November 17, 2015 By Deepshri Mathur
In her new book, A River Runs Again: India’s Natural World in Crisis, From the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka, environmental journalist Meera Subramanian chronicles India’s efforts to balance economic development and environmental protection, including innovative programs to educate youth about sexual and reproductive health.
Subramanian was inspired by the five elements – earth, fire, water, air, and ether – to investigate five aspects of sustainable development: organic farming, clean cookstoves, freshwater, endangered species, and population and family planning. Traveling throughout the subcontinent, she found stories of “ordinary people and microenterprises determined to revive India’s ravaged natural world.”
At the Wilson Center book launch on October 13, Subramanian was joined by freelance journalists Priyali Sur and Lisa Palmer, who offered comments on the book based on their own reporting from India on the interconnections between climate change, food security, and gender.
Sur, a former television reporter for CNN-IBN, has covered the spike in human trafficking spurred by extreme flooding in the northeastern state of Assam. “Vulnerability that arises from looking for livelihood options, wanting to get work, wanting to sustain the family and wanting to provide for the family, which I think is a [bigger] responsibility for the woman than the man, makes them more vulnerable, and traffickers recognize this,” she said.
Palmer, a former Wilson Center fellow and current fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center in Annapolis, Maryland, discussed the technological revolution taking root in Indian agriculture. Some organizations, like the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, are supporting “climate-smart villages” in India, which use solar energy pumps and sensors to measure crop health and reduce water consumption. The organization aims to create 1,000 climate smart villages across six states including the grain baskets of Haryana and Punjab, said Palmer.
Read the full article originally published in The New Security Beat by the Wilson Center
India’s climate tech revolution is starting in its villages
Camels pulling wooden carts loaded with coconuts plod down the main road amid speeding motorcycles, buses, rickshaws and cars. Farmers sit atop slow-moving oxcarts loaded with grasses and other cattle feed. In this region of central Gujarat, India, it appears that rural life has not changed for decades.
But drive down a dirt road outside the village of Thamna, about an hour north of Anand, and the 21st century comes into view. Solar panels drive a water pump that irrigates the fields of farmer Raman Bhai Parmar, 65, who grows bananas, rice and wheat on seven acres of land.
Parmar’s solar energy pump is one of the technologies being promoted by a new project designed to help rural Indians adapt to climate change. The project, run by the international NGO, the Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research programme on climate change, agriculture and food security (CCAFS), aims to create 1,000 so-called climate smart villages across six Indian states including Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat.
Haryana and Punjab are known as the grain basket states of India, producing the majority of the country’s staple wheat and basmati rice for export to the Middle East and European markets. The pumping of groundwater for irrigation over the past thirty years has led to a spike in productivity and increased food security.
However, the region faces increases in temperature up to 5C by 2080 and wheat is particularly vulnerable to heat stress. A recent study by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute indicates that climate change may reduce wheat yields in India between 6% and 23% by 2050. Environmental problems such as depleting groundwater and variable rains – delayed monsoons and intense rainfall – limit yields. Indian farmers also typically use almost twice the amount of fertiliser needed, damaging soil, contaminating groundwater and adding to greenhouse gas emissions.
Read the full article originally published in The Guardian.
Can Ecologists and Engineers Work Together to Harness Water For The Future?
The Pangani River in Tanzania is important for many reasons: its three major dams provide 17 percent of the country’s electricity; it sustains thousands of farmers and herders living in the basin; and its flow of fresh water supports humans, industry, and ecosystems. But most interesting might be the innovative water policies that govern withdrawals, infrastructure projects, and ecosystems along its banks.
Climate change and population dynamics could cause trouble for the Pangani Basin and many others like it. More people are expected to depend on the flow of fresh water while at the same time rainfall and glacial meltwater from Mt. Meru, Mt. Pare, and Mt. Kilimanjaro are diminishing.
Around the world, water managers are adjusting to a similar quandary. Precipitation patterns and river flows are becoming more uncertain as the past is no longer a reliable guide for the future. Planners are adjusting to changes in the water cycle by integrating policies with flexible structures and ecosystems.
Flexibility Over Scale
In the November 2014 issue of Nature Climate Change, I wrote about how leaders in sustainable water management are finding common ground with two historically antagonistic approaches: engineering and ecology.
I talked with Mark Fletcher, a water engineer and the water business leader at UK-based Arup, a global company of consulting engineers with 14,000 employees. Modular is one way to describe his brand of sustainable water work.
