Reflective thinking can help transform the world

Slow down. How often do you hear that these days?

We live in a fast-changing world, one that often seems to value quick reaction over deep reflection. Who has time to slow down in a world where we measure time in tweet- and Instagram-sized chunks?

Certainly we all have to be more nimble and ready to take advantage of short-term opportunities. Like driving along a winding road, you need to follow the twists and turns from minute to minute. That’s reactive thinking, or adapting to the here and now.

But those kinds of opportunities aren’t the only ones that matter. Often the really important issues are bigger and more complex. Defying quick and easy solutions, big problems require us to think longer-term and in more strategic ways.

Reflective thinking rises above the here and now to consider not just what we’re doing but why. Is there a better road to your destination, one that will help you avoid all that white-knuckle steering in the first place?

Feeding our growing world is one of the grand challenges of our day. How will we provide enough food for the nine billion people expected to share this planet by mid-century, all while sustaining the planet’s ecosystems?

We can grow more food, but that’s only part of a much bigger and more complex answer. Relying only on growing more food is reactive thinking, like steering along that winding road.

Reflective thinking is transformative thinking. Finding better routes to our destination will involve transforming how we feed the world.

That’s the point of Food From Thought, a new long-term project at U of G funded by a $77-million investment from the federal government. I invite you to learn about this digital revolution in food and farming systems in this issue of the Portico.

Meeting this century’s pressing food challenge will take the creative efforts of many bright minds. Universities such as the University of Guelph are places where this kind of reflective thinking needs to happen.

It’s food for thought but, more importantly, Food From Thought.

Franco Vaccarino
President and Vice-Chancellor