Trees

Eight ways to rewire the world's food systems
2017-11-15

Over the last decades, major changes in what people eat and to food production systems all around the world have impacted human health and the state of the environment. Although more food is now produced to feed a growing population, our plates are filled unequally and the nutrition and safety is not always guaranteed. That has led to a strain on our planet and a growing number of people suffering overweight, obesity and micronutrients deficiency. Food production is the single largest driver of environmental degradation and a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

In a recent study published in Environmental Research Letters, Beijer researchers together with colleagues at the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere programme (GEDB), Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), University of Gävle and the WorldFish Center in Malaysia, teamed up to identify ways the global food system can be ‘rewired’. To do that they looked at how food production has influenced human health and the biosphere since the 1960’s until today.

Read the article

Implications for human and environmental health

In their study, led by Line Gordon, SRC, the authors look at how the total volume of food production has changed along with the nutritional value of the food. They also looked at safety aspects of food production and how farming and fishing have affected crucial earth system processes. The latter part of the study uses the planetary boundaries framework.

The authors argue that the overall increase in the volume of food production has mixed implications for human and environmental health. Less people are undernourished today than in the 1960’s and more varied and convenient food choices are available, but the proportion of overweight and obese people has increased. At the same time, four out of the six planetary boundaries have crossed a safe operating space.

Moreover, a more globalised food system has disconnected consumers from the producers of food. This in turn has reduced the transparency of how food is produced.

"Throughout the past decades, supply chains have become consolidated to a few actors that exert disproportionate power over the production methods and the supply of food at a large scale, constraining individual food choices at the local scale," says co-author Beatrice Crona, GEDB Executive director.

Eight action points

Gordon and her co-authors identify eight “entry points” for a more healthy and sustainable food system:

1. Create nutrient-rich landscapes: This includes selecting crop varieties, fish and livestock based on their nutritional content.

2. Cut waste and change diets: Solutions such as cutting post-harvest losses and shifting dietary patterns can reduce pressure on natural resources..

3. Reduce antimicrobial use: Intensification is a general trend in animal farming and it is urgent to find means that limit excessive use within the animal food production sector.

4. Strengthen biodiversity and multifuntional landscapes: We should better acknowledge and account for the many ecosystem services and social benefits that food producing systems deliver beyond food itself, such as pollination, water filtration, and recreation.

5. Reconnect people to the biosphere: Initiatives that can reconnect individuals and communities to food can facilitate a broader engagement with food systems in healthy and sustainable ways.

6. Enhance transparency between producers and consumers: There is a need to improve our capacity to trace the impacts of food production across the supply chain.

7. Influence consumer decisions: Better knowledge is needed about what enables people to adopt healthy and sustainable dietary patterns.

8. Mobilize key actors to become biosphere stewards

Based on these action points, the authors conclude:

“We need to rewire different parts of food systems, to enhance information flows between consumers and producers at different scales, influence food-system decision makers, foster the biosphere stewardship of key actors in food systems, and re-connect people to the biosphere through the culture of food.”

Read more

Gordon, L., V. Bignet, V. Crona, P. Henriksson, T. Van Holt, M. Jonell, T. Lindahl, M. Troell, S. Barthel, L. Deutsch, C. Folke, J. Haider, J. Rockstroem and JC. Queiroz. 2017. Rewiring food systems to enhance human health and biosphere stewardship. Environmental Research Letters 12:100201. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa81dc

The Global Ocean and the Future of Humanity
2017-11-08

Seminar with Professor Rashid Sumaila, Tuesday 28 November, 13-16, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 

Humanity has entered the Anthropocene where human activities are fundamentally shaping the dynamics of the planet. This raises a number of concerns in relation to the ecosystems we depend on, but also to how we distribute benefits originating from these ecosystems.

The seminar focuses on the global ocean, celebrating Volvo Environment Prize Laureate Professor Rashid Sumaila’s work. The ocean is a fundamental sink of carbon dioxide and plays a critical role in stabilizing the Earth biophysical processes. It also provides food and employment for millions of people and is substantially influenced by climate change, overfishing and pollution.

