Club of Amsterdam Journal, December 2021, Issue 238

Journals Archive
Journals – Main Topics
The Future Now Shows



Lead Article

Our Seafood Technology Future
By Tony Hunter

Article 01

A Why strive for a Used Future? Equality vs Equal Opportunity
By Leif Thomas Olsen

The Future Now Show

with Saro Van Cleynenbreugel

Article 02

A global carbon removal industry is coming – experts explain the problems it must overcome
by Johanna Forster, University of East Anglia and Naomi Vaughan, University of East Anglia

News about the Future

> Water Harmony
> Carbfix

Article 03

The Real Cost of Nuclear Energy
Except Integrated Sustainability

Recommended Book

The Future of Water: A Startling Look Ahead
By Steve Maxwell, Scott Yates

Article 04

The EU’s Green Deal: opportunities, threats and risks for South African agriculture
By Wandile Sihlobo, Stellenbosch University and Tinashe Kapuya, Bureau for Food and Agricural Policy

Climate Change Success Story


Futurist Portrait

Matthew Griffin
The Adviser behind the Advisers

5G, Agriculture, Aquaponics, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality,
Bioeconomy, Cloud Computing, CO2, Digital Twins, Edge Computing,
Environmental Footprint, EU, Europe, Fish, FOOD, Green Deal,
Internet of Things, Metaverse, Nuclear Energy, Quantum Computer,
Seafood, South Africa, Virtual Reality, Water

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Felix B Bopp

Website statistics for 2021:

Visits January - November: 329,000

Matthew Griffin: "We already have the technology to solve the global water challenge, so what is it and what’s stopping us from preventing future water wars?"

Scott Yates: “Right now, the average apple eaten in the United States has traveled 1,550 miles, and an apple is 84 percent water.”

European Bioeconomy University: "The diversity of the knowledge-based bioeconomy extends from farmland and food production through forests to marine ecosystems, from biowaste through innovative products to new business models, and from urban to rural regions."

Lead Article

Our Seafood Technology Future
Tony Hunter

Our seas and oceans are an essential part of our global ecosystem, but ones that are too often out of sight for the vast majority of humanity.

These seas and oceans play a vital part in maintaining planetary health, acting as heat and carbon sinks and moderating our climate. In fact, 71 % of our planet's surface is covered by water, with the oceans holding 96.5 % of all the planet's water.

Covering 71% of the earth's surface it's no surprise that we need to harvest the oceans for food. But in the Anthropocene humans have taken things to extremes and overfishing is the primary driver of mass extinction in our oceans. 1 This is partly being driven by growing global fish consumption as consumers in industrialised countries realise the health benefits of fish. The other driving factors are the growing global population, combined with growing middle classes demanding more protein. All of this is putting increased pressure on fish stocks with only 65.8% of fish stocks being fished within biologically sustainable levels (Figure 1). To avoid disaster any significant increase in fish consumption will have to come from other than wild caught fish.


Against this a 70% increase in food production is projected to be required by 2050, a seemingly impossible increase in sustainable food production, including fish. Aquaculture has been the major source of increased fish production for the last three decades or more as can be seen from the graph in Figure 2 below. How much further aquaculture can grow to meet the ever increasing demands remains to be seen. Something needs to change.



As is the case in global food production generally we need to do more with less in seafood as well. So how can new food technologies help address the problems in the seafood industry?

Possible solutions


One major problem of the fish industry is that 69% of fishmeal and 75% of all fish-oil production from caught fish is used to feed farmed fish. 2 Soybean meal is used to supplement fishmeal, but this brings its own environmental issues.

One technology showing great promise is the use of insect proteins. Companies such as Ynsect and Protix manufacture high quality protein and oils from mealworms and Black Soldier Flies respectively. These products have been shown to be excellent sources of nutrition for farmed fish.

However, there are some significant barriers to the increased use of insect proteins in fish feed; namely legislation, scale and price.

Legislation governing insect use in feedstocks varies around the world. For instance, in the US insect meal is approved for poultry and salmonid feed ingredient but not pet food. In Canada, it's approved for pet food, but not aqua or poultry feed. With the growth of the insect feed industry and the problems facing the fish industry changes to allow insect meal as fish feed are expected to accelerate in the coming years.

After legislation, scale is the most significant barrier to increased fish feed use. Scale requires more manufacturing assets and funding to meet this need is increasing exponentially in the sector. Scale also directly effects price, currently another significant barrier to increased usage. Insect meal prices presently range from USD3,950 to USD6,200 vs historical fishmeal prices of USD1,200 to USD2,000 per ton. Rabobank expect this to reduce to USD2,800 to USD5,000 per ton by 2030. 3

Other functional attributes offset some of this cost disadvantage with combinations of insect meal, fishmeal and soybean meal enabling the creation of better performing aqua feeds.

Another advantage which could soon be realised is resource circularity of insect feedstocks. This could be achieved with the likely approval in 2022 of the use of unprocessed food waste containing meat and fish as insect feedstock. This will improve flexibility and costs in the industry and even provide an opportunity for negative feed costs. 3

Overall, insect meal could help significantly reduce the pressure on wild caught fish stocks.

Plantbased fish

Another technology being used to meet the consumer demand for seafood products is plantbased meat mimics. Advances in protein processing and plant protein sources are combining to meet the consumer demand for a more plantbased diet while meeting their desires for conventional flavour profiles. Far from being a fringe fad major food companies are now involved in the market. Nestlé has launched Vuna, a plantbased tuna substitute, designed for salads, sandwiches and pizza and Vrimp, a plantbased shrimp product. Likewise, Thai Union, one of the largest seafood producers in the world, has released crabcakes and dim sum in food service and will launch plantbased tempura shrimp later this year.

That's not to say that there's no room for startups. There's an ever expanding number of medium and startup sized companies entering the space. These include Good Catch Foods, Kuleana and Swedish startup Hooked with their toona product and Netherlands based company Novish with its range of breaded fishless sticks, bites, burgers, chunks, fillets and now a tuna alternative.

Can it replace fish? Maybe not, but again it could help fill the protein hole without endangering the ocean ecosystem.

Cultivated seafood

The most advanced technology is cultivated seafood, where a sample of cells are taken from an animal and grown in giant stainless steel tanks. These are then structured into fish fillets, burgers etc.

It may sound like science fiction, but it's now science fact. A terrestrial chicken nugget version hit the market in Singapore last December and if you live in Singapore you can have one of three dishes delivered to your door by FoodPanda!

Aquaculture products are close behind their terrestrial cousins with BlueNalu commissioning its pilot plant later this year. This will provide small scale commercial product for sale to the restaurant trade. They're initially targeting mahi-mahi fillets for cooked products and bluefin tuna for sashimi.

Wildtype is another company in the sector and they're targeting salmon. As can be seen from the picture below in Figure 3 it's a pretty convincing product. They say that they and a restaurant can make a profit if their product is sold at a high-end sushi restaurant for USD30-40 a plate. 4 So profitable cultivated seafood manufacturing may be closer than we think.

