About the food system in 2021-23: How smart were our predictions in 2017?

This is the first of three blogposts about our retrospective look at the horizon scanning project we undertook in 2017. This one is about how we saw the world three to five years hence; i.e. now and the next 18 months.

My abiding memory of the project was how frightened it made me feel. Sufficiently so that we embarked on the development of The Game and other scenarios work.

In re-reading the report, and looking through the research that informed it, my take is that we got a lot right. But, and it’s a big BUT . . . 

Do take a look at the table below, summarising how our participants and other informants  saw today, asking yourself what would you take out, amend or add?

fwiw: I reckon we under-estimated by a long way the timing of when grave threats on of food supply system would start to wreak serious damage. Think what climate change, resource depletion and human population pressures have already put on our own and other animal and plants habitats just in the last three years.

Add in the threats to UK food supplies from this hard Brexit already playing out, let alone what this fracture with our relationship with our biggest and nearest trading partner will mean for future food trade, both imports and exports.

Plus, too, exogenous forces operating on our food supply system, none of which we foresaw. In just the last couple of years, we’ve had Covid-19 wreaking damage on UK food supplies as elsewhere, plus the logistics delays owing to lockdown-related disruptions at Shenzhen port and the grounding of the Ever Green tanker in the Suez Canal. What else could be coming our way, including situations and events we can’t begin to imagine yet?

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The next blogpost is about what we predicted then for 2024-30.

The final blogpost about what we predicted for 2030-50 is here.

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note about the featured image above:
The summer heatwave of 2018 is graphically shown in the image above, one of the Climate Change Reanalyzer series of images from the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine.

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