Addressing food insecurity in the digital age

Addressing food insecurity in the digital age New technologies are changing agricultural production, but can they help address food insecurity? Shutterstock Laxmi Pant, University of Guelph In the search for food — whether through foraging, hunting or agriculture — we are constantly at war with nature. In addition, food is distributed unequally: over 800 million people experience hunger while two billion are overweight or obese. Successive industrial revolutions have defined who we are and what we eat. In the mid-18th century, steam engines, railways and mechanized agriculture changed the ways food was produced and transported. The Second Industrial Revolution, in the mid-19th century, brought electrical grids, assembly lines and mass production. Job loss happened in agriculture, while employment in the manufacturing and service sector grew. In the United States, for instance, 90 per cent of people worked on farms at the beginning of the 19th century, but now it is… Continue reading

How to fight climate change in agriculture while protecting jobs

Agriculture is a unique sector for a just transition. (Shutterstock) Laxmi Pant, University of Guelph Agriculture has become a carbon-intensive endeavour. Crop, livestock and fossil fuel use in agriculture account for about 25 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. At the same time, more than 800 million people around the world are hungry and two billion are overweight or obese. About 30 per cent of food is lost or wasted, and yet we need 70 per cent more food to feed 10 billion people by 2050. If we produce more food, in the same ways we have been, GHGs from agriculture will only rise. To introduce further complexity, the agriculture sector must reduce 20 to 30 per cent of its emissions to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping the average increase in global temperature 2°C below the pre-industrial levels. Already, climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable people across… Continue reading

Science for social responsibility

New and emerging technologies may ignite controversy in society. The following are some examples: (1) Boundaries of life: abortion, euthanasia; (2) Animal rights: handling of animals, testing on animals, use of animals in the cosmetic industry and for medical research; (3) Genetic engineering: cloning, GMOs, stem cells; (4) Physical engineering: robotics, drones, drone bees, nanotechnology, nuclear power; and (5) Synthetic biology: synthetic meat. Why are these technologies controversial? Some would jump to a conclusion that the public is ignorant of science and increasing science literacy can address at least some of the problems. Others do not necessarily agree with this deficit model of public engagement in science that assume science is apolitical and free human values and emotions. Many of them believe in ‘citizen science’, which is also called public engagement in science or crowdsourcing scientific research, to address science and technology controversies. A recent book entitled The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science,… Continue reading

A new National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation (NACRI)

Canada’s Fundamental Science Review recommends legislation to create a new National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation (NACRI) to provide broad oversight of the federal research and innovation ecosystems. NACRI will have to replace the current external advisory body, the Science, Technology, and Innovation Council (STIC), as it has no independent reporting authority and a constrained disciplinary mandate. The Review acknowledges the imminent appointment of a new Chief Science Advisor (CSA) for Canada as a major step forward. NACRI is expected to work closely with CSA. NACRI’s major responsibilities would be as follows. advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on federal spending as well as broad goals and priorities for research and innovation; improving the coordination and strategic alignment of different elements of federal support for research and innovation; evaluation of the overall performance of the extramural research enterprise; public reporting and outreach on matters determined by the Council;… Continue reading

Socially and environmentally responsible innovation

We are witnessing disruptive innovations from agriculture to health care, education, governance and community services. However, not all innovations are socially and environmentally responsible. We have seen accessibility and adaptability concerns for many modern agricultural technologies among smallholder farms across the world. The problem of digital divide has been identified in developing as well as developed and emerging countries, albeit at a different scale.

Scholars have suggested measures, such as anticipation, inclusion, reflexivity and responsiveness, in the engagement processes to make innovations more responsible. Now there are journals dedicated to responsible innovation,

This video from the Engage2020 explains Europian initiatives on responsible innovation.

Broadband for a sustainable digital future

In a recent journal article, we have integrated latest approaches to assess social and technological change, which are known respectively as ‘reflexive learning’ and ‘reflexive governance’. This paper contextualises the integrated framework of reflexive interactive assessment using case studies of broadband access and use among small businesses and community organisations from the first release areas of the heavily invested high-speed broadband network known as EORN (Eastern Ontario Regional Network) in Canada. Highlights from the paper are as follows. •  Broadband technology assessment involves aspects of social as well as technical change. •  This paper develops a hybrid methodology — reflexive interactive assessment — integrating program assessment and technology assessment. •  We have used this methodology to assess a major Canadian rural broadband investment program. •  Findings suggest that broadband Internet is an essential service for regional and rural innovation. •  Early evidence shows that broadband Internet potentially facilitates transitions to… Continue reading

Digitally Engaged Rural Community Development

Book Review: Responsive Countryside: The Digital Age and Rural Communities, by Roberto Gallardo. (2016). Published by Mississippi State University Extension Service Intelligent Community Institute. Available as Kindle; 174 pages. Publisher’s website: Gallardo’s book is one of the few recent texts available on the topic of digital rural economy. In this regard, the book has made an important contribution to digitally engaged rural community development. Continue reading

Adaptive transition in the digital age

Dr. Roberto Gallardo,  the founder and leader of the Mississippi State University Extension Service Intelligent Community Institute, has published a new book titled Responsive Countryside: The Digital Age and Rural Communities.

We, at the Adaptive Transition Initiative, agree with Dr. Gallardo that intelligent communities (not smart communities) will generate regional and rural innovations and facilitate adaptive transitions in the digital age. He further argues that it would be imperative to address the rural digital divide revisiting extension theory and practice with a focus on asset building (also called ABCD – asset based community development).

A call for adaptive transition to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level

  Global warming provides risks to ecosystems, food security and sustainable development. Climate change adaptations would help to hold global warming less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels within this century. We identify adaptation as incremental and transformational. Transformational adaptation would address structural deficits, such as soil fertility decline, deforestation and biodiversity loss, and lack of income, education, health, and political power.   Continue reading