We will explore pathways to ensure that the ocean can continue to provide for humanity, while also protecting its intrinsic values and the structure and function of ecosystems. Furthermore, how protection and use of the ocean can provide benefits from these global commons, in a fair way, to citizens of all nations.

Professor Rashid Sumaila is one of the world’s most innovative researchers on the future of the oceans. He integrates social and economic dimensions with ecology, law, fisheries science and traditional knowledge to build novel pathways towards sustainable fisheries, with a focus on equity and local livelihoods. Find more information about Professor Rashid Sumaila on www.environment-prize.com.

The symposium is free of charge and open to the public but registration is required. Please register at www.kva.se/globalocean by 24 November

Additional presentations by Maria van Berlekom, Sida, Beatrice Crona, GEDB and Stockholm Resilience Centre, Carl Folke, the Beijer Institute and Stockholm Resilience Centre. Moderated by Henrik Österblom, Stockholm Resilience Centre. Music by Perro del Mar. Read full program here

Call for applications for the Mäler Scholarship
2017-11-08

2018 and 2019 Mäler Scholarship in Environmental Economics

The Beijer Institute  is pleased to announce a new round of the Mäler Scholar competition. The institute created the Mäler Scholarship in 2009, in honor of Professor Karl-Göran Mäler’s long-standing contributions to environmental economics around the world.  The scholarship allows researchers to spend up to 6 months at the institute developing new projects in collaboration with Beijer researchers.  The institute is based at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden and has a small staff of researchers who work on a variety of ecological-economics issues. The research focus of the applicant during the stay should relate closely to at least one of the Beijer Institute’s research programs.

The Beijer Institute’s major objectives are to carry out research and stimulate cooperation to promote a deeper understanding of the interplay between ecological systems and social and economic development. The overall perspective is that humanity is embedded in the biosphere and shapes it from local to global scales, from the past to the future. At the same time humanity fundamentally depends on the capacity of the biosphere to sustain development.

We welcome candidates who can collaborate on research relevant to at least one of the Institute’s in-house researchers and that can be applied to their home country. Methods and topics of interest include for example: quasi experimental research designs to study causal impacts of policies or economic activities on the environment; and experimental approaches to study human behaviour in relation to environmental change or use of natural resources.

The scholarship covers travel costs to and from Stockholm and provides a monthly allowance for lodging and meals. It is intended for early-career researchers in environmental economics from developing regions of the world who already have a PhD or are currently enrolled in a PhD program and will finish within 1-2 years.  Preference is given to researchers affiliated with four regional environmental economics networks—CEEPA, EEPSEA, LACEEP, and SANDEE—and the EfD centers. Others are welcome to apply. Read here about former Mäler Scholars.

The institute is now accepting applications from researchers who are interested in spending up to 6 months at the institute in 2018 or 2019 during the periods January– June or August – December.  Applicants should e-mail a document containing the following information to Christina Leijonhufvud (Beijer administrator: chris@beijer.kva.se) by December 13, 2017.

For more information on how to apply read here

The 2017 Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science to Carl Folke
2017-08-29

Beijer Institute director Professor Carl Folke has been awarded the 2017 Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science for his outstanding scientific work to promote sustainable development globally.

 

The Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (DKNVS) and Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) established the international Gunnerus Sustainability Award, which confers a prize of NOK 1 million (approximately USD 190,000), plus a gold medal and diploma.The award honours outstanding scientific work for sustainable development globally and aims to promote research and strengthen the scientific basis of sustainability. It will be presented during NTNU’s sustainability conference on 19 October.

 

”I feel very happy and greatly honoured to be chosen as the recipient of the Gunnerus Award 2017”, says Carl Folke who is also science director and co-founder of Stockholm Resilience Centre, and explains why he thinks the award is important also for a wider research community:

 

”The establishment of the Gunners Award with its focus on sustainability science has a great significance for strengthening vulnerable transdisciplinary research environments around the world.”

