At a recent physical exam, my weight was a tad above what I want it to be (probably all muscle, but you can never be too sure). So I went web surfing a bit about weight gain trends and found an article proclaiming that obesity is becoming a world-wide problem. It seems the availability of cheap processed foods combined with less physical work is part of the problem.

What amazes me is that both of those are fully and completely under our control. There’s no reason our food companies have to produce food that’s bad for us. But they do, because that’s what we want to buy. Why do we want to buy it? Because our bodies are programmed to love the processed stuff, since back when we evolved, it was really hard to find usable carbohydrates, etc. It worked great on the tundra, but now, it drives us to crave things that create a market that is bad for us.

We weren’t thinking ahead when we developed our food production industry or laying down the rules of the market. We didn’t know. We didn’t look very far into the future, and if we could have, we didn’t have the knowledge or even the suspicion that our food production would have bad dietary consequences. And now, we look increasingly like little round beach balls. I suppose it makes clothes easier to design; all we need is a big circle.

So the question is: when we make decisions, how far ahead do we look? How certain do we have to be of the answers to take action? And what action do we take?

“Scenario planning” was all the rage in the late-80s and early 90s. It seems Shell had use future projections to predict the fall of the Soviet Union and they were all ready to take smart business action when they saw it coming. Which scenarios should we be considering? How likely do we think they are? And when do we decide we should prepare, given that we generally don’t know which scenario we’re living in until it’s too late to take action?

The part of the article I wasn’t expecting was the last two paragraphs, which point out that global warming, overfishing, and climate change could severely disrupt the food supply, even with a “modest” temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius (and that’s below the lowest-end projections of the MIT climate scientist I asked about it).

So this time, we have the chance to think ahead. Other than speculating in food companies, what can we as businesspeople do to help prepare for something like that? Right now, we stick our heads in the sand and ignore the problem. Last time we did that, we turned into beach balls. This time, let’s think ahead, and not turn into something worse.

Thinking ahead. How far? And how certain?

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