What am I going to eat the day after that? Next week? Next year, even? At some point or another, we have all had that experience of popping to the shop only to find the thing we went for was not on the shelf, and many of us have experienced a favourite restaurant shutting down, but the one thing that we all have in common is our need for food. For most of you reading this, food is fairly abundant, maybe a little pricier than we’d like at times, but we can usually get it when we need it.
In this country, increasing numbers of people are having to turn to food banks because they cannot afford food, usage of Trussel Trust foodbank has nearly tripled in the last decade. There are many reasons for the rise in foodbank usage, but many of them are the result of issues higher up the chain of food production: from supply chains, economics, the climate, and a plethora of other factors which compound with these; a quick look at recent news regarding grain exports from Ukraine (as reported by Reuters) demonstrates how disruptions in one region can easily snowball into something that affects food availability in the rest of the world. Less food to go around means higher prices and that means a higher cost of living, something we’re already in crisis over. The simple solution would be to produce more food, but that’s easier said than done:
The world is at a crossroads. The global population is poised to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, the United Nations Environmental Programme estimated that food output would have to increase by over 58% from 2021 to 2050. Factors such as higher incomes and urbanisation will escalate the already rapidly growing demand for resource-intensive foodstuffs like meat, further stressing the planet’s scarce resources. The food industry is already directly responsible for one-third of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and expanding it could intensify hazards like the loss of biodiversity and environmental pollution. Left unaddressed, these threats will negatively affect future food production, decreasing food security worldwide, particularly in vulnerable regions like the developing world, but also here in the developed world.
Across the globe, people are searching for solutions and, next year, the Warwick Economics Summit (WES) aims to bring many of them together. In a press release, WES described themselves as ‘the largest student-run academic conference in Europe‘. The yearly international forum aims to bring ‘550 of the brightest students and most influential speakers to discuss the pressing issues of today‘ and they have a 20-year-long history to back that up, including ‘a total of 19 Nobel prize recipients and numerous heads of state‘; for 2024 one of the themes of the summit will be the ‘Future of Food‘. As the beginning of this article implies, this isn’t just something for economists either:
The Summit’s focus goes far beyond the field of economics, encompassing the broader spheres of the social sciences, including politics, psychology and international relations.
Many of the discussions at WES 2024 will aim to shine a light on how humanity aims to tackle such issues; they will be hosting a discussion panel with specialists from across the food industry, with an added emphasis on alternative, more environmentally friendly, food sources which can sustain the Earth’s ever-growing population in the face of conditions increasingly hostile to our current methods of food production.
We will be covering WES 2024 which will take place between the 2nd and 4th of February 2024; between now and then, we will be releasing more articles covering the kinds of topics that will be discussed at the summit! In the meantime, why not follow them on social media? Many discussions and talks from previous years can be found on their YouTube channel!