Forest Futures: Where’s the Beef? Meat without Livestock Production

Meat consumption is increasing rapidly across the globe. By 2050, the demand for meat is estimated to rise by 73% and the human population is projected to reach more than 9 billion (Heffernan 2017). Meat consumption has risen most dramatically in middle-income countries like China and elsewhere in East Asia. As countries become more affluent, the demand for a diet with a heavy focus on meat and dairy increases and starch-based diets become less desirable (Godfray et al. 2018).

A whopping 30% of Earth’s land surface is dedicated to livestock production (Heffernan 2017). In 2017, the world lost one football pitch of forest every second according to satellite data compiled by Global Forest Watch. In the end, the area lost in 2017 adds up to the size of Italy (Carrington et al. 2018). In the US and elsewhere around the world a significant amount of grazing takes place on public lands. Unfortunately, if not managed well, intense grazing can destroy vegetation and disrupt natural ecosystem processes. If livestock production continues to increase, it will only put more pressure on precious public lands. Along with this, livestock production contributes greatly to climate change; it already contributes 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (Caughill 2017).

As food technology develops, there are a growing number of innovations that have the potential to make consumption more sustainable. The ‘clean meat’ industry involves animal cells being harvested in a non-intrusive manner and then multiplied carefully in what is known as a ‘culture’. The environmental implications of in vitro meat technology are enormous. Studies estimate that it could reduce the meat sector’s greenhouse gas emissions by 78-96%, water consumption by 82-96% and land use by 99% (Kreitman 2017). However, this technology is still young and at the small-scale level of single containers in laboratories. But many ‘clean meat’ startups believe the technology will advance quickly and that it will soon be affordable for mass consumption (Caughill 2017).

This controversial technology is facing pushback. There is a lot of back and forth surrounding whether or not lab-grown meat should be labeled and considered authentic meat. A lot of this opposition stems from the cattle industry, who sees this technological development as a market threat. They want to limit the terms ‘beef’ and ‘meat’ exclusively to products that have been born, raised, and slaughtered in a traditional manner (Haridy 2018). The state of Missouri has already made the clear distinction that anything labeled ‘meat’ must have died from slaughter. Not surprisingly, the lab-grown sector is fighting back and has formed a lobby group called the Cellular Agriculture Society that promotes a ‘post-animal bio economy’ (Haridy 2018).

In addition to meat, companies producing plant-based alternatives are attempting to bring a meaty flavor to their products, including one that was recently recognized by the FDA as safe. The critical ingredient that gives it the meaty taste and texture is the heme molecule which carries oxygen through our bloodstreams. Conveniently for food scientists, the identical heme molecule can be found in the root nodules of soy plants. The production of plant-based meat alternatives involves 75% less water, 87% less greenhouse gases, and 95% less land than traditional beef burgers according to one of the manufacturers. However, there are still unanswered questions and controversy about the genetic engineering and the risk of allergens with the plant-based meat alternatives.

Technology, as always, is imbued with social and ethical controversies. There is a lot at stake moving forward with ‘clean meat’ and plant-based alternatives; it matters who dominates its development and how it’s marketed to the mainstream. Broadly, technology is evolving rapidly and there are many benefits. But there is also always the possibility of unforeseen consequences. Furthermore, there’s a possibility the increase in lab produced food could result in society further disassociating from nature and losing sight of the connection between the environment and food production. Regardless, lab-grown meat and plant-based alternatives have the capability to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions as well as the strain on public lands. — Mary Lovelace, USFS Intern

Sources

Carrington, D., N. Kommenda, P. Gutierrez and C. Levett. 2018. One football pitch of forest lost every second in 2017, data revels. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2018/jun/27/one-football-pitch-of-forest-lost-every-second-in-2017-data-reveals.

