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Contributing author Heidi Packard, MIB 2013

Alumni, students, and professors from the Tufts community descended on The Ritz-Carleton in Boston on Wednesday, April 4 for a networking and informational event entitled Resource Crises: Food, Fuel, and Water Scarcity – The Coming Conflict and Implications for Multinational Business and Finance. Sponsored by the Tufts Financial Network and The Fletcher School’s  Institute for Business in the Global Context (IBGC), the event was the last of a three-part series meant to address current global crises, their impacts, and the opportunities they present for learning and change.

Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti, head of the IBGC and its newest creation, Fletcher’s Master in International Business program, moderated a panel which included three well-known Tufts minds: Kelly Sims Gallagher F00, FG03, associate professor of energy and environmental policy at Fletcher; Richard Vogel E05P, A05P, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Tufts and director of the graduate program in Water: Systems, Science, and Society; and Peter Walker, the Irwin H. Rosenberg Professor of Nutrition and Human Security at The Friedman School and director of Tufts’ Feinstein International Center.

The integrated web that ties together food, fuel and water supplies was the recurring theme of the evening as choices in energy policy can have enormous unintended implications for water consumption. Yet, panelists focused on issues surrounding the efficient distribution of supplies that we already have, rather than the expected topic of scarcity.

“Rather than an energy crisis, we have a crisis in terms of human access to energy,” began Professor Sims Gallagher. “Over 2 billion people in the world are without access to modern energy services. Globally, there are enough sources. They are just unequally distributed.”

Food is no different, as we have problems of hunger and obesity, both of which, according to Professor Walker, represent populations which are not “well-fed.”

The same is true for water. “The issue is a common one: distribution,” said Professor Vogel.

Problems arise when you combine globally-determined prices with local markets. Ultimately the system creates a supply and demand mismatch, which has tremendous humanitarian consequences.”We have a problem of how to make a commercial system supply a right,” according to Professor Walker. “If we could figure this out we could solve a lot of problems.”

Dean Chakravorti questioned the panel about how to view the impact of emerging markets, particularly China, on these scarcities.

“I think of China as one gigantic paradox,” said Gallagher. He added,”China is the largest coal producer, the largest coal consumer, the biggest greenhouse gas emitter. But Chinese investments have helped create broad-based supply in both solar and wind, which has benefited the rest of us greatly.”

Questions from the audience were equally thought-provoking and touched on issues of corruption and governance, countries’ comparative policy approaches and negotiation strategies, and population growth. Yet, the topics were not exhaustive, nor could they be.

“We really haven’t thought through all the potential crises to the degree that we need to, because the systems are so complex,” warned Professor Vogel.

“The event only highlights why Fletcher is so useful,” said Jessica Lane F09 of Cambridge Energy Research Associates during the reception which followed.”No issue is separate. The world is integrated, and this is the way we need to think about and discuss it.”

Interesting in seeing more? Click the links below for photos and videos of this event:


Contributing author Heidi Packard, MIB 2013 is a first-year Master of International Business student at the Fletcher School, where she focuses on international finance and banking and international business and economic law. Heidi has experience in the fields of corporate governance research, financial services, and strategy consulting. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Government from Colby College.