifer looks at this through a resilience framework, taking a systems perspective to investigate impacts across multiple scales, to highlight all impacts – intended or not – for all actors. Jennifer completed her PhD at the University of East Anglia (UK) in 2013, within the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Her PhD research examined the impacts of biofuel expansion on social-ecological systems in Ethiopia, investigating the consequences at different scales on food security, livelihoods, the environment and energy security using interdisciplinary methods. She is now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiative.

Dr. Bruce Rittmann’s research is aimed at developing microbiological systems that capture renewable resources and also minimize environmental pollution. His work combines engineering with microbiology, biochemistry, geochemistry and microbial ecology to address fundamental and applied issues in the biological treatment of waters and wastewater, the bioremediation of contaminated aquifers and soils, and the recovery of energy from waste materials. Dr. Rittmann, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, is known for pioneering the development of biofilm fundamentals and contributing to their widespread use in the cleanup of contaminated waters, soils, and ecosystems. He is also a recognized leader in the development of the Membrane Biofilm Reactor, an approach that uses bacteria to destroy pollutants in water. Dr. Rittmann also explores microbial fuel cells, which utilize organic materials in water to generate electricity directly. He has served as editor-in-chief of Biodegradation and is on the editorial advisory board of Environmental Science & Technology. Dr. Rittmann is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a recipient of the Clarke Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Water Science and Technology, a winner of the Huber Research Prize from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a Distinguished Member of ASCE, winner of the Queneau Palladium Medal, and one of the world’s most highly cited researchers, according to ISI. He teaches courses on Advanced Environmental Biotechnology and on Introduction to Environmental Engineering.