FIGURE 3 (Photo - Wildtype)

Fish is not the only target seafood with Shiok Meats focussing on shrimp and lobster. Startups with novel approaches to cultivated seafood production are appearing almost monthly. Not all will survive, but those that do will have the strongest technologies.

Similarly to feedstocks legislation is a significant barrier for the commercial sale of cultivated product. Singapore is currently the only country which has legislation in place to allow commercial sale of cultivated meat products. The US may also be close to approval, with approval for seafood (except catfish) lying solely with the FDA, rather than the FDA/USDA for terrestrial products.

Scale and price are also significant barriers which will need to be overcome. To scale to a significant double digit percentage of the conventional seafood market will likely cost hundreds of billions in USD terms. To justify expenditure this will require exponential drops in production costs, particularly in the costs of growth media components.

What will the future hold?

No one can predict THE future, there's too many unknowns. However, there's definitely some possible futures where these technologies will comprise a major part our food system.

Insects have a place as caught fish stocks continue to decline or at best stabilise over the coming decades. They will provide new sources of performance enhancing aqua feed to help sustainably support the aquaculture industry.

Plantbased food is no longer a fad, but a fact of the industry, and driven by consumer demand. It too will have a place, particularly with major global food and ingredient companies entering the fray.

As for cultivated products the jury is still out. Some reports paint the industry as the Emperor's new clothes and say it will soon collapse. Others see a breakthrough technology that is only impossible until it's not. Which one is true? Call back in 2030 and we'll be much closer to having an answer.

One thing is for certain, technology is having an unprecedented influence on the food industry. Technologies from the medical, biotech and synthetic biology fields are entering the industry and it'll never be the same. Food is now technology and technology changes exponentially, it's going to be a fast and furious food future.

1 -
2 -
3 - Rabobank "No Longer Crawling: Insect Protein to Come of Age in the 2020s"
4 -



See also

The Future Now Show
Global Food with Tony Hunter


Article 01

Why strive for a Used Future? Equality vs Equal Opportunity
By Leif Thomas Olsen


Photo by Ivan Samkov


Equality has become a global concern. 'Equality' nowadays includes equality between East and West, between the Global South and Global North, between man and women, between hetero and homo, between able and disable, etc. Yes, this can indeed be considered 'fair', but it can also lead us astray.

This article elaborates on the difference between 'equality' and 'equal opportunity'. The difference is far greater than what daily language suggests. Q: When does 'equality' become social imperialism?

To be 'equal' has turned into a drive to become as equal - i.e. similar - as possible to those in socio-economic power. This in spite of the global debate that shies away from the term 'assimilation' - in favour of the term 'integration'. This although the long-term objective for both terms is some kind of equality - in terms of being 'equal'. But equal to what? Are we actually integrating newcomers into our communities? Or are we, in reality, simply trying to assimilate them? A definition of assimilation is "the process of becoming similar to something", while a definition of integration is "the action or process of combining two or more things in an effective way". Clearly, assimilation is a one-sided process of change, where the incoming party makes efforts to become like the party already there. Integration is supposed to be a two-sided process of change, where both sides make efforts to accommodate each other.

Those in socio-economic power - whether a part of one's own close-knit collective or community or a global institution or 'player' - always define what it means to be equal. This can be in terms of being equally heard, equally paid, equally respected, and so on. But to be true to ourselves, has there ever existed a society that treated everybody the same, i.e. as true 'equals'? No, neither among humans nor in the animal kingdom. And no matter how hard we try; it will always be those with strong socio-economic credentials who will shape the definition of what being 'equal' entails.

In Europe we typically found United States' focus on racial inequality as racism. All Americans are, after all, 'Americans'. Are they not? It was not until the European Union refugee crises in 2015 that Europeans started to view their own societies in the same the way as the Americans always viewed theirs - as 'us' and (sometimes even versus) 'them'.

The lack of racial integration in the US - where Blacks, Whites and Hispanics rarely mix - has since generations been excused with 'The American Dream', i.e. that each generation will have a better material life than their parents. This has excused their society's huge socio-economic differences, since even a child of a poor family can improve his/her material life as compared to his/her parents. But s/he does so from a far lower level to a (still) far lower level than what the more affluent part of the same society starts out from - and can achieve. But they can still claim they lived 'The American Dream'. Only recently has this dream been crushed, as a result of socio-economic policies and events which have stopped broad groups in the society from actually achieving this dream. The middle class is getting smaller and the income-gaps are getting bigger. And since our societies counts everything in money, this development can also crush the longstanding common dream of 'equality'. Even if that equality actually never existed.

In Europe the huge inflow of refugees into the European Union from war-torn and impoverished societies in the Middle East and North Africa has developed a similar racial divide. Of course one finds immigrants taking on 'normal' roles in their host society, such as teachers, medical staff, police or even politicians. But more commonly they are self-employed, low-wages workers or dependent on family, friends, and society. Mixed marriages are still quite rare, and - as we know well from history - will cultural integration take two or three generations, unless the immigrant makes an almost inhuman effort to change. There are still China Towns, Little Italy and Little India in many of the world's larger cities, most Scandinavian immigrants to the US are still found in the northern states and exiled Cubans dominate parts of Florida.

A similar pattern - but relationship-wise opposite - can be seen in many countries popular for Europeans to buy holiday- or retirement-homes. Germans buy where other Germans already bought, Dutch where other Dutch bought, Swedes were other Swedes bought and Brits where other Brits bought. There are no rules for that, and it is not an absolute truth, but it is common enough to see as a 'common cultural comfort factor'. The foreign property owners' assimilation- and / or integration-efforts are minimal (if any at all?) vis-à-vis both locals and 'others'. Instead they enjoy local hospitality, which they consider themselves having the right to enjoy since they consider themselves paying for it. Once again is money the 'equalizer', allowing the paying party to define the nature of the relationship.

The same goes for 'democracy'. States considering themselves 'Democratic States' see themselves having the right to define what the term 'democratic' entails. This (Greek) word is a combination of the two words 'demos' (i.e. whole citizenry living within the state) and 'kratos', meaning power (or rule). This word does however not mean a particular kind of parliamentarian system with (nowadays) one chamber (previously two), manned by members elected according to a very particular process invented by some other state's elite a century or two ago. Forcing other societies to emulate one's own system is nothing but social imperialism, no matter how good our intentions are and how good we ourselves think our own system is. But still, many Western countries consider it necessary to push for, and sometimes even fight wars over, what kind of governing system other - often far-flung countries - employ. 'Regime-change' in such far-flung countries has since long been a key to securing the intervening country's domestic interests, such as control over natural resources, strategic geo-locations, shipping routes, territorial waters, etc. Such 'regime-change' is typically dressed up as being for the good of 'the people' of the targeted country, assuming everybody there wants to live a life as similar as possible to the life the inhabitants of the intervening country lives. According to this view, those in the targeted country will now become 'equal'. The Romans did it, the Chinese did it, the Spanish, Brits, Dutch and French did it (although Western colonial powers only selected a few locals to be close to 'equal'). And the Americans and Russians are still doing it.

