- What We Do
- Sector Focus & Industry Experience
- Project Finance
- Impact Capital
- Where We Work
Solving the Food/Water/Energy/Climate Conundrum
New urban communities built around organic farming have grown in popularity recently. Well beyond conventional urban gardens, local food is the new green, with developers taking new pains to build for the segment of the population committed to responsible, healthy living. But water insecurity has reached new heights
(as water table levels reach new lows) because we’re now pumping irreplaceable groundwater to counter the drought. National Geographic says “When it’s gone, the real crisis begins.”
Water, food and energy are inseparable; each interconnected facet essential to sustainable and authentic living. But as masses of humanity join the modern economy, seeking work in ever-increasing densely populated areas, cities and towns in less developed areas will feel the brunt of this pressure to urbanize. The population living in these urban areas is expected to gain 3.1 billion people (swelling to nearly 7 billion) by 2050, with the food/water/energy nexus at the center of the challenge. New thinking is needed to reconcile the “choke point” of these interrelated demands, as the flow of humanity to urban areas is already stretching our collective capacity to grow enough healthy food without disrupting nature’s ecosystem services or otherwise doing environmental harm. Increasingly scarce water resources and low-carbon development goals put this at the top of the international community’s agenda. Something has to give. Being “less bad” is not the same as being good. Fortunately, the team at NextGenUrban™ (nextgenurban.com) is ahead of the game.
NextGenUrban’s projects deliver self-contained neighborhoods that take care of all the essentials for a healthy, zero-waste, carbon neutral, “turnkey sustainable lifestyle, relying on locally-available renewable resources.
“A new era of healthy living and food production is upon us,” claims Allan Savory, long-time proponent of holistic resource management and ecological agriculture. Now we can go the distance and provide living spaces for enjoying nature and healthy, organic living, proving that “the right thing” is entirely a matter of choice.
The Great Migration Becomes Sustainable
Already more than half the world’s population now lives in an urban environment. A fast-growing, increasingly prosperous and rapidly urbanizing global population will demand more food, energy and water resources to meet its needs. As we become wealthier we get thirstier (use more water), tend to eat more meat and use more energy. From 1890-2000 the world’s population grew four-fold, but freshwater withdrawals grew by a factor of nine. The aquifers are being overdrawn in unsustainable patterns globally to keep up with outmoded food, commercial and residential demands. Where regional economies are growing fastest, freshwater demand for energy and industrial use is projected to rise sharply – a whopping 56% in Latin America in just 30 years (2000-2030). The majority of rapid urban growth is occurring in the undeveloped world where population growth is typically higher, and usually more rural, which then creates a huge pool of people migrating to cities. Many countries are already extracting groundwater faster than it can be replenished. If this trend continues, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in areas of high water stress in just 10-15 years from now. The effects of climate change impose additional pressures on water demand due to reduced agricultural yields, on rivers, wetlands, estuaries … affecting all waterways, including the ocean.
How do we square these seemingly impossible circles? Because these issues are interlinked they must be addressed in tandem. The NextGenUrban model, already proven in several markets, continues to gain acceptance worldwide. The approach requires acceleration to turn the tide quickly enough to become the “new normal.”
This leadership team has shown that it is not only possible but also quite profitable to do so. A strong, prosperous private-sector enterprise, with the necessary capital resources, delivers ever-increasing scale, creates jobs, and rapidly flourishing, long-term sustainable solutions with the potential to disrupt the old patterns and outdated “status quo” practices.
Some of the more popular approaches to this problem, so-called “agrihoods,” such as the Cannery in Davis, California, validate the market demand and imperative to think differently about urban development. These and countless other new neighborhoods help lower resistance to this investment opportunity because it feels too new to some, or as too fringe or even utopian; but in business as in nature, success speaks for itself.
The project in Davis claims it is California’s first example of a “farm-to-table” new home community, with 547 homes built around the 7.4 acre farm (more at livecannerydavis.com). There are many other similar example, with at least a dozen similar ones across the US, including in Georgia (Agritopia: Farm-to-Table Living Takes Root), says the New York Times.
Both NextGenUrban and these projects have similar goals, each adding value through a strong agricultural/farming component, with similar aspirations to help residents approach their sustainability goals, at least in terms of food, water and energy. But just as location remains key in real estate, so too is location key to planning future land use and enabling built, mixed-use environments, including entire neighborhoods, as truly sustainable from the start. There is no practical way to achieve zero waste, zero carbon and net positive water use when relying on entrenched “dirty” infrastructure.
That would be like lighting the inside of a coal mine with solar power! It works, and is better than not doing it, but is simply not sufficient. In time, the coal has to go. Thankfully it is leaving at an accelerated pace, but is it fast enough?
The NextGenUrban solution bundles together a complete package of sustainable and clean technology infrastructure services, without depending on unreliable municipal infrastructure, turning constraints into advantages. NextGenUrban’s projects are designed for the emerging mid-market of developing economies on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, delivering comprehensive, turnkey “sustainable lifestyle communities” for residents, not just water/food/energy but also leap-frogging over the lack of effective waste management and other limitations to integrate locally-available renewable resources. Projects internally produce and deliver all required utilities and services. Nature-based recreation, adventure travel and tourism, water sports and organic foods round out the plan for healthy living.
Pent-up Demand in Emerging Markets
The developed world cannot avoid relying on entrenched, relatively dirty “old school” infrastructure (at least for now), with an unsustainable power grid, inherent water problems (California’s drought conditions will take years to mend), outdated waste management, and more. This, too, is changing. But unlike these developed economies, emerging markets often have extreme housing shortages that add to the challenges of building adequate new housing without perpetuating environmental problems of the past. Thanks to NextGenUrban’s forward-thinking management team, their partners are now addressing a 5 million unit shortage through projects that bundle sustainable infrastructure, turning constraints into advantages.
Food, sustainable lifestyles, and real estate are proving to be a marriage made in heaven and one of the more important trends to watch. Sustainable land use planning and building with several generations in mind ensure that all stakeholders win and thrive for years to come.
 Ibid, plus fact check (fixed a typo) via census data at census.gov/population/international/files/wp02/wp-02003.pdf, pg 3, and Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World
 November 2015 forum in NYC on trends in “Food and Real Estate” at http://uli.org/forums-convenings-events/food-real-estate-trends-opportunities-forum-series convened by ULI’s “Building Healthy Places” initiative and Center for Sustainability.
- Highlights of 2017 “Climate Reckoning” at Harvard University
- Workshop: Social & Environmental Aspects of Fundraising at “Climate Reckoning” Conference (Harvard)
- Water, Soil, Heat and Carbon — the shift hits the fan
- Impact Investing reaching mainstream acceptance — will it outpace financial-only returns?
- Panel Discussion: food, water and climate change mitigation