“We had assumed that the world was static,” Fletcher told me. “We knew that the climate was predictable. Due to climate change or due to a changing climate, it is harder to predict things. So rather than build overly conservative monolithic solutions, we now design systems that can be tweaked and twiddled.”
A good example is osmosis desalination. “You literally stack desalination units, much like you would batteries, until you solve your problem,” he said.
From Fletcher’s perspective, the world has no need for more Hoover Dams, given the uncertainty around the global water cycle of the future. I write:
Fletcher favors natural solutions. In New York City, for example, new plans for city orchards and 9,000 grassed bio-swales, which resemble marshy depressions in the land, will slow the flow of storm water from sidewalks to water catchment basins. “Think of them as green sponges all over the city. The water gets soaked up and you avoid pumping every time it rains,” he says. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.” Furthermore, rather than design water treatment plants that can accommodate extreme rainfall, he prefers multiple local responses that can be changed and adapted, much in the way that a Lego building block is removed and added.
Fletcher suggests that the solution to water management under climate change is beyond engineering. That’s why ecologists John Matthews, coordinator of the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, and LeRoy Poff, a professor at Colorado State University, have been leading a team of 27 researchers at the U.S. National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center in Maryland. The team includes economists, hydrologists, policymakers, and engineers. Climate change, they say, has prompted the researchers to work together on an integrated approach to freshwater adaptation. Rather than isolating water management issues within a single field, such as engineering or hydrology, the team’s multifaceted work is developing solutions for decision-makers. Think of their combined work as a chemical reaction. Instead of one element, such as engineering, working in seclusion on a freshwater adaptation project, their form of synthesis science means suddenly more ingredients are added to the beaker.
The research team that Matthews and Poff lead identifies markers of resilience of both infrastructure and ecosystems in basins. They are using the analysis so that ecological principles are incorporated into future water management projects from the very beginning.
Resilience markers include variation of flow, seasonal and temperature changes, and connections to flood plains, for instance. The specific indicators vary from river to river, but the principles remain the same.
Matthews says that the Dujiangyan system in China’s Sichuan Province is a model for integrating policies with engineering and ecology in a sustainable way. Built in 256 BC, the water diversion system still operates today.
According to Kathleen Dominique, an environmental economist at OECD, flexible approaches are necessary to adjust to changing conditions at low cost.
For the Pangani Basin, leaders have established ecosystems as a priority, keeping river flow available to wetlands, riparian forests, and mangroves, and the plan is to adjust water policies with the changing needs of communities. Similarly, the European Union’s water directive is now adjusted every six years to examine all changes and uses of rivers, not only those related to climate change.
For a deeper look at how people are working to become more resilient, improve water security, and preserve ecosystems by incorporating ecological principles into water management, read the complete article in Nature Climate Change.
Ocean Acidification Poses Risks to Coastal Economies
Oysters, scallops and clams … they’re an iconic part of American cuisine and a critical source of jobs in many coastal communities. But the nation’s approximately one billion dollar shelled mollusk industry is at risk.
When cars, factories, and power plants emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, some of the pollution gets absorbed by the oceans – increasing their acidity and making it hard for mollusks to build their shells.
According to a new report, the problem has economic consequences for coastal communities – from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay, and from the Louisiana Bayou to the Pacific Northwest.
Continue reading and listening at Yale Climate Connections.
Photo essay: Polluted, overfished, and choked by weeds, world’s second-largest lake is ‘on its knees’
This story originally appeared on Mongabay’s website.