Futurists call this a 'Used future', i.e. a future used by others in another place and another time, that is now meant to be applied in 'this' place at 'this' time - simply because those with socio-economic powers want that. Not because it equals equality in the particular context it is to be applied. Again, those with socio-economic powers decide what equality entails, not those who are supposed to benefit from that equality. Again, this easily develops into social imperialism, even if we consider ourselves being the good guys.

Coming back to the European dilemma it must be said that 'equality' for an immigrant cannot equal becoming a copy of the host-society's original inhabitants. That is to strive for a 'Used Future'. With a large influx of immigrants also the host-society is forced to change, and to outline a 'New future'. One that is equally obtainable for all. Otherwise will the immigrants - and therefore eventually also the society at large - fail. Integration cannot be one-sided. Both sides need to change. Either that or we have to admit that we are still involved in a process of 'assimilation'.

This relationship is also similar to gender equality, which neither does nor can mean that all women shall become like men, or all men become like women. Gender equality means that all genders' traits and capacities shall be equally honored. Translated into cultural integration-speak, this means that all cultural traits and capacities shall be equally honoured. Nevertheless, in both these examples, as well as all other similar cases, the rule of law must apply equally to all. If murder is prohibited in the law is a woman or an immigrant who commits murder of course equally guilty of that crime as is a locally born and raised man. Here is 'equality' ruled by text. However, in a liberal society can no such texts on socio-cultural behaviour be of anything but voluntary guidance. But again, it should be known that not all societies are - or wish to be - liberal societies. So being 'equal' can only be a dream for those who have the same preferences and priorities as those with whom they are supposed to be equal.

If we instead consider the term 'equal opportunity', we see a very different picture emerge. The key to this is that 'equal' here refers to 'opportunity', not to a particular kind of equality. So, the question is instead what the individual or collective wants his/her/their opportunity to lead him/her/them to?

Just as skin colour, physical gender, sexual identity, physical or mental handicap, cultural origin, political views, economic status, etc, will matter not only to ourselves, but also to society at large, such differences also drive our dreams for a preferred future. Women strive for increased socio-economic influence, homosexual couples dream of being able and allowed to marry and/or adopt children, handicapped people dream of being accepted as they are, people with non-mainstream cultures want to be able to retain them, political animals dream of being elected and most people dream of improving their economic status. But 'enough is never enough', since 'enough' is a subjective state. Had it been an objective state it had been easy to say that once you reached that, you had 'enough', whereby society could redirect its efforts to other areas and collectives. But communism failed, and we still live in a world ruled by greed.

So, 'equal opportunity' must mean the opportunity to fulfil one's own dreams and aspirations - as long as they are within the framework of whatever laws that rule the society you are a member of. It cannot mean that you have to have the same dream as your neighbour or fellow citizen. And it can-not mean that only when you have fallen in line with the dominant (or ruling) way of thinking about socio-cultural and socio-economic matters, you are entitled to develop, announce, and try to live up to your own Desired Future. Equal opportunity is simply the right not to be discriminated against, not a responsibility to become 'equal' - in the sense of being similar - to those around you. When state governments strive for equality, they typically mean the possibility to get what the more privileged groups already have. And then mainly measured in monetary terms. That is why most of us live in a Used Future. One that was defined in the past and is lived in the present - but likely to be outdated already in the near future. A Desired Future must allow several and parallel opportunities to thrive. Certain things we already know are important for this. Education and health care are only two very obvious examples. But all our educational systems are intentionally different in different societies, intentionally designed to shape the youth into what that country's older generations (or external social imperialist forces) believe is necessary. Again we target a Used Future, here to shape future generations.

Equal opportunity must mean allowing people to get a good enough start in life to fully understand the options they will have, and a good enough understanding of how to go about achieving their Desired Future. Educational systems must therefore prepare students for the challenges ahead, not feed them with yesterday's solutions. But only when graduates think that burning coal is like burning money, they will replace coal. Only when graduates think that war is no better than bullying, they will stop sending troops. And only when graduates think that empathy is a more valuable trait than greed will they stop the never-ending rat race for even more. Or would such globally common values limit the long-term opportunity of others, denying them their Desired Future?

When individuals come to a new host-country, both the individual and the host-country must adapt. But when one culture invades another, it will eventually find that the invading culture only can serve like varnish. The original culture is still there, like wood under the varnish, and the varnish will stop the wood from breathing and moving, causing it to swell and rot from below rather than to live and thrive. Eventually the varnish will crack up, and the most swollen and rotten bits of the wood will stick out the most.

To some an 'opportunity' may mean to travel the world. To another it may mean to seek solitude in a temple or monastery. Both opportunities shall be equally possible to achieve. Only then do we have true 'equality'.



Leif Thomas Olsen
Leif is a former management- and management-training consultant turned property investor. During this millennium he also dedicated around half of his time to research on cross- / multicultural interaction, and its socio-economic consequences. A Swede by birth he spent half his life elsewhere and lived in South-East Asia since 1993. In 2005 he completed a Master of Philosophy and a Master of International Relations.



The Future Now Show

with Saro Van Cleynenbreugel


What is aquaponics and how can we use it as a tool for food production. This is a short introduction to aquaponics, to get your imagination going.






Saro Van Cleynenbreugel
Freelance at Zone5
the Netherlands

Felix B Bopp
Producer of The Future Now Show

The Future Now Show

You can find The Future Now Show also at

LinkedIn: The Future Now Show Group
YouTube: The Future Now Show Channel


Article 02

A global carbon removal industry is coming – experts explain the problems it must overcome
by Johanna Forster, University of East Anglia and Naomi Vaughan, University of East Anglia

Johanna Forster Naomi Vaughan

Each of its carbon-sucking units is the size of a shipping container, yet the world’s largest direct air capture machine – the Orca plant in Iceland – only captures and stores about 4,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. That’s about three seconds’ worth of global emissions.

Still, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that technologies that remove CO2 from the air like this will be needed alongside deep cuts in emissions to reduce global warming. In fact, climate scientists modelling pathways for stabilising warming at 1.5°C (the goal of the Paris agreement) assume that a carbon removal industry based around one method may need to be around 40% the size of the current fossil fuel industry.

There are several ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere. One is called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or Beccs. Here, vast acres of fast-growing plants are grown and then harvested and burned to generate electricity or make biofuel for vehicles. Beccs can even use waste from farms or timber plantations. The carbon normally released during the burning or fermentation stage is instead captured and pumped underground in old oil and gas wells or deep rock formations called saline aquifers. These storage sites can be beneath land (which is common in the US) or the seabed. There are over 20 years of experience in storing CO2 under the Norwegian North Sea, for instance.

Attempts to calculate how much carbon removal is possible often address how much it will cost, or how much carbon can realistically be extracted from the atmosphere. This can be done by assessing the land area available to produce biomass crops, or the size of underground reservoirs for storing the gas.

But what scientists often overlook when predicting the future capacity of these technologies is how society will need to change to accommodate them. For instance, what will a sudden change to how land is used mean for communities and livelihoods? How can increasing demand for land to grow food or restore habitat be reconciled with the need to produce lots of biomass for Beccs? And who should even be able to make these decisions for them to be considered fair and ethical?

