Uncertainty in global food systems
As ESA charts its second century, to be relevant, it must embrace grand societal challenges such as global food security and help bridge the often crippling chasm separating ecological research, policy-making, and practice. Getting serious about the role of ecology in achieving food and environmental security requires a concerted effort by ecologists to define the role of ecological theory and rigorous ecological approaches in delivering sustainably intensified and diverse food systems. This will require not only deepening ecological understanding of complex terrestrial and aquatic systems, but also broadening ecology to meaningfully connect with social science research in the human dimensions of food systems.
In particular, uncertainty in global food systems must be rigorously addressed: this includes the characterization and integration of different types and sources of uncertainty (both quantifiable and unquantifiable) into informed decision-making. A post-normal science approach, where knowledge is uncertain and value stakes are high, will be presented to address global food challenges. I argue that ecological solutions to food and environmental security will require ‘extended peer communities’ and the ability to communicate not only across disciplines, but also with diverse audiences and publics.