Food for a Growing World

As Lester Brown details in his latest book, Full Planet, Empty Plates, by 2044, the world population is expected to top 10 billion, and 80 percent of this will be in cities. Increasing poverty and the rise of a global middle class are evolving contemporaneously. Thirty years from now, national security estimates are that the global middle class will grow from 1 billion to 4 billion, mainly in Asia. The middle classes are meat eaters, and meat eaters consume many more calories.

On top of this, world food prices have doubled since 2002. Increased domestic food demands coupled with fixed supplies have led several traditional food exporting countries to curtail grain exports. And, rapid urbanization is exacerbating the problems.

Both urbanization and agricultural development are land consuming. Because of rising demand, between 2007 and 2008 world prices for grain and soybeans doubled. Several countries have begun buying land and other assets in other countries to meet their own needs, often behind large agribusiness concerns. On the scale it is happening, this is new. Whether buying or leasing land in other countries for their own domestic needs, whether using corporate fronts or intergovernmental agreements, the competition for land is largely a competition for water and for the food it can produce. As we head from 7 billion to more than 10 billion in population, this will be a dominant refrain in our future as petroleum has been in our past.

All of these trends point to an increasingly important role for the production of food through non-land intensive technologies. Aquaculture has a major role to play in the production of safe food for a growing world, but we need to produce a sustainable version.

Recently, Hawai'i Pacific University and The Oceanic Institute (OI) launched a new vehicle for research and training - OI's new Learning Center Annex. This project owes many thanks to our congressional delegation, and especially to the late Sen. Daniel Inouye and his staff, to Gov. Neil Abercrombie and staffs of the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources and the Dept. of Agriculture, and to our partners at the Economic Development Administration.

This facility will help address the problem of making the transition to a sustainable system in which food, water and the control of land will become the new sources of opportunity. All three will also be major sources of global conflict, which an island economy such as Hawai'i is both ecologically and culturally positioned to address.

At the Oceanic Institute, years of federal and local support have brought about the creation of a powerful force for good. The OI will play an increasingly important role in the future through projects such as:

* The creation of a mid-scale feed production facility on the Big Island that will promote both terrestrial and ocean food industries in pursuit of sustainable development for Hawai'i and other island communities across the Pacific,

* Partnering with local peoples, entities and governments to foster a re-birth of the traditional fish ponds of Hawai'i fame,

* Helping governments and private sector interests to meet the growing food needs and the ecological challenges of maintaining aquaculture production in Asia, from India to China and along the continent's entire coastlines.

There is a huge challenge here, and The Oceanic Institute has a critical role to play at a critical time. A simple but powerful example lies in the emergence of vectors that are driving down the shrimp breeding population in Thailand. As the *Wall Street Journal* noted recently, this has repercussions for shrimp prices at Midwestern restaurants and for the political arena in Washington.

There are technical problems in aquaculture that need to be solved, and there are significant scientific and ecological solutions to be found that HPU's marine scientists focus on every day. But, above all, there are policy and survival issues at stake that will be solved not just by today's scientists, but by today's students.

From our mountain (mauka) campus in Kaneohe to our coastal (makai) campus at the stunningly beautiful Makapu'u Point, science bids Aloha to all the students and scientists working to protect world food sources and the environment that sustains them.