If world leaders at the UN climate summit in Glasgow fail to address these questions, they run the risk of making overly optimistic judgments about how much CO2 it’s possible to remove. If it transpires that the international community cannot rely on these technologies as much as climate modelling suggests we need to, then society will need to decarbonise even faster to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Social and political issues matter

There is only one demonstration Beccs project operating in the world today, in Illinois, USA. Alongside other researchers, we talked to experts working in sectors like forestry and energy to understand what’s needed to bring this new industry to life.

These experts are aware of large-scale bioenergy projects, such as those cultivating sugar cane ethanol in Brazil, which have deprived local people of land and destroyed native habitat. Many of them worry that a global Beccs industry that developed from these practices would exacerbate inequality by, for example, reducing access to food and ultimately fail to remove carbon from the atmosphere by actually increasing deforestation. The UK’s largest power plant for generating energy from biomass, Drax, mostly imports wood chips from North America, while UK farmers grow grass for use in a handful of smaller-scale power plants. But as the UK develops a Beccs industry, rising demand for bioenergy could mean the cheapest and most exploitative sources win out.

A road bisects a sugar cane crop with a refinery in the distance.
Sugar cane grown for ethanol production in Brazil. Mailsonpignata/Shutterstock

The experts were also unsure about whether there is even enough free land to accommodate expanding bioenergy crops. Many voiced concerns about the consequences for the rights of people living in and working on land that is earmarked for Beccs.

Some experts doubted there was sufficient political support – capable of transcending short-term electoral cycles – to pull off the necessary innovation to build carbon capture and storage capacity in the UK. This technology is needed not just for Beccs, but to decarbonise heavy industry, including steel manufacturing and chemicals.

We found that these social and political obstacles were rarely represented, if at all, in models of the global potential for carbon removal. Of course, some of these things can’t be modelled. Models aren’t usually designed to incorporate the nuances of decision-making at national, regional and local levels, or the importance of cultural and spiritual values that people endow landscapes.

World leaders need a more complete picture of the complexity we know exists in the real world before embarking on the construction of a global carbon removal industry. Making this happen is as much a question of who pays to remove the carbon and who has a say in how the land is managed, as details about technology. If the political and social limitations are not better understood, then it is hard to imagine how these carbon removal pipe dreams will get off the ground.



Johanna Forster, Lecturer in Environment and International Development, University of East Anglia and Naomi Vaughan, Senior Lecturer in Climate Change, University of East Anglia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.


News about the Future

> Water Harmony
> Carbfix

Water Harmony

Water Harmony is a concept initiated by Harsha Ratnaweera, a professor in Water Technology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), and his colleagues. The vision of Water Harmony is to harmonise water related graduate education across the globe; to continuously and collectively improve the global quality of water-related education through sharing of best practices. In this process, emerging challenges in the water industry and the resulting research, developments and innovations are also addressed.






Carbfix provides a natural and permanent storage solution by turning CO2 into stone underground in less than two years.

The Carbfix process captures and permanently removes CO2. The technology provides a complete carbon capture and storage solution, where CO2 dissolved in water – a sparkling-water of sorts – is injected into the subsurface where it reacts with favourable rock formations to form solid carbonate minerals via natural processes.

Carbfix is a research and innovation driven technology which has, since 2007, been led by Reykjavik Energy, the University of Iceland and CNRS in Toulouse, as well as several other universities and research institutes. The Carbfix process has been applied to significantly reduce CO2 and H2S emissions from the Hellisheiði Power Plant since 2014, following successful pilot-scale injections in 2012. The technology can be adapted to other carbon emitting industries, such as steel, iron and cement production.

Carbfix has been operated as an independent subsidiary of Reykjavík Energy since 2019. It has been proven to be an economic and environmentally friendly solution for the permanent removal of these gases.


Article 03

The Real Cost of Nuclear Energy
By Except Integrated Sustainability,
Ariana Bain, Industrial and Urban Ecologist, Eva Gladek, Industrial Ecologist, Marten J. Witkamp, Strategy & Communication, Tom Bosschaert,
Director, Rebecca Blum

October 10, 2011

Nuclear energy has recently seen national policies and public opinion turn in its favor. Governments around the world, including Italy and Sweden, are lifting bans on new plant construction. Not alone in the developing world, India and China are pursuing ambitious expansions of their nuclear power programs.

According to a 2010 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, 20 countries without nuclear power plants are expected to have nuclear power on line by 2030 (1). Headlines such as “Nuclear’s Great Expectations” (2), “Power up! The rise of the nuclear option” (3) and “Going Nuclear” (4) attest to a paradigmatic shift from looking at nuclear (fission) energy as a 20th century problem towards seeing it as a 21st century solution. In the Netherlands plans to construct two new nuclear power plants are in an advanced stage, seemingly undeterred by the Fukishima events.

Stirring the debate

The last couple of decades have given rise to a powerful coalition of nuclear industry representatives and environmental lobbyists arguing that nuclear is our only path forward if we wish to secure a stable energy future while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

They point out the shortcomings of renewable energy sources while insisting that once valid safety concerns are overstated or even outdated due to advances in technology. Nuclear energy has the allure of 'the easy way out' to the double bind of climate change and energy-security challenges.

The public looks inclined to accept this line of reasoning for lack of a believable alternative. Fukushima is unlikely to change this, all blame having been placed on its older plant technology. Because the discussion on the rights and wrongs of nuclear energy has been held so often, and for so many years, the public is in danger of conceding to the pro-nuclear lobbying simply because they are tired of the debate.

That is understandable, nuclear energy holds a vast promise that warrants serious consideration. However, nuclear energy plants bear such fundamental risks that decisions regarding its implementation warrant painstaking investigation, today as much as 30 years ago.

If we choose to invest in nuclear power, we should do so with a full understanding of its implications. This article sets out five critical points of investigation that are frequently missed or misrepresented, and touches on a long term perspective on nuclear energy and its alternatives.

1. Climate

The primary 'environmental' argument for nuclear power hinges on its low greenhouse gas emissions. While it is true that its emissions are lower than from traditional fossil fuels, wind and hydroelectric power still produce vastly less greenhouse gas.

Across the entire life cycle of producing nuclear energy, typical LWR and HWR reactors lead to an average of 65 g CO2 per kWh - or, in other words, about 250.000 ton of CO2 per year for 485 MW Borssele. Wind and hydroelectric power cause on average 20 g CO2 per kWh, while coal and oil lead to 600-1200 g per kWh (5).

With the very challenging carbon reduction schedules that we have ahead of us, and the life span of nuclear power plants in mind, is nuclear's lower greenhouse gas emissions low enough to mitigate climate change?

2. Fresh water

Some of nuclear power's more serious impacts are found upstream in the fuel life cycle, in the mining and ore refining stages.

One of the greatest resource shortages of the coming decades is predicted to be fresh water access. Nuclear power could exacerbate this issue, particularly in vulnerable areas, since almost 60% of uranium is mined in drought sensitive nations - most notably Australia, Kazakhstan, Namibia, and Niger.

