“Water, Energy, and Food Security” – Phillip Hall

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“Water, Energy, and Food Security” – Phillip Hall

Philip Hall:
First of all, can I just get an indication from the audience how many people are familiar with the context of water, energy, and food security nexus approach? Okay, cool, I suspected that.

Basically, what I’m going to do today, I’m going to first of all give you a little bit about myself so you understand where I’m coming from and my background. Then I’m going to very quickly go through the front part of my presentation and concentrate on the back. Rather than summarize a conclusion at the end, each part of my presentation I’m actually going to finish off with some takeaway thoughts. I’ll say right up-front that if we run out of time, and I will try to stick to my timeframe by actually probably reading from my slides … I try to get it such that it’s my own check of my time to stay within my panel because this is a lecture I normally give over about an hour and a half. Condensing it into 15 minutes is going to be a bit of a challenge.

First of all, I’m an adjunct professor at the school of civil and environmental engineering at the University of West Australia. It used to be the school of environmental systems engineer, which has been merged. I also am an independent strategic business and project management consulting internationally to major corporations, government, and organizations. I’m also an international advisor on practical strategies for emergency management, disaster if you like, and climate change adaptation. As a result of that, I’ve participated in expert panels convened by the Australian government, UN, FCCC, IPCC, and UNESCO working groups.

I’m currently the chair of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology Australia. I also sit on the SSIT board of governors leadership team as the chair coordinator for SSIT chapters.

Okay, so as I mentioned earlier, I want to cover 4 main discussion points in my presentation. What I call the global strategics problem, and I’ll define that. I’ll give you a bit of an overview of what I mean by the water, energy, food security nexus and it’s currently used in the marketplace. I want to talk about reforming the discussion on sustainability and growth. It’s central to my proposed new dynamic model for achieving water, energy, and food security or my macroeconomic model, so it gets into context.

Let’s move onto discussion point one. What is the global strategic problem? Basically, water security, energy security, and food security for all are the primary aspirations of the global economy. It’s the foundations of the millennium development goals if you’d like to go back to 2000. However, they also form singularly the most important and challenging problem that we face today. Why? Because water, energy, and food are inseparably linked, and global concerns about limited access to these 3 fundamentals of life are compounded by our growing concerns about their future availability and sustainability. Therefore, to effectively deal with this global strategic problem, we need to better understand its key drivers and the issues.

First of all, water, energy, and food, as we’re all aware, underpin the development of expansion nature of our current global trade and productivity models, which rely physically any environmentally limited resources. Therefore, any discussion on water, energy, and food security must also be based on an universally understood and accepted vocabulary. This gets back to this concept about what do we mean by sustainable development, economic growth, prosperity, and terms like that that have crept into our vocabulary pretty much since the mid-80s, but more so since the millennium development goals.

Also, if we accept that the world’s ecosystems as capital assets are essential for continued life on earth, then we must find better ways to improve how we manage those assets for the future against persistent cause for growth, be it population, economic.

Continuing to do business as usual is not an option. Why? Well, already an expanding population now in excess of 7 billion people, more than 10% are under-nourished, lack safe drinking water, do not have adequate sanitation, lack access to electricity, and do not have access to modern healthy forms of cooking.

I think everyone who has any business involvement or a government involvement in policy is aware of the term “triple bottom line.” Well, the triple bottom line approach, which really gets but to what we mean by “business as usual,” currently used by governments and industry for examining the effectiveness, efficiency, and economics of decisions has proven to be limited, primarily in its understanding of the interconnectedness of environmental and ecoservices industry and economics, and social and national interests, primarily because triple bottom line models focus on profit and loss, with really out concern for any cumulative or long-term impacts for regional and global implications.

There’s a little byline there which I put there just to remind us just that the interconnectedness is demonstrated by the results of actions undertaken by one sector as having either a positive or negative impact on the other two. We’ll come across this later when we start talking about the nexus approach. The problem we have at the moment is a disconnected approach to both action and analysis is at the forefront of our current and previous development strategies. This is really underpinning why the business as usual and bottom line approach, we just cannot continue on with those methodologies.

