Water, Food & Community: facing the facts

"Where's the water, where's the food and where's the Community?" asks Dr John Williams, Commissioner, Natural Resources Commission, NSW and founding Member the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists. People in famine-ravaged Horn of Africa are dependent on the same weather patterns: the El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation, as we are.

"It is scary," declared Dr Williams, a person not given to hyperbole. "Already 1.75 billion people in rapidly industrializing countries like China and India are living in areas of severe water stress. The OECD projects by that 2030 this will rise to 64% of the population of those countries. Dr Williams is speaking this evening at a further forum of Christians for an Ethical Society on its 2011 theme of "good stewardship - protecting our future".

"The water shortage will be accentuated by higher water temperatures and changes in extremes associated with climate change," he added. He explained that Australia is already experiencing intense competition for water between towns, food production and water essential to maintaining the ecological health in the rivers of our Murray Darling Basin. Further we see controversy over water use and water pollution with coal seam gas extraction in the sedimentary coal rich basins including the Great Artesian Basin in NSW and Queensland.

"We who live in towns need food as much as anyone. Continuing high food prices show how food production and the food available in our supermarkets is readily affected by climate variability, climate change along with increasing population and our food choices," he observed.

"Food production needs to double over the next fifty years. This means harvesting food each year for an additional 70 million people, which is equivalent to the total food production of Australia".

Water and food are scarce in the Horn of Africa but the most terrifying shortage is the miserly response from the world community.

A bleak future awaits us all until we face the facts together and realize that our fates on this fragile planet are intertwined. Perhaps the greatest challenge we face together is how to be able to produce more food, reduce food waste and be better stewards of the natural resources and ecological process in our urban and rural landscapes on which our food production ultimately depends.