During the mining process, the extraction and purification of the uranium ore requires enormous amounts of water. Subsequently, during operation, nuclear power plants consume roughly 2.3 to 2.8 liters of water per kWh (6), or approximately 6-12 billion liters per year for a Borssele-sized plant (7), which is 20-83% more than coal-fired plants.

The direct impacts of water consumption are augmented by the often overlooked impacts of contamination. Greenpeace reports that water samples collected near a mine in North-eastern Brazil, within what is officially termed the “direct influence area,”, contained uranium levels seven times higher than the WHO-approved levels (8).

3. Radioactive waste

Despite reports of 'safe storage' by energy companies, there is no generally accepted method for dealing with radioactive waste.

Waste-disposal options have been identified even by supporters of nuclear power technologies as a serious stumbling block to sustainability. Nuclear energy leaves behind a radioactive wake at every step of the process, from mining to reactor operation to plant-decommission. The mining process leaves behind radioactive dust – tailings – that contain isotopes with half lives of up to 80,000 years (9).

Mining and milling results in thousands of tons of tailings. Although much of this dust is unlikely to cause significant damage to the skin, it is often inhaled, introducing radioactive material into the body. Mining landscapes hence become unusable for countless generations.

In most parts of the world, laws are in place that commits companies that mine radioactive material to clean and protect contaminated areas for hundreds of years. Interestingly, mining companies have an unfortunate way of disappearing when the time comes to start cleaning up. Central Asia and Eastern Europe are littered with former Soviet uranium mines. Because the former state-owned mining companies no longer exist, it is impossible to enforce the liability for clean-up (10).

The problem is not confined to the former Soviet Union. The United States' largest Native American reservation, the Navajo Nation, has more than 500 open abandoned uranium mines currently being assessed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (some estimates put the total number at over 1,000) (11).

The cancer death rate on the reservation — historically much lower than that of the general U.S. population — doubled from the early 1970s to the late 1990s, even while the overall U.S. cancer death rate declined slightly during that same period (12).

After mining, milling and enrichment, which produces still more tailings, the story of radioactivity becomes increasingly grim. Reactor operation results in contaminated structural components. A typical 1,000 MW nuclear power plant annually produces about 13 tonnes of medium level radioactive structural material.

Additionally, it results in highly radioactive spent fuels – the type that is currently causing much distress in Japan – that must be cooled down, reprocessed and stored somewhere.

Finally, plant decommissioning results in about 10,000 tonnes of medium to high level radioactive waste and an additional 10,000 tons of low to medium radioactive waste, that again must be disposed of.

4. Costs

The costly long-term commitment to the storage and handling of radioactive waste is coupled with the process of plant construction itself. The cost of a reactor is extremely high, mainly because of measures to improve security.

It also, however, is dependent on an unreliable supply chain, since the long pause in nuclear reactor construction has led to a global shortage of sufficiently knowledgeable and experienced engineers.

A multi-billion new French reactor currently under construction was recently revised upwards by twenty percent and faces significant delay. Meanwhile, the commissioning of the Finnish Olkiluoto 3 reactor was recently postponed from 2009 to 2013, while its estimated price tag ballooned by fifty percent (13).

As Time magazine has so succinctly summarized, “no nuclear plant has ever been completed within budget”.

In terms of potential severity and irreversibility of impact, a nuclear disaster outweighs almost any other kind of industrial meltdown. For that reason, insurance companies refuse to take up nuclear power plants as clients.

It has been estimated that a Chernobyl or Fukushima type disaster in Germany could cost the country as much as 5 trillion euros, almost twice the GDP (14). Who is to carry that liability? Indeed, it is the state, who thereby heavily subsidizes nuclear energy.

While nuclear plants are certainly designed to never let such a disaster occur, history has shown us that the unthinkable does happen in industrial management.

5. Nuclear uses finite fuels

Nuclear energy, which is entirely dependent on the mining and use of a particular uranium isotope, is not a renewable source of energy.

Estimates vary over how long the world could keep splitting uranium atoms to keep its nuclear plants running. If we choose to invest in nuclear power and significantly increase its output, it is possible that we will fall short of the 200 year depletion projection (15).

Without a doubt, however, we will be locked into a vulnerable, centralized energy infrastructure that finds its finite fuel on just a few places on earth and that must be secured through foreign policy, massive investment, long supply chains and intensive technological processing. In short, it will lock us into where we already are.

A long term view

We have spent the last one hundred years living in a bounty of almost infinite energy. The fossil fuel bonanza of coal, oil, and natural gas has allowed our global society to develop at an unprecedented rate, with our population and consumption booming to match.

It is impossible to ignore the benefits of concentrated energy. But it is also impossible to ignore the fact that we will eventually need to adjust our patterns of consumption to fit renewable energy fluxes. Right now, we are faced with a choice that will define the next 50 years of energy policy. Do we choose to invest in nuclear energy, or do we want to invest in renewable energy?

Nuclear energy, although it emits far less greenhouse gases than coal and gas powered plants, comes with a high price: the fresh water use, radioactive tailings, the potential for catastrophic accidents, its radioactive waste and the permanent need for heavy state subsidies.

Also, it needs a centralized, costly, vulnerable and politicized infrastructure.

Better than renewables?

Renewable energy sources, meanwhile, emit similar or even lower levels of greenhouse gas. They hardly use any water, are not radioactive, can typically cause only small scale accidents and will only need state subsidies for as long as coal, gas and nuclear are also still subsidized.

More fundamentally, the move to renewable energy represents a choice for a more decentralized energy supply. One that can be harvested anywhere in the world, that supports local autonomy and that creates a more resilient energy supply and, consequently, society.

This 'resiliency' is a major a factor of energy security, therefore while some renewable energy sources have variable energy output profiles, their society-level security is higher than any centralized power source, be it gas, coal, fission or even fusion.

It is clear that the end of our fossil fuel bonanza poses us difficult questions. How do we want to go forth from here? Investing in nuclear power is a long-term commitment, that will tie up limited resources and bind us to a 50 year long path of action that is risky and costly at best, catastrophic at worst.

Is that really what we want? The dearth of public discourse surrounding this major decision is worrisome. Nuclear power is offered as a way to achieve the short term goals governments have set, but it does not offer long term perspective.

It seems that, if all things are considered properly, and the true value for society is taken into account, Nuclear power cannot be seen as a way forward.

