Syngenta Global
Syngenta Photography Award: Exploring Global Challanges

3rd Edition: Grow-Conserve

The Syngenta Photography Award is an international competition that seeks to stimulate dialogue around key global challenges through powerful photography.

This year’s theme is Grow-Conserve. As the world’s population continues to increase, so does the tension between our growing demand for more food, energy and resources, and the protection of our planet. How can we manage economic, social and technological growth in a way that supports the needs of today as well as for future generations? Bold and transformative action is needed1.

Scientists tell us we’re creating the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. Yet for many of us, going about our everyday lives, it’s hard to see the problem – let alone the solutions. For the health of our planet and future generations, inaction is not an option.

The 20th century began with 1.6 billion people and ended with 6.1 billion2 and we’ve seen astonishing progress over the past century – medical, technological, industrial, commercial and economic – as a result of this growth. Furthermore, a rising affluence has lifted millions out of poverty as globalization has helped to double the world’s economy in less than 30 years3.

But relentless growth also has its challenges. Our growing population is putting an increased strain on what the planet has to offer – we’re already using natural resources 50 percent faster than the planet can replace them 4. While advancing technology is helping us to use resources more efficiently to produce food, energy and goods, the benefits have been outweighed by enormous consumption in some economies. For example, the number of cars in the world reached one billion in 2010 and could hit two billion by 20355.

At the same time, communities, businesses and governments are demonstrating that it is possible to achieve a more sustainable future. We’ve seen an increase in initiatives to power cities – and even entire countries – from renewable energy sources, and moves to protect rainforests and conserve water are now at the top of global development agendas. Consumers are also driving a trend towards goods and services that conserve natural resources and reduce waste – including improved recycling and reusing of resources. But is this enough?

Our appetite for more is seeing land, water and other resources continue to disappear. The consequences are clear: we’re damaging the environment, squeezing biodiversity and changing the climate leading some to say that we must put the brakes on growth: conserve what we have, while we still have it. But environmental ‘bads’ do not have to be the price we must pay for economic ‘goods’ and growth6.

The Grow-Conserve tension is one of the world’s most pressing challenges.

How can we ensure continued growth and prosperity while lessening the impact on nature and our resources? Can we realistically do more with less and conserve what we have today? Can we grow economies and sustain our planet at the same time, or is this mutually exclusive? Will a more sustainable landscape impact overall global food security? Can we learn to conserve today, to enable tomorrow’s growth? Or do economic and population growth simply have to stop?

Photographers, whatever their approach, are invited to submit images that explore the theme of Grow-Conserve and tell stories about the relationship and trade-offs that exist between these two forces that are shaping the sustainability of our planet.

1 UN Sustainable Development goals
2 Population Reference Bureau
3 Oxfam analysis based on the World Bank, World Development Indicators (2015). Cited in Oxfam report An economy for the 1%
4 Global Footprint Network
5 Ward’s Auto report referenced by the Huffington Post
6 Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environmental Programme

2nd Edition: Scarcity-Waste

The second edition of the Syngenta Photography Award: Scarcity-Waste

In its second edition in 2014/2015, The Syngenta Photography Award invited photographers to explore the relationship and tensions between scarcity and waste -– one of the greatest challenges we face today in a world of increasingly limited resources. Over 2,000 professional and amateur photographers from all over the world submitted their applications.

The theme of the second edition: Scarcity-Waste:

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 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 last 60 years.

Already, 40% of the world’s farmland is seriously degraded and 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 this 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 labor 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. And 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, and to spark a dialogue about our changing planet.

1st Edition: Rural-Urban

In its first edition 2012/2013 the theme of the Syngenta Photography Award was Rural-Urban, exploring the relationship and tensions between rural and urban environments. The award attracted over 450 submissions to the Professional Commission. For the Open Competition more than 2,000 entrants submitted their photographs.

The theme of the first edition: Rural-Urban

Over half of the world's population now lives in urban spaces, yet rural areas provide the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. With competition for land, natural resources and labor increasing, balancing these tensions is critical.

At the turn of the 20th century the rural population outnumbered the urban by 7 to 1.7 Since then, there has been rapid urbanization and in 2007 the world's urban population crossed a watershed and exceeded the rural. The UN estimates that by 2050, over 6 billion people, two thirds of humanity, will be living in cities.8

How will these changes affect individuals and the communities they live in? What are the changing roles that people play in this shifting landscape? What are the pressures on natural resources? Is this relationship symbiotic or in competition and do the environmental constraints of water shortage and limited fertile land forever put into question the rural-urban dynamic?

As urban dwellers get further away from where their food is grown, do they lose sight of how sustainable farming operates? Is a city dweller's relationship with food consistent with his or her rural counterpart? If not, are unrealistic demands being placed on the rural food producers?

How will this ever changing landscape impact overall global food security?

Cities need water for people to drink and to support sanitary services. Rural areas need water to grow crops to feed the expanding cities. Is there enough for both? What role will technology play? What role will society allow technology to play?

In developed countries, cheap and abundant food has been a given. Do urban dwellers really understand where their food comes from, do they care?

The Syngenta Photography Award invites photographers to interpret these questions and their own concerning these issues in the broadest sense to stimulate dialogue about our changing planet through photography.

7 The Royal Society; Biological Sciences, "Urbanization and its implications for food and farming", 2010
8 United Nations: "Human Settlements",