Caughill, P. 2017. Meat is transforming our future. Futurism. https://futurism.com/the-future-of-protein-heres-how-lab-grown-meat-is-transforming-our-future/

Godfray, H.C., P. Aveyard, T. Garnett, J.W. Hall, T.J. Key, J. Lorimer, R.T. Pierrehumbert, P. Scarborough, M. Springmann and S.A. Jebb. 2018. Meat consumption, health, and the environment. Science. 361: 1-8. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/361/6399/eaam5324.full.pdf

Haridy, R. 2018. Lab-grown meat not meat according to state of Missouri. New Atlas. https://newatlas.com/lab-grown-meat-classification-bill-missouri/54687/

Heffernan, O. 2017. Sustainability: a meaty issue. Nature: International Journal of Science. 544: 18-20. https://www.nature.com/articles/544S18a#ref3

Kreitman, N. 2017. Meat without slaughter: what are the steps to scale. Futures Centre. https://thefuturescentre.org/articles/17039/meat-without-slaughter-what-are-steps-scale

Announcing the Houston Foresight Spring Gathering 2019

It’s time to lock in the dates for next year’s Spring Gathering, so block your calendar for Friday April 12 and Saturday April 13th. The theme will be “Introducing the Future,” which will explore the various approaches, tools, and experiences for introducing the future to people and organizations not familiar with our field.

We will do our usual dinner and social on Friday, have meeting on Saturday, and a party on Saturday night. We have just started working on the agenda, so we’d love to hear your idea for a session. if you have a topic in mind that fits with this year’s theme. Program your apps to find cheap flights and be ready to pounce if you’re coming in from out of town. The Hilton on campus is very convenient (link) and some folks have used AirBnB (link). We think about, practice,  and experiment with how to excite people about engaging with the future. But most of that attention is piecemeal – a little here and there. So we thought it would be useful and fun to focus on how we do it and how we might do it better. All of us have some experience in explaining what we do, perhaps persuading others to try it, or maybe have interesting case studies to share. We are looking for ideas for specific topics we might cover, as well as presenters. So, if you have a topic you’d like to see covered, or even better, if you’d like to present, please let us know (email Andy at ahines@uh.edu).    — Andy Hines

Hines new Editor-in-Chief at On the Horizon

Foresight Program Coordinator Andy Hines needs your help in exploring the future of learning and education! Hines says: “I firmly believe that the future needs a home in the academic space, thus I am pleased to join On the Horizon (OTH) as Editor-in-Chief and commit to a sharp focus on the future of post-secondary learning and education.”

“Our goal is to establish On the Horizon as the academic home for the future learning and education.”

There are so many exciting possibilities for the future of learning and education — from student-centered learning to MOOCs to Edtech to funding to policy and beyond. Yet there are also many obstacles on the pathway to better futures. We want to focus both on the emerging changes, the challenges, and the visions of the future and how it might be different.

Hines recently organized a special issue for OTH on the future of student needs. He added, “my first move is to bring aboard futurist colleagues with experience in this space, thus bringing on:

So, what you can do?  You can get involve as a:

Writer: submit a piece on some aspect of the future of learning and education

Reviewer: review submissions to make sure they align with our future focus and provide real value to readers (looks good in the resume!)

Guest editor: we do special issues in which you organize a team of contributors to do a deep dive on a particular topic

Tipster: let us know where the future is emerging, the hot conferences, blogs, websites, and most importantly the topics we should be covering

Email Andy  Hines (ahines@uh.edu) on any of these topics!

Building capacity for Transformation

Building Capacity for Transformation, this summer’s Foresight elective (still in progress) is being taught by futurist Cecily Sommers. It fits perfectly with my intent to nudge us more towards transformative work. And to integrate foresight more tightly with leadership. I think we are super-strong in client work and prepping students how to do that) which can of course be transformative). When Cecily mentioned the transformative leadership work she’d been doing at Google, I jumped at the chance – might you share some of that with our students? While it took a little persuading to get her through the bureaucratic hurdles, developing this topic for foresight students was irresistible to her.

Cecily is a well-regarded entrepreneur and futurist. She founded and ran the foresight-based Push Institute that included an annual conference rated as “one of the three best executive conferences” by Fast Company in 2007.  Among the highlights of her futures work is the professional recognized “Think Like a Futurist” book that is regularly drawn from by the Foresight program. She is also a member of our program’s Advisory Board, and provided some invaluable coaching for me when I took over from Peter.

