Climate change is an irrefutable fact acknowledged by all major country leaders and every conscious individual on the planet. Various political figures meet regularly to discuss the issues of food and climate change and to search for more effective solutions that will allow preserving our environment. However, while the Paris Agreement and similar long-term projects are welcome, they solve only part of the problem. In order to achieve the best results, every person should make their own input into the healing of our planet, and to do this, you need to understand how exactly we are harming it.
Many people would definitely be surprised to learn that our eating habits are one of the main contributors to the environmental devastation we are witnessing today. The amounts of the crops we grow and our methods in doing this, the way we manage animal farms, and even the modes of food transportation are all increasing the level of damage dealt to the planet. Changing our habits on the individual level as well as macro-changes imposed by the governments are both essential for averting the ecological disaster that will affect the whole of the human race.
Food and Climate Change: CO2 and the Greenhouse Effect
One of the major environmental concerns at the moment is the increase in the level of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere. This one and other highly active gasses are also called ‘greenhouse gasses’ as they cause the ‘greenhouse effect’, which makes our planet to heat up.
On one hand, research indicates that a higher level of CO2 can have a positive effect on some crop yields. However, combined with the other facets of the greenhouse effect the actual results of the climate change are devastating. For example, in the years 2010 and 2012, high nighttime temperatures have affected the crop yield across the Corn Belt, which resulted in a significant reduction in the harvest (up to 30%). It’s predicted that the losses will keep increasing over time.
Similar things are happening not only in the US but also all over the world, which further contributes to the increasing level of the world hunger. At the same time, the elevated CO2 content in the atmosphere reduces the nutritional value of some crops.
The main sources of this dangerous gas are emissions from vehicles, plants, etc. The vast majority of food processing factories and even farms have very low energy efficiency levels and a high carbon footprint, which makes them some of the main contributors to the greenhouse effect.
Food and Climate Change: Fresh Water and the Oceans
The Earth is often called ‘the blue planet’ due to the fact that most of its surface is covered by the oceans. However, only a miniscule amount of this water is actually fresh and safe for drinking. 1 out of every 9 people in the world does not have access to clean drinking water, and almost 1 out of every 5 deaths of children under the age of 5 is caused by water-related diseases.
Fresh drinking water is actually rarer than oil, which should make it all the more precious. So, what do we do with this invaluable resource?
70% of the fresh water used globally goes for irrigation and agriculture, with only 10% going to domestic use. Most of this ‘agricultural water’ is used on the crops grown specifically for the purpose of feeding animal farms.
As you can see, even the fact that we are losing such a tremendous amount of invaluable water to grow food does not help humans solve the world hunger problem. Instead, millions of gallons of water are invested into producing tons of crops that provide only a limited part of humanity with meat. It’s not even to mention that the whole process is extremely inefficient, which results in huge ongoing losses of both feeding crops and the meat itself.
One of the major dangers that come from our NON-eco-friendly agricultural habits is the death of the oceans. Yes, it turns out that our poor crop-growing habits rob us not only of fresh water, but of the air as well. The use of nitrates has been linked to the appearance of the so-called ‘dead zones’ and mass-destruction of phytoplankton.
That same plankton is responsible for the production of over 50% of the oxygen we breathe every single minute of the day. Yet, the new zones where all the ocean life is completely obliterated are reported every year. Some of them are as big as 70,000 square kilometers.
When speaking of food and climate change we also shouldn’t forget other ways of poisoning water sources caused by various human activities. Only a few weeks ago in Montana, thousands of snow geese died while being forced to take refuge in the acidic waters of an open pit mine.
Can We Heal Our Planet?
Yes, there is no arguing the fact that the negative impact of industrialization, globalization, and a variety of non-environmentally-conscious practices damaged our planet greatly. However, it is within our power to help it recover.
In order to achieve this noble (and literally lifesaving) goal, all people must work together. Scientists are currently working in developing new methods of transportation, growing crops, and neutralizing the environmental damage. Politicians and activists are establishing and promoting eco-conscious practices that aim to reduce the level of future damage.
As the people living on this planet, each of us also has to make a contribution. You can do this by:
- Buying organic products as they are grown in a more energy-efficient way and without the use of nitrates and other dangerous elements that poison ground waters.
- Growing some of your own food using organic practices.
- Switching to the same organic practices when dealing with your lawn and garden.
- Making your home as eco-friendly as possible.
- Going vegan.
- Not wasting water (using rainwater for irrigation, installing water-saving taps, etc.)
- Buying the produce of local farmers (lesser transportation emissions).
Most importantly, don’t forget to spread the word on how being environmentally conscious allows every person to help our planet heal. Only when we are working together, we will be able to solve the problems of food and climate change.