Eva Gladek M.E.M., Tom Bosschaert M.Sc. M.Arch., Rebecca Blum M.Sc., Marten Witkamp M.Sc., Ariana Bain M.E.Sc
Except Integrated Sustainability


1 - IAEA, "International Status and Prospects of Nuclear Power" , Report by the Director General, 2010,

2 - IAEA, 2008,

3 - CBC, 2006,

4 - "Washington Post" , 2006,

5 - Manfred Lenzen, “Life Cycle Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Nuclear Energy: A Review,” Energy Conversion and Management 49 (2008)

6 - Jim Green, “Impacts of Nuclear Power and Uranium Mining on Water Resources,” Friends of the Earth Australia,

2 May 2010,

7 - Guy Woods (Department of Parliamentary Services), December 4, 2006, "Water requirements of nuclear power stations", Research Note no. 12, 2006–07, ISSN 1449-8456

8 - Greenpeace, Cycle of danger: impacts of nuclear fuel production in Brazil, (October 2008), Greenpeace International, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Briefing available online at

9 - Peter Waggitt, Residual Safety in the Uranium Mining Cycle. Waste Safety Section, IAEA, (October, 2007). PDF

10 - Simon Webster and Jan Vrijen, The Legacy of Uranium Mining in Central and Eastern Europe. International Symposium on the Uranium Production Cycle and the Environment, (October, 2000), Vienna, Austria.

11 - Francie Diep, “Abandoned Uranium Mines: An 'Overwhelming Problem' in the Navajo Nation” (December 30, 2010), Scientific American, available online at

12 - Judy Pasternak. “The Peril That Dwelt Among the Navajos,” Los Angeles Times, November 19, 2006, 1. Accessed August 31, 2009.,0,1645689.story

13 - James Kanter. In Finland, Nuclear Renaissance Runs Into Trouble, The New York Times, May 29, 2009.

14 - Lalon Sander, Nuclear Power is Not the Way Forward, BD News 24, Mar 30, 2011

15 - Steve Fetter, How long will the world's uranium supplies last? Scientific American, 29 Jan 2009,



Recommended Book

The Future of Water: A Startling Look Ahead
By Steve Maxwell, Scott Yates

We are rushing headlong into a global water crisis of calamitous proportions. The twin challenges of water quantity and water quality represent an inexorable planetary disaster. It may not have the sudden impact of the asteroid, but its ultimate effect may be just as dire.

However, it is not too late to prevent catastrophe. In The Future of Water: A Startling Look Ahead the authors present possible–indeed, probable–scenarios for the broad trends that will have a significant impact upon future water challenges–population, economic growth, energy, climate, pollution, and more. Discover what might be in store for us and how individuals, water utilities, industries, and countries can change the future of water.

“Steve Maxwell takes us straight into the realities of the water crisis that is now spreading through all parts of the country, and indeed the entire world.”
From the Foreword by Bruce Babbit, former US Secretary of the Interior

Steve Maxwell

Steve Maxwell is a semi-retired business executive, writer and journalist, and the founder of The Outer Line - a media platform which covers the structural, economic, governance and ethical aspects of professional sports. He was also one of the founders and original investors in Pocket Outdoor Media - now known as Outside Communications - the leading media company in endurance sports, which publishes VeloNews and some 20 other titles in endurance sports, outdoor activities and healthy living. He remains a shareholder in Outside Communications, and is a regular editorial contributor to VeloNews. He is involved with a wide variety of activities around international cycling, including film-making initiatives, commissions on women's cycling, and professional race events.

For some 25 years previously, Maxwell was Managing Director of TechKNOWLEDGEy Strategic Group, a transaction advisory and management consulting firm serving the the environmental and water resource industries, and he is still active in water resource development projects. Before that, he served as VP of Marketing for the environmental services company USPCI; Manager of Strategic Planning for Union Pacific Corporation; and Executive VP of Recra Environmental, an environmental testing firm. Maxwell also worked for several years as a key advisor to Summit Global Management, a prominent investment firm and hedge fund operator in the global water industry.

He is the author of "The Future of Water" (2011) – an in-depth and layman's look at the future of our global water challenges – "The Business of Water" (2008) and hundreds of articles on water resources and environmental issues. He has also written widely on various economic and political issues surrounding international sport. He serves on various boards and speaks often at industry conferences.

In 2013, Maxwell became just the 10th American to successfully complete the legendary cycling climb Mont Ventoux, in southern France, from all four directions in one day. He has won his age group category in the Bolder Boulder, the largest 10K race in the country, and in 2018 he cycled 3,400 miles across the United States. Maxwell holds Masters Degrees in both Public Policy and in Geological Sciences from Harvard University, and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Earlham College. He and his wife Susan have two grown children and reside in Boulder, CO and Annapolis, MD.


Scott Yates

Startup founder and mentor, currently working to fight disinformation. I'm still a Daylight Saving Time activist, and I'll always be a journalist at heart.

I'm currently leading, a nonprofit that is the caretaker of the trust.txt framework for identifying the associations of a news publisher as a signal of trustworthiness.

And I'm also the guy trying to fix Daylight Saving Time leading the #LockTheClock movement.

Before that I started three companies. I've made money for investors, created new jobs, and solved what seemed like intractable problems. I love that perhaps most of all.

Before that I was a writer and reporter, and worked in communications for the state government and I ran a think tank, wrote a book, served as a ghostwriter for a governor.


Article 04

The EU’s Green Deal: opportunities, threats and risks for South African agriculture
By Wandile Sihlobo, Stellenbosch University and Tinashe Kapuya, Bureau for Food and Agricural Policy


Wandile Sihlobo Tinashe Kapuya


Getty Images

Wandile Sihlobo, Senior Lecturer Extraordinary, Department of Agricultural Economics, Stellenbosch University and Tinashe Kapuya, Research Associate, Bureau for Food and Agricural Policy

The European Union – among a host of other countries – is seeking to implement urgent policy measures to combat the effects of climate change. In its 2030 climate target plan, the EU aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% from 1990 levels.

To that end, the EU has crafted the “Farm to Fork strategy”. Launched in 2020, it is a new approach that ensures that agriculture, fisheries, and the entire food system effectively contributes to achieving the target. The strategy is at the core of a broader initiative, the European Green Deal. It’s aim is to reduce the environmental and carbon footprint in the way food is produced and consumed.

The strategy lists 27 actions. These cover food production, processing, retailing, and waste. They aren’t expected to be implemented until 2022, to give regulators and food system actors time to transition into the new policy regime.

It has four broad pillars:

  • Consumer demand. This focuses on nutritional labelling and creating a sustainable labelling framework that covers nutrition, climate, environment and social aspects of food products. The labelling requirements are intended to empower consumers to make conscious decisions about health and sustainability.

  • Food production. This sets out the fundamentals for sustainable production by setting targets that reduce the use of fertilisers and pesticides and the revision of legislation covering feed additives and animal welfare.

  • Industry behaviour. This seeks concrete commitments from agribusiness and other food-system actors concerning health and sustainability. The EU will develop a code of conduct on the development of business and marketing practices and require agribusiness to integrate sustainability into their corporate strategies.

  • Trade policy. This seeks commitment from third countries on the use of pesticides and animal welfare and the fight against microbial resistance.

The EU is seeking to compel other countries, including South Africa, to adhere to new regulations if they want to continue to access its lucrative market. This raises questions about the capacity and potential for South Africa to adapt, as well as the risks and opportunities that the regulations present to future access to the EU market.

The challenges?