June 02, 2015
The lake covers 68,800 square kilometers (26,500 square miles) and has 6 percent of its surface area in Kenya, 43 percent in Uganda, and 51 percent in Tanzania, according to the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO), an intergovernmental fisheries management institution. For all its problems, Lake Victoria is believed to be the most productive freshwater fishery in Africa. Each year it yields more than 800,000 metric tons of fish with a beach value of up to $400 million and export earnings of $250 million, according to the LVFO. Lake Victoria fisheries support the livelihoods of nearly 2 million people and help feed nearly 22 million people in the region, the organization’s website states. Foul water All that, as well as the lake’s ecological integrity is at stake. Authorities in the three countries are fully aware of the lake situation, with the Kenya National Cleaner Production Centre (KNCPC) pointing out that 88 industries operating around the lake collectively dump seven tons of industrial waste into the lake every year. Yet none of the three countries prosecute offenders. Fishermen unload their catch at Dunga Beach in Kisumu, Kenya. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu. Instead, KNCPC encourages businesses in the three countries to voluntarily adopt waste-prevention technologies, promising eventually to set mandatory requirements. The KNCPC and its regional partners also reward manufacturing companies they deem to have cut environmental pollution through a $3.5 million World-Bank-funded program to reduce pollution to the lake basin. Within the reward scheme, Kenya’s Nzoia Sugar Company Ltd won the 2014 solid waste management award, despite the fact that its farmers use chemical fertilizers that end up in the Nzoia River, which feeds into the lake. “The truth is that all these industries located near the lake have a hidden agenda to release effluents into the lake. If hard pressed, they will talk about measures put in place or being put in place to purify the water before it is released into the lake,” Gaster Kiyingi, a Ugandan communications consultant and activist who has worked for environmental groups in the region for the past decade, told mongabay.com. Kiyingi observed that because of the high level of corruption in many African countries, illegal activities that harm the lake often go unpunished. Fish sit atop a mosquito net. Fishermen often use the nets, which may be treated with insecticides, but the tiny mesh entraps fish of all sizes, including juveniles needed to replenish fish stocks. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu. Sewage is another major source of pollution. On the Kenyan side, four major towns of Kisumu, Bondo, Homa Bay, and Migori that border the lake have malfunctioning sewage treatment plants or none at all. Just 10 percent of households in Kisumu city are connected to the sewer system, according to an environmental and social impact report for a project to upgrade portions of the system. “Consequently, raw sewage is often discharged into the lake directly from unconnected sources through open drains or partially treated sewage from the treatment systems,” the report states. Open sewers running from all corners of the city and deliberately directed into the lake are evident on the lake shore. An open drainage sends untreated sewage from Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city of just under 400,000 residents, directly into Lake Victoria. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu. “The designers of the city did not consider the new settlements that are still coming up in Kisumu. As a result, the sewage system that was put in place cannot cope with the current pressure,” Antony Saisi, Kisumu County Director of Environment at the Kenyan government’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), told mongabay.com. Fortunately, in the town of Homa Bay a sewage treatment plant is now being constructed right by the shore of Lake Victoria with financing from the World Bank. Until it is completed, raw sewage from the broader Homa Bay County, with a population of 960,000, will continue to make its way to the lake. At Dunga Beach in Kisumu city, public restrooms serving over 5,000 people who visit the beach every day hold pit latrines suspended right over the lake. A pit latrine at Dunga Beach in Kisumu, Kenya, empties directly into Lake Victoria. It is one of numerous streams of untreated human waste entering the lake. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu. The same thing happens at the city’s Lwang’ni Beach. The beach sits about 100 meters off Oginga Odinga Street, and vehicles drive right down into the lake to be washed, spilling fuel directly into the water. The beach’s name, lwang’ni, means “housefly” in the local Dholuo language, perhaps as a nod to the filthy status of the surroundings. Trucks and a bus are washed right in Lake Victoria at Lwang’ni beach in Kisumu, Kenya. The business is illegal but it goes on with the knowledge of environmental authorities. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu. “We have not been able to tame washing of vehicles inside the lake because of lack of political support,” said Saisi of NEMA. “We are dealing with hooligans who are politically connected,” he said. Behind the beachside facilities, the flies celebrate upon open sewer trenches discharging directly into Lake Victoria. Meanwhile, food kiosks erected on platforms extending into the waters of the lake serve thousands of visitors every day. The kiosks have no solid waste collection services, which means napkins, fish bones, bottle caps, and plastic bags also end up into the lake. Students buy a snack of juvenile Nile perch from a kiosk at Dunga beach in Kisumu, Kenya. An estimated 5,000 people visit the beach daily to eat fish and view the lake. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu. “The situation is not any different here in Kampala,” located a four-hour drive to the west of Kisumu, said Kiyingi. “The lake is on its knees, and if the situation is not reversed, it will literally die.” A fisherman at Dunga beach, Jerald Otieno, told mongabay.com that he and his fellow fishermen often stay in their boats out on the lake for more than 15 hours at a stretch. “We carry food with us when we go fishing, and when it comes to answering calls of nature, we have no choice but relieve ourselves in the lake,” he said. Fishing vessels ply Lake Victoria. