In the past 50 years, the world’s demand for natural resources has doubled. If we continue to use resources and generate waste at the current rate, by 2030 we will need the equivalent of two planets. But we only have one. Clearly, something needs to change.


The second Syngenta Photography Award explores the theme of scarcity and waste. In a world of limited resources, these have become the fundamental social, political and environmental issues of our time.


As population and economic growth drives increases in global consumption, many countries face growing resource shortages. Competition for, and even conflict over, resources such as fresh water, farm land, and forests is an increasing risk.


Resource scarcity is evident everywhere: from over-fished oceans to the rapidly disappearing rainforests, and from dust bowls to shrinking rivers and lakes. In China alone, over 27,000 rivers have disappeared in the past 60 years.


Already, 40% of the world’s farmland is seriously degraded and it is estimated that every second we lose an area of fertile land the size of a football field. This is in a world where nearly one billion people go to bed hungry and one in three people are affected by water scarcity.


Yet, it is a paradox that such scarcity exists side-by-side with enormous waste.


A third of the world’s food production is lost or wasted along the supply chain. In the UK, as much as 30% of vegetable crops are not harvested because they fail to meet the physical appearance standards expected by retailers. In India, around 40% of all fruit and vegetables are lost due to poor storage and transport systems. And across Europe and the US, over half of food purchased is simply thrown away. This isn’t just a waste of food, but of the land, water, inputs and labour that go into their cultivation.


With water use growing at twice the rate of population increases, many cities are struggling with inadequate infrastructure. In Jakarta, for example, 39% of the water is lost through pipe leaks. In Dhaka this rises to 50%, and in London water mains leak at least 25% of the city’s water. Waste as a by-product of an urban lifestyle is growing even faster than the rate of urbanization. In the US alone, over 100 million tons of household waste goes to landfill. Another 100 million tons is burnt or exported to poorer countries, with electronic waste putting up to 200 million people at risk of health and environmental hazards.


In a world that is so desperately short of resources, how can we ensure that there is land, food and water for everyone? How can we protect farmland against soil erosion and urbanization? How can we conserve vital ecosystems and biodiversity?


And what can we learn from the efforts of innovative communities to conserve, re-use and recycle?


The Syngenta Photography Award is a celebration of artistic skill and outstanding photography. It is a call for photographs that tell stories about scarcity, waste and the tensions and relationships between them. Photographers, whatever their approach, were invited to submit images that explore these important issues, thus sparking a dialogue about our changing planet.