16 October 2011

Clinton Wasn't Completely Right - It's the Food, Stupid

I know, I know. I talk about this a LOT. But today is Blog Action Day, and the theme this year is food! So how could I not talk about the relationship between food security and the climate change emergency?

There. Maybe I've said it all already. Climate change is threatening our food security. Bam. Done.

Okay, I'll keep going. While pundits are still — if they talk about global warming and climate change at all — drawing our attention to rising sea level and the plight of polar bears, the biggest, gravest, fastest growing and most urgent threat to all human beings on the planet (with tens of millions already impacted) is drought and wild fires, which lead to crop failure, which leads to food shortages, with ensuing famine (and then the violence).

I know that we in the developed part of the world feel immune. Our grocery store shelves are stocked with provisions, and our home pantries are full of pasta and canned peaches. What do we possibly have to worry about?

Well, as the summer Arctic sea ice extent continues to decrease (summer of 2011 was the second lowest in satellite history), our Northern Hemisphere growing seasons will become hotter and drier = loss of crops. Witness Russia 2010. If we get a few bad summers in a row, food prices will go through the roof and food shortages could lead to violence, even here "at home." (Remember, our grocery stores only hold about three days' worth of food!)

If that sounds ominous, then get serious about solutions that create local community resilience:
  • grow as much food as possible at your own home (lawn = food, porch = food, apartment balcony = food, sunny window sill = food)
  • work with others to start as many community gardens as possible
  • start a program whereby people without land tend the gardens of people who can't
  • talk to others about food security (supermarkets have lulled us into forgetting that our species now depends on a stable climate and successful agriculture)
  • create a community kitchen, where people teach each other how to prepare food that is locally grown
  • eat lower on the food chain (I see lots of grazing land around my community that could, with some work, grow food for humans instead)
And while you're at it, help to create the political will that will lead to serious international action on the climate change emergency at the next climate negotiations, coming up this December in Durban, South Africa. Help your elected officials and your local, regional and federal governments see that climate change is a threat to our food security.

p.s. As the worst famine in many, many decades continues to ravage the Horn of Africa, can anyone tell me where the "militants" (do they even know what they're fighting for anymore?) of Al Shabab are getting their food from?

By the way, it's never just one thing, is it? But in this case, the famine has been exacerbated by global warming and climate change — and the violence makes it even more tragic.

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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 courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?