Small Farmer Commentary – The Future is Closer Than We Think
By Mary Fund
Amid all the pointing fingers and outrageous claims and lies surrounding the Kavanaugh Supreme Court appointment and the uptick in shrillness in campaign rhetoric recently, you may have missed the biggest story of the century.
On October 8, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report stating that we have twelve years to implement urgent and unprecedented changes worldwide — especially among the developed nations of the world- to cut the increasing risks of extreme heat and cold, drought, floods, and the poverty created by the escalating changes wrought by steadily increasing global temperatures and carbon levels. The report says the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for millions of people.
Amazingly this dire warning and challenge was 4th or 5th down in the news headlines of many of the mainstream sources I peruse on a regular basis. The safety of stretch limousines and the emergence of yet another hurricane or two (although related to the climate change story) were certainly news worthy and lamentable. But you would think the warning from the world’s most renowned scientists that we have twelve years to take action to avoid planetary environmental catastrophe would have merited more than page 2, or 3 or 4 or worse.
Have we all become numb to negative news simply because there is so much of it?
Are we paralyzed by this particular news because we think there is nothing we can do? Do we prefer to remain in blissful ignorance and denial – something only possible until it hits closer to home? Are we now brainwashed into thinking anything we don’t want to know is “fake news”?
We are told here in the Heartland that we cannot even utter the term “climate change” let alone talk openly about it, as it is too much of a hot button term or it might stir up
differing opinions and even conflict. We use terms like weather extremes, adaptation, and climate resilience. This is how we handle things when we protect children—downplay or even refuse to discuss scary bad things. But isn’t it time to be adults and hit this thing head on?
It is true that addressing climate change is daunting, and that the really big pieces of the solution require action on a scale only nations and states can reach.
Unfortunately, the news landed with a thud at the White House and among other national and state leaders in the U.S., so we see little response or responsibility taken.
The good news – if there can be any- is that without knowing it, some of us in the food and farm world are already engaged in the kinds of activity needed to build resilience and a better future.
From our networks across the state, we know people are exercising local leadership and local innovation to solve problems and meet all kinds of needs. We hear about collaboration, cooperation and community. We see increasing local food production, not just for individual economic benefits and to meet local needs, but also results in less reliance on distant perhaps more vulnerable production. To balance that, we hear discussion of a more regional food system so we are less vulnerable to local crop failures and to keep economic benefits closer to home.
KRC and others promote diversified ecologically based farming practices that build soil, capture carbon, and are less dependent on non-renewable fuel and water, and require fewer chemical fossil fuel based inputs. We promote growing fruits and vegetables in addition to grains, and we support a grass based meat production system that reduces carbon emissions. We are talking nothing short of a shift in the food and farming paradigm– the first steps of which are also an early and necessary transformation to stabilize the climate.
While news like the IPPC report appears to fall on deaf ears either because it terrifies or paralyzes us, it makes sense to come together to find positive steps we can take to make our farms, our communities both rural and urban less vulnerable to whatever the future brings.
The present-day division and conflict among us, sown and fueled by opportunistic politicians doing the bidding of a class of wealth owners and powerful corporations (whether done out of ignorance and blind allegiance or intentionally) only keeps us from the work that must be done. The facts about climate change and the possible solutions have been before us for decades. Now is the time we need to start having real discussion about what it means for meeting our basic needs and how to take action. The future is indeed closer than we think. What kind of future is up to us.
At KRC’s fall conference, you will not find the big solution to the IPPC warnings, but you will find thoughtful innovative people who are working to find solutions to a number of issues related to our collective future: specialty crop production, soil health, alternative land ownership options, ecological nutrient management, developing a local and regional healthy food infrastructure, extending the growing season with hoophouses, increasing woodlands resiliency, climate change, public health and community resilience, and civic engagement: how to make a difference as well as a “What Now?” an update/analysis following the 2018 elections.
To some, all this may seem naive and simplistic but my favorite Helen Keller quote sums up my hope for the future best: “The world is moved not only by the mighty shoves of the heroes, but by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”