Credit: François Molle
There is an increasing appreciation that food–energy–water (FEW) nexus problems are approaching criticality in both the developing and developed world. As researchers and managers attempt to address these complex resource management issues, the concept of the FEW nexus has generated a rapidly growing footprint in global sustainability discourse. However, this momentum in the FEW nexus space could be better guided if researchers could more clearly identify what is and is not a FEW problem. Without this conceptual clarity, it can be difficult to defend the position that FEW innovations will produce desired outcomes and avoid unintended consequences. Here we examine the growing FEW nexus scholarship to critically evaluate what features are necessary to define a FEW nexus. This analysis suggests that the FEW nexus differs from sector-focused natural resource or sustainability problems in both complexity and stakes. It also motivates two new foci for research: the identification of low-dimension indexes of FEW system status and approaches for identifying boundaries of specific FEW nexuses.
© 2020 The Authors.