Next week, on Monday, October 1, the United Nations and the international community celebrate World Habitat Day. This annual celebration is accompanied by discussions surrounding pressing global issues of the 21st century, such as urban development, access to housing, sustainable agriculture, resource management, and climate change.

World Habitat Day and Sustainable Development

Serving as our shared household, the world is not only the place where we live, but also the source of our sustenance through indispensable natural resources, such as water and food. In this regard, several demographic factors create a need for comprehensive policy measures aimed at achieving a sustainable future. Foremost, the 21st century continues to be characterized by an unprecedented demographic growth at a global scale, with a total population that is expected to surpass 9 billion people by 2050. This demographic boom is particularly stark in developing regions, namely Africa and Asia. Likewise, over the last several decades, the world’s population has become increasingly urban. Having already crossed the 50% urbanization threshold in 2009, 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities and major urban centers by 2050.

Thus, the demographic outlook of societies in the 21st century presents a unique challenge for urban habitats because ever-larger concentrations of people mean that more food is needed to keep cities functioning properly. Simultaneously, the question remains as to whether advances in agricultural technologies will be able to compensate for the decrease in rural labor supply and the minimal increase in arable land surface area under cultivation. In fact, one of the principles and challenges highlighted by World Habitat Day is the right of every individual to a decent quality of life, which includes access to the food supply chain. In order for cities and urban centers to be properly integrated into the agricultural supply chain, field productivity needs to increase and productive spaces must be diversified.

In order to overcome these collective challenges successfully, farmers must implement precision farming techniques and consider utilizing responsible biotechnologies. Similarly, sustainable land usage through practices such as agroforestry and regular crop rotation must become widespread. In the specific case of cities, these should incorporate cultivation methods such as hydroponics and hydro-culture into their urban settings in order to contribute to their own food supply. No single sector of innovation within modern agriculture will be the solution to a long-term and sustainable food supply worldwide. Rather, the aggregate production of these many technologies will allow for a food supply chain that reaches everyone, while responsibly preserving the resources of the world’s habitat.

World Habitat Day emphasizes every human being’s right to clean water and reliable electricity as a modern necessity. In this regard, agriculture also represents the key to a sustainable societal model because agriculture and biofuels go hand-in-hand as an important energy source of the 21st century. Moreover, the efficient use and allocation of water is essential to the widespread availability of this precious natural resource, which is used by both agricultural and energy operations.

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