Some takeaway thoughts for this discussion point is that the problem we face today is water, energy, and food security. It’s a challenge that cannot be dealt with in isolation by any one country. If we add 2 more billion people to an increasing urbanized planet, we will place and is placing significant pressure on water, energy, and food demands. This will inevitably be of course require increasing tradeoffs. Among these three sectors, that at the same time, must counter the potential to accelerate the ecosystem degradation. Therefore, the realization of long-term water, energy, and food security is possible, but we need to have a transformation in thinking and approach. We need to do things differently. We need to think differently. We need to do different things.

While we have actually had significant investment in the environmental science and technology, research and developing innovative solutions, investment moving from innovation into practical application has not been so forthcoming. I’d like to move on now to discussion point 2. What do we mean by the water, energy, and food security nexus? Well, the nexus approach actually adopts a transparent framework, and there’s keywords here that you will have resonate from previous discussions about underlying current implicitness and things like that and also the need for introducing collaboration.

The nexus approach really actually reinforces that. It’s a framework for assessing and determining effects of tradeoffs on the use of water for energy and food production without compromising sustainability. We’ll come back to the definition of “sustainability” in a second.

The nexus approach was an outgrowth of a conference held in Bonn in 2011 that considered the current sustainability of the business as usual approach and surmised as did the World Economic Forum in 2011 that this model was flawed and designed to collapse in the medium to long term. There exists a window of opportunity to adapt, adapt to a change regime, that focuses more on the interrelated outcomes rather than on single issues, single industries, or individual nation considerations.

Let’s define and look at what do we mean by water security, energy security, and food security. Take water security first. It’s defined in the millennium development goals as “access to safe drinking water and sanitation,” both of which have recently become a human right. While not part of the water security definitions yet, the availability of and access to water for other non-human and ecosystem uses is fundamental from a nexus perspective, so we cannot ignore the non-human use of water.

Energy security is defined by the United Nations as “access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy services for cooking and heating, lighting, communications, and productive uses.” While not specifically stated, it is certainly implied that this must be achieved while respecting environmental concerns. Food security is defined by the Food and Agricultural Organization as “the availability and access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet the dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

The emphasis on access in these definitions highlight that security is not about the average availability of resources, annual or seasonal, but incorporates reliability of supply during extreme situations and the resilience of the population affected. The nexus therefore is the term adopted that highlights that those three sectors are actually inextricably linked. Therefore, improved understanding of these linkages should enable us, will enable us, increased efficiency, better tradeoff of the outcomes, enhanced energy use, and improved governance of those resources. Theoretically by developing a nexus approach in the context of increasing population, climate variability, and the land use change, the demands for basic services and growing desires for [inaudible 00:09:26] should be able to more appropriately addressed.

In the Bonn 2011 conference, Hoff from the Stockholm Institute put forward this model that describes what the water, energy, and food security nexus is all about. In this model, he puts water at the center of the 3 sectors, also identifying the actors and the various fields. I’m going to come back to this model later on in the presentation when I talk about my model.

In summary and in thinking in a nexus perspective relies on an understanding of the cross-interdependencies between the 3 sectors and other actors such as governance, regulation, and ecosystem services, as shown in Hoff’s diagram. To realize direct and indirect [inaudible 00:10:11] potential, these actors need to be integrated transdisciplinary and trans[inaudible 00:10:15] nature.

Understanding the nexus, therefore, requires the development of alternative policies, strategies, and the investments to exploit synergies and mitigate tradeoffs among these 3 sectors. Slowly but surely industry and government are coming to the realization that current regulatory and economic frameworks are inadequate and require revitalization with the active participation of and among government agencies and private sector and civil society, again reinforcing business as usual and triple line approaches are not working. It’s now at least starting to be realized.