South African producers – as well as those in the rest of Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique – may face several challenges. These include:

Regulatory and policy uncertainty: It might take some time for regulators and food-system actors to align their policy, regulations, and business decisions to the emerging requirements of the food system. Policy cycles and political processes can impose a lag-time of anywhere between 3 and 5 years. This is likely to lead to a transition phase of regulatory and policy uncertainty.

High costs of compliance: Over the years, South African agribusinesses have had to conform to stringent EU regulatory standards. There has also been an ever-increasing set of private standards. These range from traceability, to exposure to allergens, good farming practice and child labour, to name just a few. It also includes various kinds of certification. Resource-poor farming households can seldom afford such high costs of adopting new regulations and certification. Without financial support, most smallholder farmers will inevitably be excluded from participating in export markets.

But there are opportunities too.

Potential growth points

One area in which there may be room for South Africa to grow market share is in genetically modified (GM) foods. South Africa produces some GM crops. But the EU currently has very tight restrictions on the GM imports. However, it is currently reviewing its GM regulations. It has released a study confirming that new genomic techniques products have the potential to contribute to sustainable agri-food systems in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy.

A change in its policy could open up new export avenues for South Africa.

Another area of growth is in high value organically produced food. South Africa has existing commercially driven export value chains that already conform to emerging rules in this sector. However, these foods are still targeted at niche markets in the EU. But the Farm to Fork Strategy seeks to make them mainstream. This is can be an opportunity for South Africa if farmers can begin to produce higher volumes at a relatively competitive price.

Another opportunity arises from projections that global food demand will increase by as much as 60% by 2050. Few EU member states can allocate enough land to produce and match supply to meet this demand. The assumption, therefore, is that the EU will increasingly depend on food imports.

South Africa has at least 1.3 million hectares of additional cropland that can be sustainably brought into production.

Against this backdrop, South Africa can continue to expand its production to meet an increasingly significant portion of the EU’s food needs. This is especially so if local food systems adapt and align to standards to meet any new regulatory standards.

But the country’s agricultural sector will also have to up its game when it comes to technological innovation. Technical change will have to involve the adoption of technologies that will reduce the carbon footprint of the agro-food system as well as increase yields in a sustainable way.

Part of that process will be to expand the adoption of high-yielding, drought- and pest-tolerant genetically engineered crops. These will enable farmers to use less land to produce more food. This will also allow for more land to be set aside for preservation and increase the potential for carbon sequestration.

The risks

Increased inequality: There need to be deliberate and strategic interventions that support regulatory compliance. Without these there is a real chance that resource-poor farmers will be left out of the new “sustainable agro-food system” due to their lack of financial and technical capacity to conform to new standards.

This will only serve to deepen the inequality gap and widen the divergence between the informal and formal food systems. The first mover advantage for EU value-chain actors may potentially displace sub-Saharan African exporters in markets if adoption of regulations takes more time than initially envisaged.

Off-shoring of “bad production” to South Africa: Food producers who cannot comply with the provisions of the Farm to Fork strategy could potentially relocate parts of their value chain to South Africa, targeting exports to the Middle East, and the Far East and Asia where food standards are far less stringent. Without any pressure to comply to environmental sustainability, the types of technologies that will be implemented in South Africa may hurt the continent in the long run.

Next steps

The four key factors that will drive the re-set of the food system through the Farm to Fork strategy will be:

  • technical change;

  • business model innovation;

  • growing food demand; and

  • policy and regulation.

The EU and the private sector may need to provide significant technical and financial support to facilitate South Africa’s transition and align its regulatory environment with the focus on health and sustainability.

In the long run, the expectation is that with the harmonisation of standards and practices will also come structural change of the food system in such a way that value chain profits are not disproportionately accumulated at the expense of farmers. This will require higher levels of transparency across all parts and aspects of the South African food system.


Wandile Sihlobo, Senior Lecturer Extraordinary, Department of Agricultural Economics, Stellenbosch University and Tinashe Kapuya, Research Associate, Bureau for Food and Agricural Policy

This is an edited version of an article, The EU Green Deal: how will it impact South African agricultural exports?, originally published by Econ 3x3 The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.


Climate Change Success Story


Biobased economy, bioeconomy or biotechonomy refers to economic activity involving the use of biotechnology and biomass in the production of goods, services, or energy. ... This includes the application of scientific and technological developments to agriculture, health, chemical, and energy industries.

The Bioeconomy includes primary production, such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, and industries using / processing biological resources, such as the food and pulp and paper industries and parts of the chemical, biotechnological and energy industries.


European Commission
Research and innovation

The Bioeconomy represents market estimated to be worth over EUR 2 trillion, providing 20 million jobs and accounting for 9 % of total employment in the Union in 2009. Investments in research and innovation will enable Europe to take leadership in the concerned markets and will play a role in achieving the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy and its Innovation Union and Resource Efficient Europe flagship initiatives. Managed in a sustainable manner, the Bioeconomy can also sustain a wide range of public goods, including biodiversity and ecosystem services. It can reduce the environmental footprint of primary production and the supply chain as a whole. It can increase their competitiveness, enhance Europe's self-reliance and provide jobs and business opportunities. The bioeconomy can contribute to build a more competitive, innovative and prosperous Europe.

Every euro invested in Bioeconomy research and innovation under Horizon 2020 will generate about €10 in value added. It will also contribute to the Commission's Europe 2020 goal on moving to a low-carbon economy by 2050 and to the flagship initiatives "Innovation Union" and "A Resource Efficient Europe".


RUN (Rural Urban Nutrient Partnership)

By closing regional nutrient and resource cycles, RUN contributes to the sustainability and resilience of agricultural systems in the bachdrop of urban structures. An essential element of the project is the estabishment of regional nutrient partnerships between urban residents and farmers. They shall support the long-term recycling of nutrients in society.

The structure of the project is similar to a real laboratory: In the city of Heidelberg, a pilot plant as well as an information and experience space are planned to be installed in order to demonstrate the undertaking. In this way, new technologies can be tested directly under real-time conditions and with the participation of relevant actors. RUN combines the research of innovative technologies, the analysis of material flow models, systemic scenario analysis and socio-scientific participatory methods to develop sustainable solutions.


The Helmholtz Association
pursues the long-term research goals of the state and society, including basic research, in scientific autonomy.

About the Helmholtz Association

  • Germany’s largest research organization
  • Named after Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894), one of the last great scientific generalists
  • Annual budget of ~ € 4,7 billion
  • ~ 40,000 employees
  • World-Class science infrastructure
  • 19 independent research centers all over Germany
  • Our research plays a key role in identifying reliable answers that benefit society, science, and the economy.
  • The Helmholtz Association’s six fields of research focus on the major societal challenges of our time – such as the digital revolution, climate change, energy transition, transport in the future and the battle against severe and widespread diseases – and work on developing sustainable solutions for the future. In doing so, Helmholtz covers the entire spectrum from basic to application-oriented research whilst applying an interdisciplinary approach.
  • The Helmholtz Association cooperates with leading research institutions at the national and international level and is committed to the highest standards of talent management at all levels and the promotion of early-career researchers.
  • New knowledge can only benefit society and the economy if it is transferred and therefore made usable. For this reason, transferring knowledge and technology and promoting innovation are of extraordinary importance to us.
  • 400 new patents are filed every year
  • Approx. 20 new high-tech spin-offs per year


“Our mission is to contribute to a bioeconomy that delivers sustainably produced foodstuffs and renewable resources while also reducing the environmental footprint of the world’s population.”