 

The press release gives the motivation for giving Carl Folke the award:

 

Carl Folke’s research quality and quantity is outstanding. He has made substantial contributions to sustainability science and internationally viewed as one of the most important individuals in forming this new field of research. In particular, he has been extremely influential in stimulating research into complex social-ecological systems and a pioneer in bringing social sciences, economics and natural science into a fruitful dialogue and interaction addressing the important sustainability challenges facing society.

 

Folke’s initiative has opened new perspectives in understanding the dynamic interaction between human beings and nature, the features and services of ecosystems, as well as how socioeconomic conditions help to manage and maintain ecosystems' ability to cope with changes – their so-called resilience.

 

Folke’s research stresses the importance of living systems at different levels of community development. It shows how we can strive for resilience in the ways we direct and administrate systems where society and nature interact. His work illustrates – in superb fashion – how social progress, prosperity and well-being depend on developments in the biosphere.”

 

At the Gunners Award website it is also noted that Carl Folke is among the world’s most cited researchers with an h-index of 110, where a score of 60 is often considered to be reserved for truly unique researchers.

 

Read the full press release here

A week for global sustainability – two conferences in Stockholm
2017-08-21

For one week, Stockholm is the capital of global sustainability. Over 1000 experts are meeting for two major conferences. Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), The Beijer institute and Resilience Alliance are organisers of the conference Resilience 2017 – Resilience Frontiers for Global Sustainability 21-23 August.  The conferences focus on plausible positive futures for people and planet. It will look back on the scientific progress made since the previous conference in 2014 and set out exciting future directions for research. 
Resilience science is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of research and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, of which the Beijer Institute is a founding member, has become a global hub of knowledge, ten years from its inauguration.
 
Back to back the 7th International Conference on Sustainability Science takes place in Stockholm 24-27 August will take place, organised by Future Earth, SRC and IR3S. It focuses on the research agenda of Future Earth, a major international research programme to advance global sustainability science.  
 
 
Conference highlights include:
 
Positive futures for the planet: researchers will present new ways for envisioning the future and understanding how societies can transform sustainably using computer modelling, scenarios, games and narratives.  
A three-decade analysis of the links between armed conflicts globally, existing ethnic tensions within countries, and droughts and heatwaves and other climate factors. The researchers say, “about 23% of conflict outbreaks in ethnically highly fractionalized countries robustly coincide with climatic calamities.” (Jonathan Donges, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany and Stockholm Resilience Centre.)
Cold Turkey: after decades of overuse, dangerous bacteria are evolving to beat our strongest antibiotics. This is one of the most severe global threats facing our species. Stricter regulations on antibiotic use plus global awareness campaigns are essential to protect this essential global commons, say researchers. (Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, GEDB and Stockholm Resilience Centre )
Future climate-proofing New York. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York City. About 130 square kilometres of the city went under water affecting 443,000 New Yorkers and killing 44.  Five years on, what have we learnt about how a mega city responds to a climate catastrophe? And will the new strategy be enough to increase resilience and reduce future risk? (Timon McPhearson, New School, NY and Stockholm Resilience Centre.)
Can warm-water corals reefs survive in the 21st century? This is an open question. Researchers are exploring the safe limits of the world’s reefs and how to make them more resilient to the combined threats of rising temperatures, ocean acidification, pollution and overfishing. (Albert Norström, Stockholm Resilience Centre)
SDG Labs. On 24 August, the outcomes of a series of Sustainable Development Goals Labs will be presented. The labs aim to solve a particular challenge, for example sustainable consumption and production, new financial systems for a sustainable planet, and how design influences behaviour. (Owen Gaffney, Stockholm Resilience Centre and Future Earth.)
 
 
 
 

Factors limiting the expansion of ocean marine aquaculture
2017-08-21

In a comment in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution Beijer Institute researchers elaborate on the potential for future marine aquaculture development. They comment on research findings by Gentry et al., (published in same volume) that shows the existence of vast ocean areas suitable for aquacultureand that appropriation of only a small fraction of this space could potentially solve the world’s food challenge, at least partially.
 
“The modelling work by Gentry et al. is comprehensive and indicate what species that are possible to farm and where in coastal off-shore waters” says the lead author Max Troell. “However, the reason that the level of aquaculture production in such waters currently is low, is not due to space limitation, an expansion will be constrained by other factors.”
 
