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7 Revolutions Ahead

March 10, 2012
By: Charlene Finck, Farm Journal Editor

Buckle up—here’s what you can expect by 2030

In an effort to be a catalyst for strategic thinking on long-term trends, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) created Seven Revolutions, a project that identifies the key policy challenges we will all wrestle with up to 2030 and beyond. Speaking at the recent Food and Agricultural Communications Symposium at the University of Illinois, Johanna Nesseth Tuttle, vice president for strategic planning at CSIS, shared the seven areas of change that she says are expected to be the most revolutionary.

  1. Population. In the next two decades, the lion’s share of the world’s population growth will occur in the developing world. The bulk of that growth will take place in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, two of the poorest and least stable parts of the world.

    By contrast, by 2030, barring massive immigration, about 20 Eastern European countries will see their population decline. Plus, 25% of the folks in Western Europe will be over the age of 65. Meanwhile, the mass movement from rural to urban settings continues at a brisk pace. By 2050, almost 70% of the world’s population will live in cities.


  2. Resource management. The spike in the world’s population puts immense pressure on food, water and energy—to the point of making many wonder if we have reached or surpassed the limits of sustainability.

    Right now, 65% of those who go to bed hungry live in one of seven countries. Biotechnology and the availabil-ity of water will both play a critical role in our ability to meet the world’s food needs in the future.

    "What is now a global water challenge will soon be a global water crisis," Nesseth Tuttle told the audience.

    We are currently using half of our readily available water supply. Of that amount, 22% is devoted to industry, 70% is used in agriculture and 8% goes to cities.


  3. Technology. Today’s computers are breaking performance records at an increasing rate. IBM’s Roadrunner achieves a computational capacity of 1.105 petaFLOPS (1,105 quadrillion calculations per second), making it one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world and the first to break the petaFLOPS barrier.

    Computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones are marching across every country. By the end of 2012, it is estimated, there will be an astounding 6 billion mobile phones, nearly one for every person.

    "Ray Kurzweil [futurist] says because of advances in computation we will witness 20,000 years of progress in this century," Nesseth Tuttle shared.


  4. Information. Geography is no longer a limiting factor in access to knowledge or information. With the advent of the Internet and mobile devices, information stretches to all corners of the world.

    For example, there are 2 billion web users in the world, with the biggest opportunity for new uses in Africa and Asia. This "knowledge-based" economy could someday lift countries from poverty. While online connectivity accelerates and data creation continues to increase rapidly, privacy and access issues will continue to grow more complex.

    As the information economy takes root, workers will be required to refine their skills and learn new ones to remain competitive, Nesseth Tuttle said. One startling prediction by the U.S. Department of Labor: those in the work force will have 10 to 14 major career changes by the age of 38! That means saying goodbye to the work force as we know it.

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    FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - March 2012

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