The overriding objectives for establishing a hotspots activity are to avert new agricultural-environmental (Ag-En) hotspots from developing, as well as to manage existing hotspots better, before they degrade further into environmental flashpoints (i.e. extremely critical stages of environmental degradation and unwanted ecological and societal change). Such an activity provides an additional, reinforcing approach to draw attention to growing concerns about the adverse interplay between human activities related to agriculture and a naturally varying environment (especially climate). It can help to identify and provide early warning about emerging hotspots. This paper aims to identify key issues related to the purpose and potential value of developing a sustained activity focused on the identification and monitoring of potentially adverse impacts and the responses that might result from interactions between agricultural activities and environmental processes. Where the adverse impacts of such interactions have reached levels detrimental to sustained human activities or to environmental processes, the term "hotspots" is used. The concept of "foreseeability" is introduced and applied to agricultureñenvironment interactions.
This report approaches the possible development of a multifaceted hotspots activity by posing and then addressing the following basic questions:
How to define the term "hotspots"?
What can be done with respect to hotspots?
Why do we need to do it?
Who might benefit from a hotspots assessment?
Who could undertake the hotspots activity?
When might it begin?
How would the various elements of a hotspots activity be carried out?
Whose responsibility is it to oversee a hotspots programme? Does an organization such as FAO have a responsibility to address the hotspots areas and problems that it identifies and monitors?
Responses to these questions are followed by suggestions about potential indicators, benefits and costs of a hotspots activity, educational aspects and overall benefits.