2 Major Global Leadership Challenges: Innovation and Sustainability

We are going to take a break from our Nigerian case study to think about another issue (which relates to Nigeria as well as the rest of the world).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the world population increased from 3 billion in 1959 to 6 billion by 1999. These figures indicate that the world’s population doubled in a 40 year period. The Census Bureau’s latest projections imply the world population will increase to 9 billion by 2040, which is a 50 percent over the next 41 years.

Why is this important? Natural resources are in limited supply, which means the global leadership challenges associated with environmental and social issues are vast. Degradation, alteration and contamination of natural resources, issues related to food security and quality as well as threats to human health and wildlife are causing critical concern. The growing population combined with issues related to quality and quantity of natural resources in problematic. There is a need for leaders around the globe to work together and create a collective global vision designed to motivate individuals, communities and organizations to greater levels of social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

Further, most of the projected population growth will occur in the poorest and least developed regions of the world, which are already experiencing shortages of quality food, soil, air and water as well as lack of access to education, worker rights, healthcare and global political capital.

More developed countries face many of the same but also different issues. Agriculture has been so successful that many people living in the developed world enjoy a high degree of food security but are separated from the primary production of agriculture. Most see only products in attractive wrapping on their grocery shelves. For these people, it is difficult to understand the roles that agriculture and food security play in political stability and comfortable living standards as well as the cultural and educational achievements they enjoy.

Significant changes, including mechanization and the introduction of chemical pesticides, have helped increase agricultural production over the last century. However, global food shortages, increased contamination of natural resources and rising rates of consumer consumption continue to threaten the welfare of natural resources, wildlife and humankind.

Pressures on farmers to produce higher yields from their land to feed a growing population has accelerated the adoption of technologies that are less labor intensive but require higher levels of energy and natural resources. High input agricultural practices contaminate water and soil. Some health concerns (such as cancer) are linked to chemicals people use everyday, including those used to produce food. We all eat and wear agriculture everyday. Successful, sustainable agriculture is critical to the well-being of us all.

Innovation in both thought and technology is needed to change current trends causing environmental degradation as well as concerns related to human health and the well being of wildlife. As the population grows, more food must be grown on a smaller amount of land using less water and fewer inputs.

Buying trends also impact food production. Some individuals in more developed countries are beginning to demand more organic and locally produced foods free from chemical inputs such as hormones and pesticides. However, these production practices traditionally require intensive human input, including labor and time. They also sometimes require a greater land mass.

Rapid increases in consumer consumption and waste production must also be addressed. The environmental, educational, political and socioeconomic disparities between people around the globe creates a leadership challenge that must be approached from a holistic perspective unlike the world has ever experienced. It’s time for individuals and leaders to realize that we are all in this together. We must also realize that our agriculture and natural resources are critical factors related to both our success and failure as a global community. The world is truly a global community, and everything we do impacts one another.

World leaders must change attitudes, beliefs and behaviors on a global scale. Scientists, politicians, business and community leaders must work together to create a global vision of agricultural and environmental sustainability that can be achieved in short order. This type of innovation requires entrepreneurial leadership. We need leaders who are willing to create an atmosphere of innovation while encouraging others to become more entrepreneurial themselves. This will require leaders around the world to change. They must be willing take some calculated risks in an effort to pioneer new paradigms that benefit the global good.