Thanks to Climate Change, This Might be the End of Breakfast as We Know It

Thanks to human-induced climate change, we are digging our own graves by endangering our food system. Sure everyone is aware that there is a drought going on in California jeopardizing certain crops and industries. Yes, everyone is also aware that there is a crisis going on with honey bees and that they account for 1 out of 3 bites of food that we take, but are people personally taking account for their actions? Nope. They’re still buying Round-Up at Home Depot. They are still planting invasive species and decorative species that starve bees rather than help them. They are still watering their lawns and carelessly using water.

Besides the global bee crisis and drought, there are some staples in our food system that are close to collapse – with or without bees. Due to climate change, there seems to be a rise in disease and fungus. Breakfast will never be the same. How would our mornings be without that latte? Or a cup of orange juice? Or that bowl of oatmeal without slices of banana?

Coffee
A new study came out recently from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in England that 70 percent Arabica beans could be nonexistent in 36-66 years. With a warming climate also comes disease and pests and mountainsides that are now becoming too warm for the beans to flourish. When the plants are exposed to warmer temperatures the beans grow and mature too fast resulting in foul, bitter tasting coffee. The warmer temps also allow pests like berry borer beetles and diseases like leaf rust fungus to thrive. The study showed a very high risk of extinction of the world’s 2nd favorite warm beverage (after tea, which is not in as much danger as coffee, yet). Sadly, the study leans towards the conservative side because it did not take into account extensive deforestation in the highland forests of Ethiopia and South Sudan, so it could be a whole lot worse.

coffee

Citrus
This 2013-2014 citrus season has been Florida’s worst season in 29 years. This is due to a disease called greening which infected the entire state’s population of citrus. It impedes the trees’ ability to hang onto its fruit and the harvest falls before it can mature. This has affected grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, and tangelos. The price for citrus has already risen domestically. In addition to the fungus, there is also an introduced little Asian pest that is eating away at citrus in California (besides the drought) that is not helping our lemons and limes. Environments that were previously uninhabitable to pests are becoming more inhabitable as they become warmer.

OrangeBloss_wb

Banana
There is a serious threat attacking bananas all over the world that has yet to reach the banana crop in Latin America, the world’s largest exporter of bananas, but really, it’s only a matter of time. There’s this fungus called Panama disease that rots the shallow and fragile roots of the banana trees. It was found in Asia in the 1990s and recently it has been decimating the banana crop in Mozambique. Some scientists already believe that the fungus has already spread to Latin America, which provides us with 70% of the world’s bananas. Should the fungus continue to spread, and should we find no cure, economies and countries collapse and we will lose the beloved banana.

Bananas_-_Morocco

We need to start taking account for our actions and educating ourselves about the threats to our food system. This is only a fraction of the food that is suffering at our hands. While larger issues of climate change may seem far away and not affect us directly, like melting icebergs in Antarctica, our morning breakfast is in our kitchens every day. Perhaps more people will be willing to make little changes in their daily lives to make big change in the long run.

Advertisements

Treat our Water Better

As a child I was only allowed to bathe every two weeks. I could only occasionally flush the toilet (I’ll leave out the specific details) and our yard the predominant color was yellow than green. We’d go weeks without electricity and had to use lanterns, candles and flashlights. All of this because of water scarcity. It wasn’t until I got back to the United States did I realize people lived where water and moisture was taken for granted.
            In Kenya, when we were out and about, we didn’t trust water for “normal” reasons such as dead things an animal feces in the water. When out camping and getting water from rivers, generally boiling was sufficient. We didn’t have to worry about chemicals in this water. It continues to amaze me that Americans, in this day and age, can’t trust the water that comes out of their own tap. Furthermore, even though sections of this country are in the worst drought in 500 years, water resources are being used to exacerbate the situation rather than help it.
            A month ago coal mining operations caused a chemical leak in West Virginia. While authorities say that the water is safe to use and drink, residents continue not to trust it. Water is continued to be imported for drinking, bathing and cooking. People in California are also in an equal state of distress. There’s seventeen communities in the state that are about to completely run out of water in 60-120 days.  People are losing their businesses, their livelihoods. Consumers will soon feel the impact of the drought when we don’t have the food that California usually produces.
            Meanwhile, as people in our nation are suffering, water is being used or planning to be used, for practices that intensify the situations. If the Keystone Pipeline were to go through, we would be processing some of the most intensive, dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet. There is also some tar sands in Utah that they are considering to mine. DeSmogBlog outlines the process:

U.S. Oil Sands’ water-and-energy-intensive extraction process involves first digging up congealed tar sands, then crushing them to reduce their size. The company then mixes the crushed sand with large amounts of hot water (at a temperature of 122-176°F) to loosen up and liquefy the tarry, oil-containing residue and separating it from the sand.

