Mar 2024

Environmental Science & Engineering Seminar

Strategically Transforming Food Systems for Robustness and Resilience

Dr. Michael Puma
12 Mar, 2024
03:00 PM – 04:00 PM

The challenges to food security in today's world are vast, driven by factors such as climate change, conflict, population dynamics, resource constraints, and socio-economic disparities. There is a growing consensus among international institutions, academia, and certain non-governmental organizations that there's an urgent need for “rapid and radical” changes to our food system. However, these challenges demand not just transformations but also well-thought-out strategies and approaches.

Past endeavors have shown that hasty, naive interventions can exacerbate the problems they aim to address, sometimes leading to even more complex challenges. It's imperative to recognize the intricacies and potential pitfalls when considering significant changes to our food systems. Strategic transformation requires a thorough understanding of these complexities. By leveraging modern tools from network science, dynamic systems analysis, among others, we can gain invaluable insights. These analytical tools offer ways to forecast the outcomes of various proposed changes, helping stakeholders decide which innovations deserve widespread adoption.

While our primary objective is to ensure a well-nourished global populace, it's pivotal to emphasize that we should not focus on population trends. Instead, our commitment is to guarantee that every individual, regardless of global demographics, has reliable access to quality food. Navigating the path ahead calls for both urgency and thoughtful planning. Proper governance and well-crafted policies are vital to steer us towards a robust and resilient food system. By balancing urgency with strategy, we can ensure our efforts to transform are both effective and beneficial, laying the foundation for a hunger-free world.

Dr. Puma currently leads the Center for Climate Systems Research, part of Columbia University's Columbia Climate School in partnership with NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. As director overseeing over 40 scientists and staff members, Dr. Puma spearheads the Center as it closely collaborates with NASA across critical areas like climate science, exoplanet studies, and climate impact analysis. A Senior Research Scientist, Dr. Puma concentrates primarily on global food security, human migration, and hydro-climatology connections. He focuses on understanding sociotechnical system vulnerability – specifically the exposure of the interconnected global food system to unpredictable disruptions like megadroughts, volcanic eruptions, conflicts, and policy failures. By assessing efficiency versus resilience trade-offs, his objectives encompass outlining integrated strategies to enable long-term sustainability and stability across these deeply intertwined systems. Additionally, Dr. Puma progresses cutting-edge theories and models surrounding human migration triggers and impacts, investigating migration responses driven by food scarcity. His research thoroughly examines the complex drivers governing system behaviors, yielding actionable insights for policymaking. Through comprehensive analysis, he addresses the pressing challenges of global food system security and environmental/conflict-induced migration. Dr. Puma has secured funding from various institutions, including NASA, the National Science Foundation, the European Commission, the US Department of Defense, DARPA, and the United Nations Development Programme.

Event Quick Information

12 Mar, 2024
03:00 PM - 04:00 PM