(This article by Peter Carter was previously posted on Uprage. Peter is now cross-posting on BoomerWarrior – Editor’s Note.)

Public Broadcasting Service
Public Broadcasting Service

PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) is great and just published an article by Rebecca Jacobson about American farmers suffering under this year’s extreme weather and this summer’s severe US drought.

But really Rebecca, could you have picked a dumber opening sentence? “Mother nature has been unkind to farmers this year” she writes in her introduction to the plight of farmers this summer.

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 the environment and the economy that has pushed our farmers to the brink.

“These are just some of the new normals for farmers around the world”, said Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute for the Environment at the University of Minnesota. He speaks about “what these changes in climate have meant for farmers.”

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.

Severe dry weather causing droughts
Drought

The experts have warned us about melting ice sheets and flooded coast lines, but never about the effects of global warming and climate change on food prices and food supplies – having less to eat. This is new.

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 we humans have picked up the bad habit of thinking in a vengeful way.

Then there is the environmental wisdom I hear on a regular basis. Whatever we do, even if we wipe ourselves 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 a well meaning save the planet person. Perhaps more than respect is needed by us. Maybe we need to love our Mother a little and start to feel compassion for all her children.

When it comes to food, at least the American public has 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 (no pun intended) weather sense than that.

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:

My husband grew up on the property where we farm so he’s very familiar with long-term weather patterns. Growing up, he was used to long, hot, dry summers — tomato, pepper, and eggplant weather. However, 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. And yet, due to the cool weather, we’re not as far along as we would have been (with respect to ripening) had we experienced a simply hot summer. 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.

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

 

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