It is one of the key questions that will shape our future: How can we build a sustainable economy that meets humanity’s needs while at the same time not putting the Earth’s natural resources under excess strain? And moreover, how can we achieve this when, in 2050, there might be almost ten billion people living on our planet? The answers to these questions could lie in a sustainable bioeconomy and thus in an intact circular economy. Instead of consuming food, chemicals, and energy sources based on natural resources to excess, as has been the case up to now, we must find ways of using natural resources sustainably. This means handling raw materials and products with care, using them for as long as possible, and recycling them at the end of their service life to recover materials or energy. Taking these steps helps ecosystems to continue to provide their functions and services and reduces the pressure on the atmosphere, water, and biodiversity.

It is therefore our goal to develop new technologies in the field of plant genotypes, bioinformatics, biotechnology, and soil and water management. This means, for example, studying plant genotypes and agricultural management options that can be used to increase agricultural yields but at the same time require less fertilizer and less irrigation. We also want to analyze the genetic and biochemical properties of microbes and microbial communities, for example, in order to grow CO2-fixing bacteria or break down biomass in biorefineries to produce usable raw materials.

(...) One area of focus involves agroecosystems, which, on the one hand, are important locations for the production of food and, on the other, have a key role to play in terms of biodiversity. We aim to develop practical solutions and technologies for these systems that farmers can use to protect the environment and at the same time produce sufficient yields from their fields.

(...) Helmholtz is active in the five primary areas: quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum sensing, quantum materials and basic research, as well as simulation and numerical methods. In addition, Helmholtz develops, builds, and operates powerful infrastructures for researching quantum technologies.

Helmholtz Quantum
A task like landing on the moon

Quantum technologies will revolutionize the economy and society in the future. Helmholtz is pooling its expertise in the field and creating a unique platform.

Thousands of researchers around the world are working on a gigantic goal: a new kind of computer that cracks tasks that all classical computers fail at. The bizarre laws of quantum physics are supposed to help the "quantum computer" achieve incredible computing speeds. Today, utopian breakthroughs await, for example in materials research, in the optimization of highly complex logistics or traffic flows, or in the simulation of chemical reactions. For example, the quantum computer could provide the key to a more climate-friendly production process for artificial fertilizers.

Helmholtz Association Cross-Programme Initiative: Sustainable Bioeconomy
The vision is a natural circle of a sustainable Bioeconomy with the promise of a worldwide supply of food and an extraction of high qualitative products out of renewable materials.


  • to develop integrated approaches as the basis for sustainable Bioeconomy routes addressing the grand challenges mentioned above
  • to advance the required knowledge about biological system and the processing of biobased resource
  • to develop technical and socio-economic sound solutions based on scientific knowledge about biological systems and processing of biomass to develop novel bio-based products that provide innovative characteristics (e.g. chemical products, novel bio-based materials) and thus are competitive on market
  • to provide resource stewardship and sustainable and resilient ecosystem function including mitigation and adaptation to climate change through alternative options for a fossil based economy
  • to address national as well as the global challenges of food security and safety, provision of non-fossil resources, natural resource stewardship as well as bioenergy options integrated into a future sustainable energy mix

The Strategy is to achieve this by

  • developing novel and quantitative key technologies to utilise plants and microbes as well as their interaction as major bio-resources for a sustainable bioeconomy
  • executing analysis of the impact of practices of biomass production on soil, water and landscape, and develop options for sustainable provision of ecosystem services and towards resilient land use system
  • developing efficient processing and conversion technologies of biomass (including biobased waste) for sustainable bioenergy options
  • developing integrated approaches along entire value chains aiming at zero- or minimal waste, cascade and multi-product utilisation of biomass, integrated biorefinery approaches and closed loop designs of bioeconomy cycles

Structurally this will be achieved

  • by integrating the wide range of scientific expertise within the Helmholtz Association in the five programs of “Key Technology for the Bioeconomy”, “Terrestrial Environment”, „Atmosphere and Climate“, „Renewable Energy" and “Technology, Innovation and Society” including major contributions from five Helmholtz research centers. In addition aspects of Bioeconomy and Human Heath are addressed.
  • by developing, using and providing unique technologies and technology platforms
  • by cooperating with non-Helmholtz research in universities and non-university research organization, with industry, policy makers and civil society



Bioeconomy World Map
by German Bioeconomy Council

© 2021 German Bioeconomy Council



Futurist Portrait

Matthew Griffin
The Adviser behind the Advisers

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is a world class futurist and the founder and CEO of the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures advisory, and the World Futures Forum and XPotential University, two philanthropic organisations whose mission it is to reduce global inequality, in all its forms, and ensure the benefits of the future are accessible to everyone, irrespective of their abilities or background. He is also the author of the futuristic “Codex of the Future” series, and the book "How to Build Exponential Enterprises."

Regularly featured in the global media, including the AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, Telegraph, ViacomCBS, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future.


Matthew Griffin: "THERE’S A REASON why we call our planet the “Blue Planet,” and why NASA astrologists in 1990 called it the “Pale Blue Dot” when they looked at the iconic satellite imagery taken from Voyager 1 as it turned one last time to take a photo of the Earth hanging seemingly motionless against the black void of space from a distance of over 6 Billion km, or 3.7 Billion miles. It’s because we’re a water planet."

Source: ESA



The Future of Water by Futurist Keynote Speaker Matthew Griffin

Can we avoid future Water Conflicts and Water Wars? Are 5 Billion people destined to be affected by chronic water shortages? Or do we have solutions today that solve one of the world's greatest challenges?
Read the report to find out (and the answer BTW is "Yes we have solutions!")



The Future isn't Digital by Keynote Futurist Speaker Matthew Griffin

The future of digital and digital transformation is a top of mind topic for almost every executive in every industry – from the likes of JP Morgan Chase who are spending $13 Billion a year on what their Global Head of Strategy calls a “Once in a generation opportunity,” to the sole proprietors and entrepreneurs who see it as a way to conduct business anywhere in the world seamlessly and without borders.

Digital is the business opportunity – and threat – that noone can ignore so it was with some aplomb that I chose to tell the distinguished audience that the future, in fact, was not digital – it’s much, much more.

As we see the adoption and development of faster computers and cloud and edge computing platforms, 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Twins, Internet of Things, the Metaverse, as well as Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality, let alone so called MXR – sensory immersive reality technologies – the future isn’t going to be “just” digital. It’s going to be a coming together – a unification – of the digital, physical, and virtual worlds. And the opportunities that this gives rise to – as you can see from the keynote – to change everything from the way products are designed and sold and beyond, mean that becoming a digital organisation is only the beginning of a fantastic journey.

Sit back, chat with your AI companion, get your robot to grab you a beer from the fridge and rewind and replay the video.





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