Troell and colleaugues explain that feed availability and feed costs will prevent further expansions of mariculture long before any ocean space limitations are reached. Current aquaculture production of fish from off-shore ocean systems is still insignificant but is dominated by species such as salmon, groupers, barramundi and cobia, which all require high-quality protein feeds based on fish resources and increasingly agriculture crops, such as soy. The potential for marine aquaculture is also affected by climate change both by temperature increases and ocean acidification, among other things. Considering existing and emerging challenges facing food production on land the incentives for expansion of food production into the oceans is large. However, it is important to acknowledge that aquaculture production through resource needs is connected to both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, they claim.
 
“The big challenges facing near-term expansion of the aquaculture sector lie in the development of sustainable feeds, and in better understanding how large-scale ocean farming systems interact with ecosystems and human well-being” says co-author Malin Jonell, Stockholm Resilience Centre. 
 
“Seafood can play a particularly important role for the future food portfolio, not only because its health benefits but also because many aquaculture species and systems can generate smaller environmental footprint compared to land animal farming” adds Beijer Institute co-author Patrik Henriksson.
 
reference: Troell, M., M. Jonell and P. Henriksson. 2017. Ocean space for seafood. Nature Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0304-6
 

Carl Folke recognised by US National Academy of Sciences
2017-05-03

Beijer Institute Director Carl Folke was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, 2 May. Members are elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Membership is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive.

"I am happily surprised and deeply honoured to have become part of such a distinguished Academy with great scientists and fantastic people", was Carl Folke's reaction after receiving the news.

The NAS membership now totals approximately 2,290 and 475 foreign associates, of whom approximately 200 have received Nobel prizes.

Carl Folke, who is also science director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences since 2002 and 2016 he received the Planet and Humanity Medal, the International Geographical Union's (IGU) most prestigious award.

Read more abot NAS membership here

List of new members here

Beijer Fellow Kenneth Arrow has passed away
2017-02-24

Long standing Beijer Fellow, Economics Laureate Kenneth Arrow died in his home in California on the 21 February at the age of 95.
 
Ken Arrow, a world renowned scholar in economic theory, was a long standing collaborator of the Beijer Institute. He took part in research programmes, in capacity building efforts in developing countries and was a regular participant of the Askö meetings, many of them resulting in joint scientific articles. Beijer Institute director Carl Folke was saddened to receive the news about his death:
 
“Ken Arrow was great source of inspiration for so many and such a wonderful person; humble, engaged, wise, brilliant, curious, respectful, caring. What a privilege to have known such a remarkable human being. Ken has been with us at the Beijer since the start and participated in 16 Askö meetings, the first one in 1994 and the latest in 2016. It was wonderful to have him at the 25-years celebration in September.”
 
Ken Arrow is by many of his peers considered the most influential economist of his generation and as such he has played an immense role for the Beijer Institute. For that and for his personal qualities as a human being, he will be remembered with much warmth here at the Beijer Institute.
 
In September 2009, Ken Arrow held a Wisdom seminar here at the Academy, click here to see it. Unfortunately the picture quality is poor but the sound is fine and Ken gives a remarkable account of his long life and career, beginning with his experiences of the great depression.
 
Read more about Ken Arrows work and impact  in Stanford University’s obituary here. 
 
 

 

New collaboration to tackle antibiotic resistence
2017-02-13

Drug resistance of bacteria is on the rise and already kills hundreds of thousands every year. The use of antibiotics for both humans and in animal production is projected to increase at an alarming rate in the decades to come. To preserve this dwindling global resource, there is a need to urgently move towards more sustainable practices and fundamentally change the way how we relate to infectious diseases and microbes in general.
 
Researchers from Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB) program, The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, and Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) have joined forces with members of the ReAct network to discuss global challenges related to antibiotic resistance and identify potential areas of collaboration.
 
ReAct- Action on Antibiotic Resistance- is an independent and global multidisciplinary network active as a catalyst for advocacy and engagement on antibiotic.
 
