30 November 2009

6 Days to Copenhagen - Oh No, Not the Noodles, Too!

Some people can't live without their daily bread. But that's not me. I often describe myself as a potato person (it's the Irish in me). But if you really want to make me happy, feed me noodles. I am so renowned for my love of pasta that my stepson calls me Noodle.

Imagine, then, my angst at reading this headline: Global warming threatens to rob Italy of pasta

It was in

And not only that. Poland will lose its ability to grow potatoes, Spain will become mostly desert and lose its place as a major producer for Europe of fruits and vegetables, and France — France will no longer be able to produce champagne.

Threats to agriculture have been ignored for too long, probably because of specious early "research" (obviously not in the field) that said plants would grow better with the higher concentration of carbon dioxide, completely forgetting about heat and water and weather and stuff like that. It's that old reductionism again.

We are an agricultural species now and have been for many thousands of years. What we call civilization is dependent upon systematically growing our food, versus hunting and gathering. Indeed, many of our cultures and societies are based on agricultural food systems. Think France and its wines, Italy and its pastas, Mexico and its corns, India and its lentils, and so on.

India this year suffered a huge lentil crop failure due to lack of rains ... rains that traditionally used to come at the same time each year.

That's the thing with climate change: it's the lack of stability and predictability. Agriculture is based on a stable climate and being able to predict what to plant when and where. That's what we're losing with climate disruption. (Bozos who say they had a cold winter so that means there's no global warming just don't get it.)

Especially if we allow the Arctic summer sea ice to melt away, agriculture in the northern hemisphere is going to be in big trouble. Already we're seeing droughts and desertification and unreliable rains and wild weather events lowering crop yields. Already we've lost our reserves and "buffer stocks," so it's estimated that we're only one bad year of crop failures away from a real food crunch. And because we're so globalized nowadays, our food supply could be impacted by lack of monsoon rains half a world away.

The problem is not just increases in temperature and sea level but also increased climate variability and extremes, including more intense floods, droughts, and storms. Plus, it's not just about what we eat. It affects livelihoods and whole economies, as well.

"An abnormal monsoon can result in the loss of seasonal employment, shortage of food and income due to crop failure; a spread of diseases, and have an impact on industrialisation, economic activity, government saving, inflation and overall market sentiments," according to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

I'm sorry, but this is enough to make me want to stuff my face with spaghetti.


  1. The high degree of interconnectedness of, well, everything, is a very high hurdle for many people. Far too many, including a lot of self-proclaimed greenies, still think in terms of very narrow categories and don't see how a shock to a complex system like the environment can set off a cascade of human impacts. I keep telling people that it's NOT like tipping over the first domino, but more like firing a cannon in a pottery store.

  2. Lou, you're so right. Most of us were not taught ecological principles in school and have not taken the time since to become ecologically literate. That interconnectedness you speak of is a main principle of ecology — and we are all living in the ecological web, no getting away from it.

    It wasn't just what we were taught (or not), it's how we were taught, as well: separate subjects, bell rings, time for math. And that reductionism and specialization gets worse and worse for students the older they get so that those with PhDs (even most of our climate scientists — the ones who aren't speaking out about the integrated threats we face) have a hard time remembering that all life on this planet is interconnected.

    Love your imagery, Lou. Thanks for sharing it.


I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?