Some takeaway thoughts in this discussion point. Overall, the nexus perspective provides an informative and transparent framework for sustainability and meeting increasing demand. Hence, it is important to incorporate the nexus perspective between local, national, and international planning activities that focus on interaction of water, energy, and food at all levels. Water, energy, and food in a changing climate raises some serious issues and challenges. Since the nexus debate is primarily about nature of resource scarcity that will be exacerbated by changes in population and climate, some natural resources are renewable. Yes, they are. [inaudible 00:11:23] such as solar, wind, and geothermal. But, and it’s a big but, the vast proportion of natural resources require to generate fresh water energy and food are limited. Land, soil nutrients, and potable fresh water, which are often neglected. Weekly moving on to discussion point 3 … I’m not quite sure how we’re going for time here.

Speaker 2:
Yeah, you’re okay.

Felipe Pait:
Forgive me if I’m racing through this because we’re getting now to the crux of the matter. A nexus approach really needs to consider sustainability and growth strategies at the local, regional, and national as integrated parts of the overall equation, but as a I mentioned before, the definition of those terms is often taken out of context or not used. Therefore, when we go forward in talking nexus approach, we need to actually reframe the discussion on sustainability and growth and understand a more rigorous consideration of those consequences, couplings, and cascading effects of the associated strategies.

The most common definition of “sustainable development” is the one that was in the Brundtland Report of 1987 that has been adopted by the UN and therefore is essentially now widely adopted as the definition. There it is for you. It’s the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” That is a really broad definition, but underlying that and in the Brundtland Report, it says it has 2 concepts, the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor to which overriding priority should be given, and the other concept is the ideal limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization and the environment’s ability to meet the future demand and needs.

A generally accepted sustainable development and [inaudible 00:13:08] convergent of economic development, social security, and environmental protection. It’s visionary, and over the past 25 years, governments, business, and society have been trying to implement sustainable development as a guiding principle, but they have not really been able to do so. Why? It’s still a challenge for these people to do it.

I believe there is two reasons. First of all, “sustainable development” is being interpreted too literally as defined in the Brundtland Report as “sustaining the development of something,” which unless time constraint of course is unrealistic. Secondly, the strategic construct of the development process is being promoted as forever upward or forever onward often ad infinitum rather than the cycle of considered adjustment.

What I’ve done here is put up a chart of my definition of “sustainable development.” The way I see it is that actually sustainable development has two separate phases. We have capacity development, which we may remember from previous work as institutional strengthening or capacity building in any work that’s been done. We then have a period of consolidation where the line is flat. This is being fairly simplistic to illustrate my concepts. We have sustained capacity. Now, capacity could be anything. It could be water, it could be energy, it could be food, it could be economic growth, okay, but we are developing a capacity to do something.

It’s a project. Then as we go forward, checks and balances will decide whether we want to increase that or we want to decrease it. It’s a period of continuous adjustment. To illustrate that more pictorially, I suppose, I’ve shown here a typical 4-stage continuous adjustment model. We’ve planned to do something, we action that plan, we get to the point where we’ve reached our targets, we consolidate at a point. We reassess, and then we go back and plan in how we move forward again, either up or down. That’s what I mean by a continuous adjustment model. That is not reflected in the Brundtland Report’s definition.

What I propose is a redefinition of sustainable development as “the ongoing process of institutional and societal change to ensure the direction of economic investment, use of the earth’s resources, and technology advancement on maintaining harmony and meet basic human needs while offering the potential of prosperity for present and future generations without compromising the natural environment on which humanity relies for quality of life.” It’s a little bit verbose, but I think it wraps it all up. The problem with the other definition, I said, I believe it’s just too broad for people to grasp and to work out.

I make a note here that the definition requires consideration of what do we mean by “prosperity”? This is driving towards my economic model. One of the capacities I mentioned before is growth. That’s exactly the same chart, economic growth or economic development is from one level of prosperity to another. We consolidate, we then adjust for market conditions, population size. Time from t2 to t3 could be 5 years; it could be short or long. Again, you can see how it reflects back into this continuous cycle of the plan, develop, sustain, and assess.