Next, coarse solids sink, are subsequently removed and considered waste tailings. Air is then bubbled through the remaining water-oil mixture, which makes the oil float to the top in what’s referred to as “bitumen froth,” in industry lingo. The froth is then deaerated, meaning all the air molecules are removed.

But that is not the end. It continues and it involves even more water. Overall oil sands production takes 170million cubic meters of water – which is the equivalent of 1.7million households use in a year. None of this is water is returnable into the natural system.
              Then we have the 2nd offense – fracking. It takes up to 8million gallons of water to mix with chemicals to inject into the earth and blow it up and extract natural gas. These chemicals then percolate into the natural water systems and into our water systems. It poisons the environment. It poisons us. People can set their tap water on fire. They have to import their water because they cannot trust the water coming out of their own faucets. Animals and humans both become sick, suffering from cancer, hair loss, sensory, respiratory, neurological damage and ultimately death.
              While there’s people in this country that are suffering due to lack of water, it makes me wonder why we are using water resources to poison people. Not only that, this water is just making situations like the drought in California the new norm. We need to step back and redistribute the water in this country. We need to be aware of how our water is used and where it is going. We need to be aware of how our actions, decisions influence our water system.

Image

Benefits of Snow

People in the northeast are sick of snow. I think people in the northeast need to be reminded that they need to not take the white stuff for granted. In today’s day and age we seem to forget to look beyond our backyards and look at the whole picture. We also tend to forget to look into the future.

Of all the natural ‘disasters,’ snow is probably the most benign. It doesn’t really hurt anyone. It’s kind of like a venomous snake. If you don’t provoke it (drive like an idiot in it, ski/snowboard in an avalanche area, etc.), it won’t hurt you. In fact, unlike the other natural disasters, snow has numerous benefits. We should be praising snow, dancing as each and every snowflake falls from the sky. Snow is a blessing.

* Pest Control: Thanks to snow there should be less of those annoying bugs around this summer. This is everything from ticks, mosquitos, and other insects that have been out of control like the emerald ash borer. Thanks to snow, there will be fewer ticks. As long as the snow sticks around and it stays cold, the ticks can’t survive. The later we have snow, the better. Mosquito season will be later and shorter. Aren’t those reasons to celebrate? Thanks to snow. The emerald ash borer has been devastating trees in states all across America – not just ash. Their numbers used to be kept in check because it used to snow a normal amount (you know, like we’re getting now). Because of the fact that we have not had a real winter in a long time, their numbers have been out of control and spreading, killing off entire forests and increasing wildfires. Thanks to the snow, their numbers will take a huge dent and we may be able to save iconic forests such as the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

* Snow Insulation: Now, this might sound counter-productive, but snow insulates our gardens and lawns. Any gardener or farmer will tell you a good “blanket of snow” is desirable for a garden. It keeps your plants warm (yes, warm) and happy throughout the winter season. It is WAY much better than having them exposed during the winter, especially when there’s extreme temperature fluctuations. If soil is frozen, without snow, plants can die of thirst. Snow keeps that from happening. Even when plants are dormant, they still need moisture and snow provides that.

* Poor Man’s Fertilizer: Snow has been shown to give a nitrogen boost to gardens and soil. Any gardener/farmer will tell you that nitrogen is a vital nutrient for the soil and people with spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars in liquids, powders and techniques to get nitrogen into their soil. But here comes snow, a free way to get nitrogen into your soil. It delivers an estimated 5 pounds nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil. This helps plants grow lusher, produce more fruit (as evident by my fig tree, which always produces more figs whenever we get more snow), and generally just be happier whenever we get snow. You know what they call snow? Poor man’s fertilizer. You know what the Old Farmer’s Almanac says? “Year of Snow, Crops Will Grow” – be thankful for snow. There’s a good foot and a half of snow on my yard and gardens right now – I can’t wait to get out there and garden. I bet I am going to get some great crop this year! So bring on the snow!

* Snow is Water: There’s really not enough news or pictures of the drought in California right now. Even if rained (or snowed) for every day for the rest of the winter, they still would not replenish their water supply. There’s towns that have completely run out of water. Maybe it will hit us here in the east when cost for our food goes up since California grows a lot of our food. Anyway – we’re LUCKY here in the east to have so much SNOW because snow is WATER. Our reservoirs will be full, our wells will be filled. Our pastures will be green. Our seeds will be sown and will grow. Stop being selfish and whining about snow.

Which would you rather have?
ImageImage

So, next time you moan about the snow, think twice. If you have a farm, be thankful. If you’re a gardener, be thankful. If you in any way depend on water, be thankful. There’s people having to recycle their bath and shower water for drinking water – in the UNITED STATES. There’s people in Africa and India drinking water that is polluted with feces, dead animals and trash. We have clean, pristine, beautiful snow. Be thankful.

Image