Tackling Global Sustainability Issues With Digital Technology

We need smart solutions to tackle the global sustainability issues of today. Without digital technology, it is hard for companies to ease their pollution footprint or manage waste. Without a full understanding of sustainability, the energy drawn by computers can be wasted. Achieving sustainable economic growth will require changes in industrial processes, in the type and amount of resources used, and in the products which are manufactured.

With global demand for food set to increase by nearly 70 percent by 2050, sustainable food production is one of the biggest challenges for the future.

The food industry is one of the most ecologically damaging industries and we will need to completely rethink its approach if we are to keep meals on the table for generations to come.

Food is the single biggest impact that humans have on nature. We are deforesting the earth to grow more food.

Increased food production and the improved means of storage and distribution —necessary to support a burgeoning global population—will also depend on technological advances. Biotechnology has produced new strains of crops resistant to disease and drought. Further advances in producing crop varieties naturally resistant to pests will permit a further reduction in toxic chemicals used as pesticides. Genetic engineering holds promise not only in agriculture, but also in aquaculture where it can lead to increased production of marine and freshwater seafood.

The negative environmental consequences of farming have been reduced in recent years, and environmentally sustainable farm practices appear to be within reach. The chemical industry is now producing pesticides that degrade more quickly, that have more focused effects, and that can be applied in lower concentrations. Best management practices include crop rotation systems, the use of computers to guide chemical use, and integrated pest management.Such practices offer pathways to a sustainable future in the agricultural sector.

We do have the power as individuals to waste less, shift away from most ecologically destructive practices.

“Food is the single biggest impact that humans have on nature. We are deforesting the earth to grow more food. It’s by far the biggest user of fresh water, the single biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions, and the biggest reason why we’re in the middle of the mass species extinction event, the sixth that planet Earth has faced. At least a third of the world’s food is currently being wasted,” says Tristram Stuart, food waste campaigner and author.

“We do have the power as individuals to waste less, shift away from most ecologically destructive practices. That should give us hope that we can flip this enormous problem into one of the most delicious tools to tackle environmental meltdown.”

A restaurant in Finland is challenging the traditional way of operating a fine dining eatery.

Ultima, in Helsinki, is pioneering a closed economy system where they not only reduce waste and recycle nutrients but are cultivating their own food on an urban site, thereby making the whole food production and consumption system highly efficient.

Its Michelin-starred chefs Henri Alen and Tommi Tuominen have designed a somewhat unusual menu from cricket tacos with queso fresco to mushroom pasta grown in coffee waste.

“It all started when me and my colleague Tommi, we were taking the bins out and we were thinking how can we make this much waste, how could we do the things better for the environment, for the customer?” says Alen. “That’s our biggest ambition.”

Exploiting this foodstuff, which has been previously unexplored in the West, could begin to restore balance to the marine ecosystem, which has been devastated by a surge in jellyfish numbers, and also offer a much-needed sustainable meat alternative in an age where the meat industry is contributing to global climate change, deforestation and water degradation.

Research scientist Antonella Leone and her colleagues aim to show food safety authorities that jellyfish are a safe, plentiful food source.

“In Europe, jellyfish are considered a nuisance …. this could be changed if our studies demonstrate that they are a very powerful resource of food,” she says.”[It] could be important, for local fishermen, local restaurants, for local economies.”

11 June 2019
Sources: Al Jazeera, The National Academies

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