Managing the Global Commons: Sustainable Agriculture and Use of World’s Land and Water Resources

Today our planet sustains more human life at a given time than ever before. By 2050, the global population is estimated to reach new staggering heights, just short of 10 billion.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an appeal to all nations to tackle this global grand challenge.

Of the 17 goals laid out by the UN, eight are closely tied to water, food and land. Can the future demands for food, fuel, clean water, biodiversity, climate change mitigation and poverty reduction be reconciled?

This is precisely the question that Tom Hertel and his team seek to answer. Hertel and his team maintain that the sustainability is fundamentally a local concept, yet is driven by global forces. Pursuit of the SDGs will also have global consequences, and analysis of these complex issues requires a holistic approach.

Research in sustainability issues has been conducted in the past, but Hertel says it lacks shared resources, a clear approach and long-term research goals.

Hertel’s team aims to develop an interdisciplinary applied research consortium, which will analyze impact scenarios and explore policy alternatives that promote responsible public and private investment; sustainable management of critical, shared natural resources; and collective action toward meeting the SDGs.

The team will a three-step approach: establish flagship examples, produce policy briefs, and create infrastructure and open-source tools. The framework Hertel’s team proposes is seamless, transparent, flexible and replicable. The on-campus resources and members of Hertel’s team provide a unique combination of strengths in agriculture, computer science, engineering, hydrology, climate and global economic analysis. “There are lots of different directions this could go; it is a big idea!” he said.

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“There are lots of different directions this could go; it is a big idea!” Hertel says.

Read full Purdue Newsroom press release

Team Photos

Principal Investigator: Thomas Hertel, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics; Executive Director, Center for Global Trade Analysis

Team: Uris L.C. Baldos, research assistant professor, agricultural economics; Laura Bowling, professor of agronomy; Keith Cherkauer, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering; Matthew Huber, professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences; David Johnson, assistant professor of industrial engineering and political science; Carol X. Song, Director of Scientific Solutions, ITaP Researching Computing; Dominique van der Mensbrugghe, research professor of agricultural economics; Director, Center for Global Trade Analysis