Using futures thinking to navigate food, water and energy challenges of the 21st century

A report from Oxford University’s Smith School for Enterprise and the Environment explores the complexities of the interrelated challenges of food, water and energy, aiming to deepen the leadership debate on resource security in the 21st century.

“Faced with dwindling supplies, rising prices and unabated consumption, and with the regional crises and conflicts triggered by these stress points, we urgently need to find new patterns of production, new resource-efficient systems, and new partnerships to achieve lasting and meaningful change” writes Professor Sir David King, former director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment.

The report, ‘Re|Source 2050 Flourishing from Prosperity: Faster and Further’, develops and applies two alternative frames for the future – Growth and Health – as a means to further understand and navigate action on the resources challenges we are facing.

When applied to water, the Growth frame highlights the significant opportunities that exist for increasing efficiency of water use, enabling the redress of global imbalances in supply while delivering economic returns. Solutions focus on technological innovations and the right pricing of water.

In contrast, the Health frame depicts water management as a complex process involving interconnected systems that transcend the physical, technological, economic, political and social domains. Tradeoffs are seen as inevitable and approaches focus on social drivers for change, multi-scale solutions and adaptive regulation to curb local demand.

The report is a follow-up to the Smith School’s Third World Forum in 2012 which centred on increasing concerns about the link between growing prosperity and unsustainable resource use in the face of population growth and climate change.

Read the full report

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