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09 December 2012

"I Don't Want to Live in a World Without Olives"

My husband's tongue was only somewhat in his cheek the other day when he said, "I don't want to live in a world without olives." We were having a discussion with friends about a project (in the dreaming stage) to help people see the connection between the Arctic meltdown and our food.

We'd all just shared an epiphany as we realized that people don't understand (or care about) climate change because they don't understand food and agriculture. As long as people don't recognize the relationship between food growing and the climate, they're just not going to "get" that climate change is a planetary emergency. 

I then shared an epiphany I'd had about a year back, when a friend/colleague/food grower said to me, "Julie, I think we can survive here [in our small island community] on kale (vitamins), fava beans (carbohydrates) and eggs (protein)" (he's been doing his own independent research). It was at that moment that I finally saw how our food system is going to change in response to a heated planet and drought and crop failures. There's going to be less food, and less choice of food. 

I asked, "When we can't get cinnamon anymore, what could we grow around here that will take its place?" One of our friends (someone who understands all this and wants to work on the project with us) said, "Well, you just turned me off." And my husband chimed in, "Yeah, me too. I don't want to live in a world without olives." 

So even people who understand the mess we're getting ourselves into don't want to look squarely at the food crisis. People can picture a future of more of the same -- or better -- but they can't seem to picture a future with less. Less choice. Less diversity. Fewer options. 

Now, I should mention what my husband explained to me later. I agree with him that it's intuitive to see diversity as our saving grace -- and that we should be trying to grow as many different food items as possible. But I believe the reality will be much more constrained. We're still not teaching kids to grow food, and we can't grow food overnight. So when the climate change sh!t hits the fan, eggs, kale and beans might be all we can get around to growing while we're trying to deal with horrid weather events and sky-rocketing food prices. 

I'm just trying to get us all thinkin' in the direction of survival rather than luxury. After all, there must be dozens of ways to cook up beans, kale and eggs!

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on compassion as a solution to the climate change emergency?