April 18, 2011
Facing wild weather and dwindling water resources, a pepper grower says it’s time to rethink agriculture
It is spring, and I am kneeling with a few friends in front of the composted soil of the hillside terraces in my orchard-garden in the desert borderlands of Arizona. It is planting day, and as we place each variety of pepper plant into the moistened earth, we say its name aloud, as if reciting a prayer in the face of uncertainty: Chiltepin, Chile del Arbol, Tabasco, Jimmy Nardello, Datil, Beaver Dam, Yellow Hot Banana, Chimayó, Sweet Chocolate, and Sheepsnose. We hand-water each member of this tribe of peppers, place a frost-resistant row cover over it like a monk’s hood, and move on to the next, hoping for the best.
If you have farmed or gardened in the desert for any length of time, you sooner or later learn—in a thousand humbling ways, as I have—that you are not in control of even half of the most essential variables that most converge if you are to return in late summer to harvest a crop. In the face of accelerating climate change, my capacity to control critical factors and predict the outcome of my labors seems ever more limited.
Read the whole article at Farming in the Time of Climate Catastrophe – Gary Paul Nabhan – The Atlantic.
February 24, 2011
While there has been extensive research on the effects of climate change on food security, less well-known is the effect of climate change on food safety.
But new evidence suggests that climate change is already putting the safety of our food at risk, and that things are only going to get worse.
Food security and food safety are inextricably linked. Climate change decreases food security by causing extreme weather that wipes out crops and livestock populations. And when food supplies are insecure, food safety diminishes.
According to experts at this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting, when food becomes scarce, people consume more unsafe foods. For example, in areas where climate change has decimated food resources, illnesses associated with mycotoxin molds are becoming more prevalent as people try to stretch their meager food supply over longer periods of time.
Read the whole story via Eat Drink Better.
February 18, 2011
Agriculture accounts for about 6 percent of total heat-trapping emissions in the
United States, and beef production alone accounts for 2.2 percent of the total—roughly the equivalent of the annual emissions of 24 million cars or light trucks, or 33 average-sized coal-fired power plants. So while the emissions contribution of beef production may sound small, it is not an insignificant part of the problem.
The good news is that beef production can also be part of the solution. A February 2011 Union of Concerned Scientists report, Raising the Steaks: Global Warming and Pasture-Raised Beef Production in the United States, looks at ways pasture-based beef producers could lower their climate emissions and take greater advantage of pastures’ capacity to remove heat-trapping carbon from the atmosphere and store it in soil.
Read more via Raising the Steaks: Global Warming and Pasture-Raised Beef Production in the U.S. (2011) | Union of Concerned Scientists.
February 10, 2011
Gary speaks up in the Santa Fe New Mexican about food security in the West.
Whether you’ve noticed it or not, the farming capacity and food security of the border states are at an all-time low, and are likely to get worse before they are fully transformed to more sustainable and cost-efficient systems.
via Food security at historic watershed – The Santa Fe New Mexican.
February 8, 2011
The Napa Valley may be set to become cooler as a consequence of climate change, according to a new in-depth study carried out for the local vintners’ association.
Napa Valley Vintners NVV was prompted to commission the study – Climate and Phenology in Napa Valley: A Compilation and Analysis of Historical Data – by 2006 research which suggested the area would soon become too warm to produce fine wine.
NVV said the original research, led by Bernard Seguin of France’s national agricultural institute INRA, had focused on just a few weather stations in the valley, giving a misleading impression of the overall climatic trend.
Read more at decanter.com.
February 5, 2011
Major droughts in 2005 and 2010 cut into the Amazon's ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Drought reduces carbon-absorbing tree growth, and opens the door to more forest fires, which release carbon into the air. Seen here, a Peruvian section of Amazonia. Photo by John W. Poole/NPR
The world’s largest tropical forest, the Amazon, experienced something rare last year — a drought. It wasn’t the earth-cracking kind of drought that happens in the American Southwest or the Australian outback, but it did stunt or kill lots of trees.
It was the second such drought in the Amazon in five years, and forest scientists are trying to understand why these droughts are happening, and what their effects will be for the planet.
The 2005 drought in the Amazon was so unusual that scientists called it a “100-year event” — something supposed to happen only once a century.
via ‘Alarming’ Amazon Droughts May Have Global Fallout : NPR.