The approach to the course is very personalized. It is designed both to build the students’ own leadership capacity, as well as develop their ability to advise other leaders to build theirs. So, whether you want to be the leader or the advisor whispering in the leader’s ear, she has covered. As usually happens with  these summer electives, we end up adopting pieces and squeezing them into the regular curriculum. Free electives are a very precious commodity in today’s “all required courses” graduate school world. We are fortunate to have them. And even more fortunate to have futurists such as Cecily willing to share their knowledge and experience with our students in the hot Houston summer (even if she is teaching remotely from Minnesota) – Andy Hines

Forest Futures: Take the Nature Chill Pill

My biggest take-away from American History, Prehistory to 1877, was that Ben Franklin liked to get naked in his upstairs window and take “air baths” for his constitution. For some reason that is an image that sticks with you.

It turns out that dear, weird Ben was onto something. The Japanese call it shinrin yoku, or forest bathing. Immersing yourself in nature doesn’t have to be done naked, but Ben was an overachiever. It may sound new-agey and like the kind of thing you do in Portland on a date, but doctors are increasingly proscribing the outdoors for mental and physical health, and neighborhoods, schools, and other institutional bodies are responding.

The World Health Organization has said that there are 7 million early deaths annually due to polluted air. Air quality worldwide is worse than we had previously imagined, and in some areas it is so dire that one of the big jokes from the movie “Spaceballs” is coming true: people are selling canned air.

People are looking for solutions, and national and city governments are beginning to realize the benefits of nature as public health infrastructure. Not only is it good for your mental health, trees clean the air and water, help reduce flooding, and maintain lower temperatures, all of which help balance life in our concrete jungles. (I’m from Houston. Trust me, less flooding is good for your emotional and physical well-being.) As an example, to combat its well-documented air issues, China has deployed 60,000 troops to plant almost 34,000 square miles of trees for their amazing carbon-capture abilities, and there is good reason why. Overall, natural areas have proven to be less expensive and more effective than other engineered solutions for city air and water issues.

  • Imagine being at work on a beautiful day and your boss moves the meeting to the park outside to take advantage of the weather, or being urged to work remotely from a nearby urban forest. HR demands it.
  • Imagine a drug-free, anxiety-free life. Many of us take antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. While a hike can’t treat hardcore chemical depression, surrounding yourself with nature has shown significant benefits. One day, when you visit your doctor, she may default to ecotherapy treatments such as a nature walk twice a week before bringing out the SRIs.
  • Imagine that instead of a recess dominated by structured forts with slides and monkey bars, your kids will play on hiking trails or explore marshland for frogs. Classes will move outdoors to discuss animal and plant diversity and help foster a love of nature that must be introduced at a young age for it to flourish.
  • Imagine a world where cities and forests are no longer mutually exclusive, but integrated with each other to create a richer, healthier life for urban dwellers.
  • And imagine a naked Ben Franklin, symbol of this new natural order, pioneering this merging of city and robust rural health. It is, apparently, the American way.     — Rachel Young

Next Generation Foresight Practitioners Award

The School of International Futures has announced The Joseph Jaworski Next Generation Foresight Practitioners Award. This is a new annual award recognizing the next generation’s endeavors in shaping the future. It seeks to recognize young leaders and innovators who are driving foresight practices in their communities. You must either be:

  • A Millennial foresight practitioners (under 35 years old)
  • Or a second or third career foresight practitioners with less than 10 years study and practice in the field

The Main Award includes a years’ incubator funding worth USD 25,000 to support a new foresight initiative, mentoring and support for the winner, as well a free ticket to our SOIF2018 retreat.  Special Awardees will also benefit from support to develop personally and professionally and all qualifying entrants will have opportunities to showcase their work and be invited to join a new global “Sensing Network”.

We hope you will be able to share news of the award and help us spread the world globally.  We would greatly appreciate you circulating this message and the attachment to your networks.

Applications open this Monday and remain open until 1 July 2018.

