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Sustainability at the crossroads | Nature

Small iceberg floats on dark ocean water.
Icebergs that calved from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier in Greenland this year help mark one of Greenland’s biggest ice-melt years in recorded history. Credit: Mario Tama/Getty

This excerpt is from a Nature editorial piece taking a look back at 2021 through the Sustainable Development Goals. Read the full article here.

There were high hopes for 2021. The year promised progress on the push for sustainable development after months of pandemic-induced delays and uncertainty. We heard ambitious talk of a ‘green recovery’, and world leaders were due to gather for meetings of the United Nations conventions on biological diversity and on climate to set future agendas.

How did the year’s sustainability debates evolve? We take a look through Nature’s science lens.

Revamping food systems

Like biodiversity protection, the world’s food system needs fixing. One in ten people is undernourished and one in four is overweight. The number of people going hungry is rising fast, a trend fueled by the pandemic. Nature’s coverage emphasizes the fact that science needs to guide the transformation of the food system. The task is challenging, because food spans many disciplines. We have yet to pin down what diets that are both healthy and sustainable should look like. And an IPCC-like system of scientific advice to inform policymaking has so far been missing from food and agriculture.

That changed in September, when António Gutteres, the UN secretary-general, convened a controversial but historic Food Systems Summit. A group of scientists was tasked with ensuring that the science underpinning the summit was robust, broad and independent. Writing in Nature, this scientific group issued seven priorities for research, among them a greater focus on sustainable aquatic foods. Soil-based agriculture tends to dominate discussions on food, with ‘blue foods’ — organisms such as fish, shellfish and seaweeds — rarely considered.

Nature joined the scientific group’s call to argue that it’s time to change that. We published the Blue Food Assessment — the first systematic evaluation of how aquatic food contributes to food security — which explores how research can help transform the global food system. This work also shows some pitfalls of a greater reliance on blue foods without sustainable management, as a rapidly increasing demand for fish adds to risks for coastal ecosystems and the people of coastal communities.

Read the full Nature piece >

Read the Nature Blue Food Collection portfolio >