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu. As a result of all the human waste pouring into the lake, a recent study revealed traces of estrogenic endocrine disruptors in the lake. All water samples analyzed from nine sites in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania tested positive for several estrogenic compounds that can be released from human urine and fecal matter. In a documentary, Paul Mbuthia, an associate professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Nairobi who co-authored the study, says that high concentrations of such hormonal chemicals can cause abnormalities in animals, including humans. “They interfere with normal organ system. With high quantities of estrone, chances of getting animals becoming more feminine are very possible,” he said. “Others can cause tumors in the system.” The lake provides water for domestic and other uses for millions of people around it, notably in Kisumu in Kenya, the capital city of Kampala in Uganda, and the town of Mwanza in Tanzania. Fishermen at Dunga Beach in Kisumu, Kenya, prepare for a night of fishing. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu. Weak government To salvage the situation, a regional body known as the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Programmeis working with support from the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, the government of Sweden, and the East African Community partner states to reduce environmental stressors throughout the lake’s drainage basin and to enhance the basin’s ecological integrity. The project, running between 2009 and 2017 at a cost of $254 million, is taking aim at a variety of problems, including deteriorating lake water quality due to sedimentation, pollution, and eutrophication; declining lake levels; the resurgence of water hyacinth and other invasive weeds; and over-exploited natural resources throughout the lake basin. A thicket of invasive water hyacinth clogs a Ugandan shore of Lake Victoria. The weed has colonized huge swathes of the lake. Photo credit: sarahemcc. However, despite this and other efforts in place, many observers contend that the main solution lies in catalyzing political will. Alice Alaso, a Ugandan lawmaker and member of the parliament’s Committee on Natural Resources, told New Vision, a Uganda national newspaper, that lax law enforcement and a lack of political will is choking the lake. “The only solution to the problem of polluting Lake Victoria is enforcement of the law. We do not need another law,” she said. “We do not need additional money to save the lake. All we need is the political will.” “Many things are happening on this lake, but given limited support from the government, there is nothing we can do about it,” Remjus Ojijo, a maritime police officer in Kisumu told Mongabay.com. The officer points to Winam Gulf, an extension of northeastern Lake Victoria into western Kenya, as an example. The gulf is the breeding ground for nearly all the fishes in the lake, and fishing is prohibited there. “But every day, we helplessly watch people cross with boats in these areas, but we cannot go after them because the only two police patrol boats, which were purchased 30 years ago, grounded some four years ago,” he told mongabay.com. Grounded police patrol boats in Kisumu, Kenya. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu. The two boats, the MV Utumishi and MV Chui, lie idle by the lake. “For four years now, we have not been able to patrol the lake as required. And if we must do it, then we have to hire boats using our money which cannot be refunded by the government,” he said. The toll on fish Evidence of fishing from the breeding grounds can be seen at the beaches, where fishermen dock with big catches of juvenile fish. Observers note that some of the fish caught also seem to be shrinking, indications of overfishing and poor water quality. “Some 15 years ago, fishermen used to come with huge fishes. I used to see Nile perch weighing up to 145 kilograms [320 pounds]. But the biggest I have seen this year was 69 kilograms [152 pounds],” said Okulo, the ecologist. A blessing or a disaster? Moris Okulo, an ecologist and lake guide, displays a Nile perch weighing 64 pounds. Carnivorous and fast-growing, Nile perch were introduced to Lake Victoria decades ago as a food source, but they quickly wiped out many native fish species. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu. On a recent day, the biggest Nile perch caught weighed just 29 kilograms (64 pounds). The rest were much smaller, some weighing just a few grams. Even the Nile perch, which has been a key disruptor of Lake Victoria’s native ecology, is now at the mercy of hungry fishermen. In a presentation during a recent symposium in Entebbe, Uganda, Mbuthia pointed out that some of the fish samples his team collected for their study on estrogen levels in the lake had gross abnormalities, such as missing tails or fins, missing eyes, deformed bodies, or abnormal body color, which raises a new concern about the health of the fish in the lake. Fishing boats rest on the shore of Lake Victoria. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu. Ojijo, the maritime police officer, said that many people have recently been arrested for poisoning fish with various chemicals before picking and selling the carcasses. Other fishermen use inappropriate fishing gear that ends up trapping all sizes of fish, including the very young ones essential for replenishing the fish stock. Some of them even opt for tiny-meshed mosquito nets, which have raised additional concerns about leaching insecticides into the water. Fishermen on Lake Victoria use inappropriate fishing gear that indiscriminately captures even very young fish, as seen in this photo. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu. The ecological health of the lake is further compromised by the water hyacinth, an invasive plant that has densely colonized huge swathes of the lake, choking out native aquatic plants and limiting oxygen supplies in the water. The water hyacinth thrives because of the soil and nutrients that flush into the lake whenever it rains. “In many cases, the soil erosion happens because people have cut down trees, and more people are cultivating very close to the lakes and rivers, contrary to regulations to protect wetlands, rivers and lakes,” said Kiyingi, the Ugandan activist. In Kenya, for example, the law requires that land near river banks, lake shores, and sea shores be used sustainably and asserts that special measures to prevent soil erosion, siltation, and water pollution are necessary. And NEMA laws require that new structures be built at least 30 meters from the shore. However, Bridgit Akoth, who owns a food kiosk that extends right into the lake at Dunga beach, told mongabay.com that she need only part with a few shillings to bribe law enforcers to let her go on with her business. “Most of these laws just exist on paper. They are rarely put into force,” said Kiyingi. “And now we have a price to pay, a price of losing the biggest fresh water lake in Africa.” Citations:
A woman prepares fish at busy Dunga Beach. Photo credit: Isaiah Esipisu.
