“If we are going to see an increase in drought, flood and extreme weather disturbances as a result of climate change, what that means is that people all over the world are going to be fighting over limited natural resources. If there is not enough water, if there is not enough land to grow crops, then you’re going to see migrations of people fighting over land that will sustain them, and that will lead to international conflicts…When you have drought, when people can’t grow their crops, they’re going to migrate to cities, and when people migrate to cities and they don’t have jobs, there’s going to be a lot more instability, a lot more unemployment and people will be subject to the types of propaganda that al-Qaeda and ISIS are using right now.” In the last Democratic debate Bernie Sanders went on record by making a direct correlation between climate change and terrorism for which he has been mocked. Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal said Sanders’ comments made him look “slightly daffy,” while Jeb Bush has declared that “climate change isn’t in the top ten greatest threats to the U.S.” There is ample evidence, however, that bolsters Mr. Sanders’ comments. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report this year examining “the risks of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems…especially for the least developed countries and vulnerable communities.” The U.S. Department of Defense has also issued a report citing that “more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict…[and] these gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism.” And the Union of Concerned Scientists believe that a reduction in rainfall in “regions of the world that depend on rain-fed agriculture may require irrigation, bringing higher costs and conflict over access to water.”
It is widely accepted, for instance, that the effects of climate change were responsible for the worst drought on record in Syria from 2006 to 2011, which created instability for farmers and threatened the country’s food supply. As Syrians did indeed migrate to the cities, unrest followed. A paper published this year establishes a direct link between climate change and the rise of ISIS. What happened in Syria is just as likely to occur elsewhere. According to the U.S. Department of Defense – funded Strauss Center project on Climate Change and African Political Stability, increasing events of floods and drought have turned agricultural land into desert and heat waves are killing crops and farm animals. Over time, the people of these affected regions will be forced to migrate to the cities, which will in turn stress already unstable governments and create the same sort of chaos as exists in Syria. Michael Werz of The Center for American Progress says that “all the indicators seem to fairly solidly convey that climate change – desertification and lack of water, or floods, are massively contributing to human mobility.”
As I discussed in my last post, UPOV 91 – A Real Threat to Sustainable Agriculture,” there continues to be a global emphasis on agricultural practices defined by multinational corporations such as Monsanto and Syngenta. The corporate model relies on vast amounts of energy, water and fossil fuel based synthetic pesticides. Manufacturing and transporting these pesticides uses ever larger amounts of energy and produces greenhouse gases. Given, as I stated in UPOV 91, that this model of agriculture uses 80% of the world’s arable land and 70% of the world’s water, while at the same time contributing more to climate change than organic farming, it should be obvious that the world’s governments need to reevaluate their financial priorities. Rather than force the world to abandon ancient sustainable farming traditions in favor of the unsustainable methods inherent in the promotion of GMOs, we should be subsidizing organic farmers. We also need to dismantle the corporate production of meat which currently occupies 30% of the land surface on the planet. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that by the sheer volume of their numbers, livestock production is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases.
Obviously there are other pressing concerns about how to curb climate change that need to be addressed, but food sustainability certainly must be considered as human misery resulting from its effects will destabilize the globe. We must realize, as Michael Pollan has done when he wrote a letter as a part of the Letters to the Future campaign, that “I want to explain what things were like back in 2015, before we figured out how to roll back climate change. As a civilization we were still locked into a zero-sum idea of our relationship with the natural world, in which we assumed that for us to get whatever we need, whether it was food or energy…nature had to be diminished.”
Far from being “slightly daffy,” Bernie Sanders appears to belong to a very small group of politicians who are intelligent enough to make connections between growing poverty and political instability because of our disregard for the consequences of our wasteful actions. Buy local.
Recipe of the Week
Potato and Greens Soup
3 large russet potatoes, partially peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
2 quarts homemade chicken stock
1 bunch kale, washed, ribs removed and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Pour the oil into a large soup pot. Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute over medium high heat until the onion is transparent. Add the stock, potatoes and kale. Cook on low heat until the potatoes are done, about 1/2 hour. Add copious amounts of black pepper and salt to taste.