The new collaboration aims to identify innovative strategies for tackling antibiotic resistance as part of sustainable development. One area of collaboration will identify development pathways that explicitly see microbes as part of the biosphere that human civilization depends on. Microbes are often forgotten when we talk about the biosphere, emphasizing this point will help promote more sustainable strategies for tackling antibiotic resistance and infectious diseases that does not solely rely on drug innovation. This will help social-ecological resilience in our relationship with microbes.
 
“We all need to become stewards of the microbes in our body and in the environment”, says Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, a researcher at the GEDB program and junior research leader at Stockholm Resilience Centre. Søgaard Jørgensen also leads a two-year synthesis project on social-ecological governance of resistance evolution at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in Maryland, USA.
 
”Without strong political leadership, funding and behavioural change at all levels of society , antibiotic resistance will have devastating effects on all health systems and become a serious threat to sustainable development” says Otto Cars, professor of Infectious Diseases at Uppsala University and founder of ReAct.
 
Global animal food production systems provide another area for collaboration on antibiotics, especially related to seafood production. “We have already initiated studies on antimicrobials in aquaculture production and are trying to further expand this research through new projects in Asia where most of the production originates from”, says Max Troell, Associated Professor at The Beijer Institute of ecological economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Troell leads the program on Sustainable Seafood and is also theme leader of Global food systems and multifunctional landscapes at SRC.
 
Anna Zorzet, Head of ReAct Europe at Uppsala University concludes: “One of the great challenges with antibiotic resistance is its cross-sectoral nature which negatively affect both human health, animal health and the environment. Effective action to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) requires coherence in policy responses across these sectors in the diverse settings of developed and developing countries. Tackling AMR through a lens of resilience is a promising way to achieve that and we are excited about this collaboration towards this end.”
 
 

Clarifying and correcting criticism about China's aquaculture industry
2017-02-13

Beijer Institute researchers Max Troell and Patrik Henriksson have together with colleagues issued a rebuttal to criticism of their recent Science paper China’s aquaculture and the world’s fisheries. In the study, which was led by Ling Cao of Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, the researchers argue that China’s impact on marine ecosystems and global seafood supplies is unrivalled given its dominant role in fish production, consumption, processing and trade.
 
China's aquaculture sector, by far the world’s largest, is of enormous global importance for meeting the rising demand for food and particularly for animal protein. Understanding the implications of the industry’s past and current practices is important for managing its future impacts and improving its sustainability.
 
Underlying intention misinterpreted
The critique of the article, which is led by Dong Han of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Freshwater Aquaculture Collaborative Innovation Center of Hubei Province, Wuhan, China, claim that the Science paper does not acknowledge the important contribution of the Chinese aquaculture sector to global food supply and that while China’s aquaculture volume continues to grow, its fishmeal usage remains stable, and the sector will therefore indirectly reduce pressure on wild fish stocks worldwide.
They claim that the Science paper does not acknowledge the important contribution of the Chinese aquaculture sector to global food supply and that they trot out the “Chinese aquaculture threat” theory.
 
Troell and his colleagues reply that “We are aware of Han and colleagues’ comprehensive work on substitution and sustainable sourcing of fishmeal and fish oil in aquaculture, which is clearly aligned with our perspective. However, we believe that the underlying intention of our Science paper has been seriously misinterpreted, and there are several inaccuracies in their review that are important to clarify and correct.”
 
In the Science paper, Troell and his colleagues unraveled the complicated nature of China’s expanding aquaculture sector and its multifaceted use of fish inputs in feeds, to the best of their abilities. They also developed a roadmap for China’s aquaculture to become self-supporting of fishmeal by recycling processing wastes from its farmed products as feed.
 
An important "black box"
The rebuttal goes on to say that “China’s aquaculture sector remains an important “black box” for many scientists and policy analysts with respect to farming practices, aquafeed demand, domestic fishmeal production, trash fish consumption, and impacts on global capture fisheries."
"Our paper helps to crack open this black box, and it provides an integrated and innovative perspective on the status and trends of China’s aquaculture development. If Han and colleagues have more accurate data to share, we would be more than happy to take these data into account,” the rebuttal states.