Original source: http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0602-esipisu-lake-victoria-polluted-overfished.html \ Copyright mongabay 1999-2014
Hot, Hungry Planet will be a book!
I’m happy to report that my book, Hot, Hungry Planet, will be published by Palgrave Macmillan. Look for it in Fall 2016. The contract is signed. Let the writing commence!
Hot, Hungry Planet is a narrative about the people attempting to reconcile the threat of climate change with the need to feed a growing world population. In Hot, Hungry Planet, I take readers on a global journey that explores the human story behind complex, hot-button issues of food security, social justice, climate change, and the environment. I started to post some of my food/ag/environment-related stories on this blog, https://www.hothungryplanet.com, and you will find more original reporting here in the weeks and months to come.
Agricultural Movement Tackles Challenges of a Warming World
By Lisa Palmer
The original version of this article appeared on Yale Environment 360.
Rice is a thirsty crop. Yet for the past three years, Alberto Mejia has been trying to reduce the amount of water he uses for irrigation on his 1,100-acre farm near Ibague in the tropical, central range of the Colombian Andes.
He now plants new kinds of rice that require less water. He floods his paddies with greater precision and has installed gauges that measure the moisture content of the soil. On a daily basis he can determine how much nitrogen the plants need, and he relies on more advanced weather forecasting to plan when to fertilize, water, and harvest the grain.
“We are learning how to manage the crops in terms of water, which will be a very, very good help for us now and in the future,” Mejia says, adding that the current El Niño weather pattern has caused serious drought. “We have very difficult days — hot, with no rain. It’s dry. There are fires in the mountains … Growing crops makes it a complicated time here.”
Ever since a drought devastated his yields five years ago, Mejia has been eager to integrate sweeping changes into his rice production. He believes that the weather has become more erratic and is concerned that future climate change will make rice farming even more difficult. As a result, and with the help of his local rice growers association and scientists from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, he is embracing what has come to be known as “climate-smart agriculture.” These are agricultural techniques that protect farmers from the effects of global warming and improve crop yields, while also limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
For complete article, please see Yale e360.
Hi, honey. I’m home. What did you print for dinner?
By Lisa Palmer
A few weeks ago I attended a panel discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. about food technology of the future. Much of the discussion centered on the production of meat. That’s because Andras Forgacs was on the panel. Forgacs is the CEO of Modern Meadow, a Brooklyn-based, venture-funded company that uses tissue engineering to develop meat and leather in a laboratory setting. Using a 3D printer, the meat is bioprinted onto pectin, the leading ingredient in making jam, and then grown in a sterile vat. It’s a method of beef production from the cells of healthy cow, and it is opening eyes. I wrote about the cutting edge of meat alternatives and cultured meat last May. You can read the story here.
Since becoming a public policy scholar at The Wilson Center in July, I have focused my research and writing on sustainable food production. I’ve written extensively on food technology, beef production, and the search for how to produce more protein for the world’s growing population without using too much water, destroying forests, or depleting ocean fish stocks. So I perked up when heard about the resource conservation methods of Modern Meadow and the potential for printed meat.
Raising animals for food contributes to climate change through the emissions of greenhouse gases and the destruction of forests and grasslands to grow the grain they eat. It also consumes a lot of water. Today it’s a bothersome problem, but it’s increasingly becoming a serious one. Beef production is a driver of global change and the problem will likely get much worse very soon, given the expected growth in the world’s population and demand for meat protein.
