Thursday, August 23, 2012

Don't Blame Mother

PBS is great and  just published a great piece, giving a voice to American farmers suffering under this year's extreme weather and this summer's severe American drought- Rain or Shine Climate Change Pushes Farmers to the Brink.

But really Rebecca Jacobson, could you have picked a dumber opening sentence? 'Mother nature being unkind to farmers this year'. That is an accurate quote from the author who wrote the introduction.

You can't blame Mother Nature for these unnatural natural disasters. No way, Rebecca.  It's the economy stupid. It's the fossil fueled polluting weather wrecking economy that's pushed our farmers to the brink.

We must get this right. We are paying the price for not treating Nature with respect.

When I read the sentence, it reminded me of a YouTube I saw several years ago, looking for images of global environmental degradation for a presentation. Imagine me watching this.

 A silent video of excellent high-quality images covering the whole terrible spectrum of what was euphemistically being called 'global environmental change'. Then the screen goes blank and a Darth Vader type voice utters two words Moth.. Fu.....!

Like you would be, I was shocked and felt offended, but somehow I sensed the rude message was not altogether unreasonable. 

Well now we know. We can't screw up the climate of the entire planet and not expect to get hurt. Certainly we can't expect our agriculture not to get hurt. But we have and that's unbelievably dumb.

The experts have warned us about melting ice sheets and flooded coast lines, not that global warming and climate change means we would pay more for food and have less to eat. That's negligently dumb.

Other people are saying we have been hurting Mother Nature and now she's hitting us back. That's dumb of course. Gaia gives and keeps giving. She does not know revenge. Only us humans have picked up the bad habit to think that vengeful way.

Then there is the environmental wisdom I hear on regular basis. Whatever we do, even if we wipe our selves  off the face of the planet, Earth will be fine because life will go on. That's the dumbest of all. My wife was told the other day at a climate change action meeting, that global warming is not the end of the world because life will survive in the deep ocean thermal vents.

Really I am not making this up, this came from well meaning save the planet person. Perhaps more than respect is needed by us. May be we need to love our Mother a little, start to feel compassion for all her children we are taking down.

Anyhow, when it comes to food at least the American public have now connected the dots. Climate change means an unpredictably variable climate and increasing  extreme weather. What could be worse for agriculture?

Below are what a couple of the farmers have said reported by PBS. There's nothing to suggest they blame Mother Nature. They have more down to earth weather sense than that.

In these two short accounts from these farmers you will learn more about climate change than all the scholarly papers you could read.

Merlin Friesen from Filley, Nebraska
The dramatically warm winter and early spring was unprecedented. Then, the moderately dry winter turned into a severely dry spring, which many old-timers around here say they've never witnessed. Spring rains are a mainstay of farming around here, and we've had no significant rain for over 6 weeks, coupled with higher than normal temperatures. At this time, our pastures have quit growing, and we are struggling to irrigate the market garden adequately. And the hot, dry weather has so far severely curtailed production of strawberries, lettuce, beets, onions, garlic, and sweet corn. I fear that these increasingly severe dry periods may make it difficult to raise vegetables in our area. Irrigation does not fully replace the cool moist conditions that vegetable crops thrive in. Also, we will be forced to sell about 1/2 of the breeding stock in our beef herd in the next few weeks, due to vanishing pasture.

Lynda Hopkins from Healdsburg, California
.... the only "classic Sonoma County" summer we've had was our first one five seasons ago. Since then, late, cool, wet springs and foggy midsummer mornings have prevailed. Then again, this summer has been essentially horrible for growing crops of any variety. It has swung between extremes of cold and hot -- within the course of one week, we experienced a temperature spike to 107 and then a cool, drizzly day in the 50s and 60s. Our brassica crops (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) have been 1/3 the size they normally would be. Instead of nice, big heads of broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, we have miniatures -- meaning our yield is down considerably.  Germination has also been tricky, and we had one of the worst germination rates ever on our winter squash field -- perhaps due to the soil temperature swinging from hot (i.e. good for germinating squash) to cold.

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