The issue of food waste seems to be a negative consequence of an otherwise excellent trend – food is getting cheaper. You make a great point about “best by” labels and the unappealing (but otherwise irrelevant) appearance of produce contributing to the issue of food waste in the most developed nations. I also find it ironic that we as a population can waste so much food but still have 815 million people suffering from hunger (11% of the US population (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/world-hunger-report/en/). There is clearly a disconnect and inefficiency in the global system of food supply and demand.
The idea of selling extra large proportions to help alleviate the issue of oversupply could help, but ultimately it may just shift the issue of food waste from the retailer to the consumer’s house. Instead, I’m afraid we will continue to see food waste in developing nations until heavy handed regulation comes into play like we recently saw in France (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/04/french-law-forbids-food-waste-by-supermarkets). French supermarkets are banned from throwing away unsold food.
Great write-up Ravin – to answer your first question, no, I do not think isolationism is here to stay. Isolationism in today’s world is largely a backlash from the recent effects of globalization. Different countries will always have different comparative advantages and if you (as an individual) are in the losing industry, then you will suffer when your industry is transposed to a different country.
You raise an interesting question about the costs of isolationism – the immediate effects will be higher prices for consumers either in the form of tariffs or by forcing companies to use inefficient means to produce goods and provide services. It’s also very possible that the answer to your last question is yes – we may see more regional conflicts if economies become more isolated and less dependent upon each other. That said, I think the current isolationist trend will subside. Countries that stay linked to the global economy will reap the benefits (lower costs, more products, etc.) and make it more difficult for those that have embraced isolationism to stay on that track. If they do so, then it will be at their consumers/citizens economic detriment.
While Wal-Mart may benefit from cheap overseas labor, I do not agree that relocating those factories and jobs to the United States is the most effective choice here. Foreign countries have a relative cost advantage over the United States when it comes to labor expenses and we can’t fault companies for taking advantage of those economic realities. Instead, Wal-Mart provides an enormous value to the United States consumer by providing desirable products at prices that consumers are willing to pay – their role in the economy is not to provide manufacturing jobs. Instead, the United States should leverage its other competitive advantages and push workers into those career fields.
Your point about developing a comprehensive plan related to cybersecurity can not be overemphasized. With all the recent cyberattacks in the news, it is evident that anything connected to a network is at risk. In particular, over 90% of the world’s trade is carried out by sea (https://business.un.org/en/entities/13), so the idea of exposing this much economic activity to cyberattacks, or some type of hack, is quite concerning and needs to be carried out with security as a top priority.
While there will always be concern over advances in technology displacing current workers, I don’t think one million people worldwide will cause as large of an impact as in some other industries. But, it is a good reminder that there are political and social consequences any time you bring technological innovation in to an industry.
I think the idea of adding more transparency is a great way to incorporate digitalization into the food industry supply chain. One primary concern with using locally sourced food is food safety – most larger firms can trace a lot of their products back to the source (for recall purposes) and implement quality control measures that are not currently available to smaller producers. Digitalization may also make food safer down the road (vs just making the source more transparent).
The constant battle of food values vs efficiency is an interesting topic. Sustainable practices are typically (though not always) at odds with efficiency. As with most industries, the historical trend has been to produce more with less resources and now we are seeing a reversal in that trend due to consumer demands. More affluent consumers are willing to pay more for less (sorry Target) in order to promote sustainable practices and digitalization is making that choice possible through the availability of information.
You have correctly identified one of the primary issues and friction points between the Department of Defense (DoD) and climate change – it is an extremely politically polarizing issue. The DoD must remain as unbiased as possible while also taking a very pragmatic view towards this topic. By law, the DoD can not engage in anything that could be considered political in nature. I think it is important to remember that each component of the DoD (Army, Navy, etc.) is run by presidentially appointed civilians (including the Secretary of Defense), and therefore the way forward with the DoD largely depends on who runs the executive branch of government. One of the primary concerns for the DoD, that was not addressed in detail during the essay, are failed states. Climate change may significantly impact food and water availability which will increasingly destabilize certain areas of the world. Large scale wars are increasingly rare in the 21st century, and instead the DoD has found itself more focused on stabilizing failed regions of the world. Climate change has the potential to significantly increase the number of those regions.