You can read about bioprinting and 3D printing of food in my article for FutureFood2050. For the piece, I talked with Hod Lipson, director of Cornell University’s Creative Machines Lab, whose team created the first food 3-D printer about a decade ago. “What food printing offers is a way to combine information technology software and biometrics with cooking in a way that was never possible before,” Lipson told me.
From Lipson’s perspective, 3-D printing is in its infancy and food printing is in the gestational stage. But a handful of companies like Modern Meadow are printing meat (though it’s not yet available to consumers) while others are producing commercially available machines that can print food. I write:
In the future, Lipson anticipates that sophisticated 3-D printing will offer home cooks the ultimate control over the ingredients that go into their food without giving up the convenience of manufactured products.
Here’s the complete story: http://futurefood2050.com/3-d-printers-hit-home/
Verlasso reduces reliance on wild-caught fish for salmon feed
By Lisa Palmer
I ate farmed salmon for years before thinking twice about it. Then about ten years ago, beginning with news reports from Ken Weiss, an environmental reporter with the Los Angeles Times, I learned about the chemicals and pollutants associated with farmed salmon. I began to understand the unsustainable nature of salmon aquaculture; in addition to antibiotics, pesticides and artificial dyes to color the flesh of the farmed salmon, I learned that what they ate—fish meal made from anchovies, sardines and menhaden– was quickly depleting forage fish from the world’s oceans.
Fast forward to this past May in Laguna Niguel, California, at Fortune’s Brainstorm Green conference. Sustainably farmed salmon found its way onto my lunch plate. The fish, from Verlasso, a joint venture between DuPont and AquaChile, earned a “good alternative” rating last year from the Monterey Bay Aquariums Seafood Watch program—the first among Atlantic salmon raised in ocean pens to earn this distinction. Verlasso salmon is raised on fish meal that is just 25 percent wild fish and 75 percent Omega-3 rich yeast.
I caught up with Scott Nichols, the man behind the Verlasso venture, for a story in Future Food 2050. Here’s how it begins:
As a child living in Hawaii, Scott Nichols woke early. By 6 a.m., the 5-year-old boy had usually reeled in his first catch from a pre-dawn fishing expedition with his dad. The first week that he carried his bounty—a whole fish—into the family kitchen for breakfast, his father gave him an impromptu lesson in gutting and cleaning fish. And a love affair with seafood was born.
Much later in life, Scott Nichols found himself in the lucky position of being able to turn that love for fish into a business venture. As a biochemist with a doctorate from UCLA who also studied business at the Wharton’s Advanced Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania, Nichols was in charge of DuPont’s business development. It was 2006, and the company had created an innovation around bio-based omega-3 fatty acids: DuPont’s genetically modified yeast could substitute for fish oils and preserve the omega-3 fatty acids. But Nichols knew it was a breakthrough in another area as well. “In the blink of an eye, I realized that we could solve a big problem with salmon aquaculture,” says Nichols, who now directs Verlasso, a joint venture between DuPont and AquaChile—an aquaculture operation based in Patagonia—that was formalized in 2009. Before the partnership, DuPont had been involved in supplying the aquaculture industry but had no experience in aquaculture production.
Fish oil produced from wild-caught fish supplies critical nutrients that farmed salmon need to grow, but these wild-caught fish are harvested unsustainably. By 2006, salmon aquaculture was consuming some 80 percent of the world’s fish oil and still growing at a rate of 8 to 10 percent per year. Oily fish like anchovies, menhaden and mackerel provide the main source of fish oils, and their harvests are threatened as their populations deplete.
To read the complete story, go to www.futurefood2050.com.
“There seems to be precious little international enthusiasm to talk about how to reduce pressure on fisheries, but it is surely needed.” —Scott Nichols
Lisa Palmer appointed public policy scholar
In July, Lisa Palmer was appointed public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. She is conducting independent research and reporting on food, agriculture, the environment, and population. Her Wilson Center project, “Feeding a Hot and Hungry Planet,” will examine agriculture, population and climate change, with special emphasis on solutions-oriented perspectives across disciplines.
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is the national, living memorial honoring President Woodrow Wilson. The Wilson Center provides a strictly nonpartisan space for the worlds of policymaking and scholarship to interact. By conducting relevant and timely research and promoting dialogue from all perspectives, it works to address the critical current and emerging challenges confronting the United States and the world. Created by an Act of Congress in 1968, The Wilson Center is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and supported by both public and private funds.