More info, or please contact award@nextgenforesight.org.  — Andy Hines

A Unique (possibly crazy) Course of Study

The UH Foresight program made it onto a list of 25 unique and possibly crazy courses of study put out by “The Best Schools.” They say their aim “is to help you gain the knowledge, skills, and credentials you need to achieve personal happiness and career success. To that end, we research and write primarily about online and on-campus colleges & universities, which include undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and post-doc programs.”

There are certainly “safer” career paths to choose than foresight. No argument there. At the same time, as we move into a future where more and more knowledge work is being automated, one could argue that a unique course of study may actually be the smarter play! Take a look at the core skills that we say are essential to good futures work:

  • Critical thinking
  • Integrative thinking
  • Systems thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Facilitating & communicating
  • Designing

Indeed, here is a summary of what we believe our foresight education experience is all about.

From Day One we want you to be thinking about how you are going to use your educational experience in foresight. Be thinking about what works for you. What are you drawn to? A method? tool? A particular thinker? An Organization? Do you want to be consulting futurist? An insider or organizational futurist? Or a “futurizer,” where foresight is secondary to your profession, but you work to spread the foresight message? Learn what works for you. Each of you brings different skills, capabilities, and needs to the table, so it’s important to customize what you learn to what suits you going forward.

We want to build an experience for you that extends beyond just the classroom. This fall, for instance, we’re participating in an online game. We’re having a futures classic book club meeting at my house on an October Saturday morning. We have our Annual Spring Gathering of students, alumni, and friends and this is a great time for our virtual students to visit. We participate in the APF Gathering each spring and the WFS Assembly in the summer. And we’d like to do more.

We are building up our research capability to provide students an opportunity to get hands-on project experience. There’s no better way to prepare for project work in the future than practice in the present. There are also opportunities to do interesting research on your own. Besides the Master’s project, there are independent study options, and many students have used their class projects as a foundation for building thought leadership on their topic. We encourage our students to speak and publish. Our students routinely speak at the APF and WFS conference. Our students have regularly won awards for their written projects for the APF Student Recognition Program.

So, for those of you thinking about it, come join us! We’ve got work to do, and it’s important! — Andy Hines

 

Foresight in the Wakandan Age of Pan-Africanism

Embed from Getty Images

 

In case you haven’t noticed, the African diaspora has been having something of a moment. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, in his 2011 essay “Pan-Africanism in the Age of Obama: Challenges and Prospects,”  cites the 2008 US election as the end of a Pan-African winter and the dawn of a new diasporic consciousness. The subsequent decade saw mass movements launched by a politically and technologically activated cohort of diasporic youth who refused to let the flaws of our leaders, the boot of state violence, or the degradations of neoliberal capital kill the dream of full social and economic sovereignty.

They have advanced radical images of black thriving, self-care, and afrofuturism. Across this time period, black creators have been harnessing this energy to break down barriers everywhere, and most visibly in the media. In television, fashion, art, and publishing, black talent and decision makers have been making room for powerful, fully realized representations of black life with a “For us, by us” ethos that people have been starving for. It’s not hyperbolic to suggest that we are in the midst of a renaissance.

Zeleza’s assertion that “Obama’s trajectory will serve as the pivot around which new diaspora identities and politics will coalesce and evolve” seems to have been borne out. I’d like to venture here that the 2018 Marvel film Black Panther represents an inflection point in Pan-African energy, similar in import to that of the Obama election, but qualitatively different in impact. Rather than a symbolic (and yes, cathartic) racial substitution at the head of the world’s largest neocolonial power, Black Panther stands as a flex of the diaspora’s own social, cultural, and intellectual power. Further, the film managed to synthesize a compelling aesthetic technological fantasy of a holistic African future situated in the middle of the reality of the world today with a frank conversation about what we are and what, if anything, we owe to one another. Some may scoff at the idea of a film capturing that much moral and cultural freight, but it is everywhere: in the “Wakanda Forever” salutes shared between black strangers the world over, in the boldness and ferocity of the art people are making, and, above all, in the questions and hope shining back from eyes of the youngest among us.