Economic growth, then, is considered a move from one level of prosperity as I defined it to another level in a given timeframe. That measure may be GDP, for example, however we want to measure where we are in terms of economic development. We actually, you know, we’re not in a perfect world, so I’ve also come up with a concept of what I believe is a level of confidence here. We need to have … It’s a bit like what I call a cruise control theory in our car. We set a target of where we want to be, and as we go up hills or down hills in good times or low uphill, however you want to do it … In terms of the analogy I suppose as we’re going uphill, it’s good times. The accelerator comes on and roar up the hill, and off we go, but it keeps the car at that speed we’re looking at. As we go down, we start to coast. People may argue that’s good times, whatever.

The point is that we have checks and balances through this cruise control analogy. I’ll deal with that later on and when I relate that back to [inaudible 00:17:09] theories. The notion of level of confidence is expressed as upper and lower confidence levels about a target state of sustained capacity, be it water, energy, food security or economics.

Some takeaway thoughts from this. We have to really understand the language and get that right about what “sustainable” means, is that it’s a certain rate, is to maintain something at a certain rate or level. Capacity is a maximum amount. Capability is the ability or power to do something. Then of course intrinsic in this is to understand where resilience and robust falls in.

Interestingly, Alan Greenspan, and people remember from the US, actually commented in 1996 that sustainable development is irrational exuberance. I thought that was pretty quaint.

Okay, I’m going to move on pretty quickly. By the way, please, you’re welcome to have a copy of this pack. Now I want to get to the real crux of my discussion. I know I’m going to have to move through this very quickly. A proposed new economic model for achieving here is to look at water, energy, and food security in a nexus perspective. Now, Hoff’s model … Just go back one step further. Hoff’s model gives us a nice picture of the interaction, but it doesn’t actually tell us the dynamics or give us any indication of how to use that model.

What I’ve proposed is a new model based on 3 principles. The first principle is that the new nexus model is a living system of systems, where each sector is considered into context of a constantly changing earth system, a water security earth, an energy security earth, and a food security earth, at which at any point in time its natural assets and ecosystems have a finite capacity to provide security for a certain maximum population. WPmax, EPmax, Fmax. What does that look like? Well, there it is. 3 earths, if you like. It’s all the same the earth; we know that. Within one earth, we have so much water, so much food, and so much energy capacity to support a certain maximum population, and so I drew this pictorially as, and of course it’s all 3-dimensional, as what these look like in what I call the triadic relationship or nexus.

The plus or minus of course are interacted by the core. There’s tradeoffs going on between these earth systems as I describe them. For example, if we’re giving off water by damming up to go from irrigation to energy, hydro, or we’re giving food up for food production to generate fuels for biofuels and stuff like that.

Okay, so the second principle is that the model is highly dynamic, as I was just describing. The linkages between the sector systems are elastic, allowing continuous convergence or divergence in response to the myriad of interactions and tradeoffs constantly occurring between them, where convergence produces a common intersection between all 3 systems. The area of intersection represents a state of sustainable integration of water, energy, and food security, which in turn defines the level of sustainable prosperity a country has achieved for a given population at a given point in time. Pictorially, that’s what that looks like.

These earths, now I’ve just shown them now as circles, water, energy, and food, and as we converge in and that elasticity comes together, and then population size starts to actually overlap, we actually have … You can’t see it here. You actually have this point here. Well, what does that mean? What’s that intersection where they all come together? It struck me that that area actually represents back this level of where we are on the economic development line, where if we have all the capacities lined up to define economic health, if you like, of a country, then you know, it’s probably represented here in a nexus concept of where these 3 sectors actually intersect.

Okay, optimal state is where we’ve now come to all the cores and centers are all lined up; they’re all on the one spot. Our limitation in this example is the energy sector because it is a limitation. We only have enough energy in our country to support a population that is less than the amount of population we can provide moving forward. That could be, obviously, the other way around; the center one could be water because water is the limitation sector. This is the optimal target state where all these sectors are coming, and the center of overlap is total if you like.

