Today is World Environment Day – a United Nations initiative for raising awareness of the environment and encouraging global action against environmental change. This year, the theme is ‘Seven billion dreams. One Planet. Consume with care’, which highlights the increasing problem of humans’ growing global population and our overconsumption of the earth’s resources. This theme addresses three main questions: How will we feed a population which is projected to reach 9.6 billion? How do we ensure water security with growing demands on water supplies? Can we reduce our energy consumption to sustainable levels, or find alternative energy sources and live within the constraints of the planet’s resources?
The questions of food and environmental security were highlighted during a discussion meeting held here at the Royal Society at the end of 2013, with research presented being published in Philosophical Transactions B last year. This themed issue, edited by Guy Poppy, John Pickett and Michael Burkett covered a broad range of issues, from aquatic ecosystem resilience, to sustainability of agricultural practices and ecosystem services and economics to GM crops. In addition, several further articles relating to food security issues have been published in Proceedings B in the last few months – covering issues such as land use change and pollinator decline, the economic effects of climate change and over-fishing on fisheries, and maximizing yield from organic farming.
Addressing sustainable water usage, a themed issue in Philosophical Transactions A on ‘Water security, risk and society’, edited by Jim Hall, David Grey, Dustin Garrick, Simon Dadson and Rob Hope was published in 2013. This issue covers topics such as provisioning adequate drinking water, agricultural water consumption, energy production and economics.
One solution to shrinking energy resources and growing demand is the use of more sustainable energy sources, such as energy crops. Unfortunately, a recent article in Interface identified a 20 year time lag in the UK for the adoption of new crop practices, and a reduced predicted uptake of energy crop growing compared to previous expectations. The earth’s energy budget, and climate engineering are discussed in another Phil Trans A themed issue, covering topics including the use of aerosols, cloud seeding, solar geoengineering to alter the climate and our environment.
Protecting the planet’s many environments and ecosystems is a recurring theme across many of our journals. We publish content across a wide range of related areas, from the importance of microhabitats to buffer climate change in Biology Letters, to the resumption of hunting of dolphins in the Solomon Islands in our newest journal Royal Society Open Science. Basic scientific research of this nature should be used to form the foundation of policies aimed at producing a more sustainable, and environmentally conscientious society – ensuring the future preservation of our limited natural resources. All of the content mentioned in this blog will be made freely available for the next week to mark World Environment Day.