Much has been made, and rightly so, of the opportunity that Africa holds in this moment. With some of the world’s fastest growing economies, mobile-first networking infrastructure, and, critically, the world’s largest under 25 (63%! in 2010) population. Think of the millions more in her diasporas. Make no mistake, people are still fighting for their lives out here. We as futurists ought not let Wakanda be the most thoroughly imagined preferred future they see. It is, after all, a fantasy. If I am wrong and you’re reading this, Wakandans, consider this my application for dual—strike that—treble citizenship. I quite fancy the idea of a vibranium passport to go with the Nigerian and American ones.

Seriously, we should be doing more to disseminate the tools of foresight into the hands of the people and as far as possible to enable endogenous futures generation at the community level. This strikes me as one of the best ways to maximize our impact in the world.

These things usually end with a call to action, right? I’m afraid mine isn’t very organized, yet. I am in the early stages of collecting a Black Futures Syllabus and conducting a survey of people and institutions working in African futures. I don’t know what I’m doing, so if you’re interested or useful or just want to continue the conversation, get at me.

Put off by the afrocentrism? First, check your privilege. Then look to your own communities, or get involved with Dr. Bishop’s Teach the Future initiative.

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Forest Futures: The Women Who Marry Trees

Florida Woman Marries Tree!

It sounds like the kind of story you find on the skeeziest daytime talk-shows, featuring a disturbed woman overacting her exhuberance over her forbidden arboreal love. It is anything but. This woman, and the women in Oaxaca, Mexico whose mass marriage to bark-laden bridegrooms inspired her, are the harbingers of a movement, and the growing acceptance of an idea. Not tree-love. Not tree-hugging.

Environmental personhood.

These women did not invent the rights-of-nature movement, but they illustrate just how quickly the idea has spread since the first inception of its use in 2006. What started in a small US town with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund’s successful campaign to keep toxic sludge out of the city has evolved to a macro level that encompasses the globe. And it is snowballing downhill.

  • Both Ecuador and Bolivia have made constitutional changes that grant rights to the environment, and both have been successfully upheld in a court of law.
  • New Zealand has successfully granted personhood to several natural areas, including Te Urewera, a former national park now considered an inalienable freehold, and the Whanganui River, which is spiritually significant to New Zealand’s indigenous Maori.
  • New Zealand’s move has inspired states like Uttarakhand in India to grant personhood to the holy Ganges river in an effort to combat pollution.
  • Colombia courts have acknowledged the rights of the environment, providing governmental and indigenous guardianships for their most vulnerable ecosystems.

In the United States there are currently several court cases pending that would grant eco-personhood to rivers, such as the Colorado. Many of the greatest champions for the environment in these cases are indigenous peoples who have a spiritual connection to these rivers, and a culture that already takes eco-personhood as a given. The triumph of these cases would set a precedent across the country, giving indigenous communities the ammunition they need in fights against corporate hegemony over the environment.

It seems like it would be difficult to argue against environmental personhood when corporate personhood has already been acknowledged.

Tree marriage as a form of activism started with a Peruvian man in Colombia, who wanted to encourage trees instead of violence. This multiple tree-marrying bigamist then took the idea to Mexico, where local women used it to protest the illegal logging that is decimating their forests. And now that micro-level  activism is spreading to the US, showing us that the idea of nature as people is not just happening on a broad political stage, with remote actors in places we may never visit. It is happening in our own backyards. In Florida.

In the hearts and minds of your neighbors.

And their tree. — Rachel Young

 

Futurist in Media: Futurists and AI

April’s topical focus for futurists in the media was artificial intelligence (AI) and the implications of replacing jobs with capable technologies. Preparing for new jobs that accompany the implementation of AI is a major concern. Also, we have seen a spike of coverage of futurists concerning AI in medicine, economics, education, and politics.

Several pieces urge caution when confronting the future of technology and AI implementation. A key issue is AI/machines becoming smarter than man, passing the Turing Test, and, perhaps, making humans obsolete.

The coverage of futurists in April was greater than typical and it also ranged across a broad of spectrum, such as Amy Webb, Jamie Metzl, and Keith Suter – not just the usual suspects. That said, Ray Kurzweil still held a high percentage, covering his thoughts on the future spread of basic income by 2030 (see economics). If April is an indicator, futurists are gaining recognition and being introduced to the public more frequently. — Stephen Layman