If it was only that simple. We have a problem called supply and demand. Here I’ve tried to describe how that interacts in the nexus concept. You’ll see I’ve linked the cores together. Still active, but we now have this outer layer called demand which is exceeding supply; it is preventing these sectors coming together. That said, it’s the third principle and final principle of the model is that while demand for a sector exceeds its capacity to supply, no integration of sectors can exist. This principle is qualified by the proposition within the second principle above that the area of intersection of the 3 sector systems remains the state of sustainable integration of water, energy, and food security and defines the level of sustainable energy a country can [inaudible 00:22:12]. Therefore, true prosperity cannot be achieved [inaudible 00:22:15] while the demand for a sector exceeds its capacity to supply that.

We now move into Wiener’s relationships. I’m nearly done. Is that You can quite quickly see that the structure of our nexus model actually is an adaption of Hyder’s [inaudible 00:22:31] relationships. Interesting enough, Hyder and Wiener worked together at MIT. I’m [inaudible 00:22:37] … MIT. There is some reference. No doubt, they’re aware of each other’s work.

Hyder’s relationship is about two people and an object, but clearly, you could see how it could be related to 3 people or 3 objects, but the structure about 3 players or actors and the tradeoffs among them is relevant.

Here we go. Very quickly now, applying Wiener’s concept and theory of systems of systems. I think you could see that while the structure may be considered an adaptation of Hyder’s model in trait relationships, it is the application of several of Wiener’s theories and concepts that operationalization the model and make its inner workings effective. While the accepted systems theory and Wiener’s theories of cybernetics are closely related, and of course, systems theory say what is the system, what the system is, whereas cybernetics is what the system does in relation to other systems. Therefore, applying cybernetics allows us to consider how the linking of systems into a joint system of systems influences the interactions and between each system.

The system of systems construct applies to my model for it provides an effective framework that helps decision-makers understand the cross-dependencies between water, energy, and food systems, and other actors such as governance, regulation, and services. It also helps decision-makers to understand and to realize the expected benefits to direct and indirect energy place from nexus approach.

These transfers between [inaudible 00:23:54] nexus need to be integrated. I mentioned that before. Quickly, the concept of causality, Wiener obviously said that 2 measured signals can predict the first thing better than the others. Clearly, he didn’t intend that that be limited to 2. It could be limited to multiple. I believe the interactions between my spheres and their impacts actually are examples of causality.

Command and control and feedback, the sustainable development process I mentioned the 4 stages is clearly command and control and feedback model. It also explains why the triple bottom line is not going to work. Finally, the concept of stabilization. The level of confidence I mentioned the construct is analogous to the cruise control system. Its constructs [inaudible 00:24:36] analogy are adaptions of Wiener’s concepts of stabilization based on positive and negative feedback.

Some takeaway thoughts, and here, this is my last slide. Validation of the macroeconomic nexus model against several of Wiener’s theories and concepts enables us to appreciate that water, energy, and food security nexus are spatially and temporally complex dynamic system of systems. The validation also supports my view that by applying a nexus approach, the impacts of demand for basic services and growing desires for [inaudible 00:25:04] could be more appropriately assessed and managed. Therefore, desired levels of capacity must be recognized that our planet is infinite in natural resources assets, which even if we manage responsibly, in effect, we can only support a finite population.

Crucial to the nexus debate, finally, therefore, is the universal understanding and acceptance among actors and decision-makers are the key concepts of sustainable development, economic growth, and prosperity. Wiener is widely recognized for marrying theories and concepts. I believe the ones that I’ve just presented are probably the most appropriate for looking at the model. Basically, so what I’m saying is I know there’s other models out there from Wiener and they could equally be applied, but I think the ones I’ve used are probably the most appropriate for the model I’m trying to describe. Thank you very much. I really apologize for racing through it, but it was a lot to really give you the background before the end of it made sense. Thank you very much.

Speaker 2: