What will we be eating in Birmingham in 2050?
West Midlands scientists are bending their minds around perhaps the biggest challenge facing humanity ever.
How the heck are we going to feed ourselves in 2050? With 9 billion on the planet depleting resources like never before, plus the havoc of climate change, it's a humdinger of a problem.
Discussions on the matter are a tad of a stretch; mind-numbing stats and handwringing all round often leave people feeling vaguely pessimistic about it all, yet without a clue about what to do.
The New Optimists Forum here in Birmingham is veering a different tack.
The Forum scientists are considering these big issues, but grounded here, right here in this conurbation.
As part of a year-long scenario planning project, the question they're addressing is this: What will we be eating in Birmingham in 2050?
They've already identified three potential game-changers for us in Birmingham:
- The possibility of the city (and further afield) having its own distributed heat and energy generation system by a carbon-negative process. This could thereby allow vertical farming, currently pie (ahem) in the sky, to be a viable economic proposition. (For that, read abount Andreas Hornung's EBRI demonstrator plant is opening this year at Aston University.)
- The semantic web could radically change the food supply chain, allowing small scale producers collectively to make a significant difference, both in terms of quality and quantity of what we'll be eating. (For that, read about Chris Brewster's ideas; he's leading a workstream on a large EU Smart AgriFood project.)
- Which brings me neatly to the third potential game-changer -- and that's a significant increase in local food production, both from our fertile hinterlands (think Vale of Evesham, Shropshire, Warwickshire) and within the city boundaries, too. (See this draft summary of info on agroecology/urban farming)
Sure, there's no way we can be self-sufficient, as argued here. Nonethless, there's swathes of evidence that community food-growing has enormous benefits in lots of ways -- from people's health to social cohesion via civic pride. There's already a lot of communities and individuals growing food here. Add in the semantic web and vertical farms growing high-value crops . . .