My dear eighteen-year-old nephew Carter visited this past summer. One day, out of the blue, he said, “I think all of us should focus on addressing climate change all the time.”
Over the last fifteen months, two particularly strongly worded scientific reports have been issued by two United Nations-backed international panels. One focused on the impacts of climate change; the other on the loss of biodiversity and the human impact on nature’s free services (like pollination and decomposition).
Report #1: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – October 2018
Published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this particular report (which cited more than 6,000 scientific references) looked at the impacts of 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C) warming versus 2.0°C warming. (We are on a trajectory to raise temperatures 3.0°C.)
Even at a 1.5°C rise, “…flooding, drought, and extreme weather events will wreak havoc on communities around the globe. Many species will continue to be driven toward extinction and marine ecosystems could face irreversible loss.” In spite of that, fighting to keep global warming from exceeding 1.5°C could “prevent hundreds of millions of people from being exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty by mid-century,” according to the report.
Report #2: Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – May 2019
The study is “the greatest attempt yet to assess the state of life on Earth” and “shows how tens of thousands of species are at high risk of extinction, how countries are using nature at a rate that far exceeds its ability to renew itself, and how nature’s ability to contribute food and fresh water to a growing human population is being compromised in every region on earth.”
These two reports contain some of the strongest, clearest language I have seen regarding humanity’s impact on the world. But, essentially, we’re not really talking about them. It’s not hard to understand why. It’s overwhelming and to address them we would have to acknowledge that our idolatry of economic growth as well as our demand for cheap consumer goods (including food) have placed an unbearable strain on the natural world and on many poor human communities.
Nonetheless, and like Carter, I can’t think of anything more important to talk about, and act on, right now.
Farm Table’s Work
I work at Farm Table Foundation in Amery, Wi. We are best known for serving delicious local food in our restaurant, cooking classes and concerts. These very things connect us to the issues presented by these scientists. Wendell Berry, American novelist and environmental activist, put it best: “How we eat determines to a considerable extent how the world is used.”
Palm Oil vs. Broccoli
I grabbed a “Protein Plus Power Bar” the other day (handy for hikes). The ingredient list long , and a good number aren’t recognizable as food. But I did notice “palm oil.” Indonesian palm oil plantations are pushing endangered species, like orangutans, closer to extinction. To make way for these plantations, tropical rain forests are cut down, releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas.
Next I headed to the fridge and grabbed some broccoli from Blackbrook Farm, my neighbor a few farms to the east. Ingredient list: broccoli. Distance to my plate: much, much closer than Indonesia. Grown organically, I’m pretty confident that soil and water are not being damaged in the process.
So, let’s say you want to cut back on products that use palm oil. This means you will need to use fewer processed foods. You might also need to brush up on your scratch cooking skills. A cooking class at Farm Table could be just the ticket.
Whether you are motivated by climate change and endangered species, or by the desire to rediscover the very human skill of cooking from scratch, you might end up at Farm Table. You might find out that our mission to build local culture not only meets some need of your own—to build community or make healthy meals—it also contributes in some small way to meeting the needs of the world.
At Farm Table we want to help people see connections.
“How we eat determines to a considerable extent how the world is used.” How the world is used determines to a considerable extent the kind of future available to our loved ones; the kind of future available to other creatures; the kind of future that Carter sees for himself; the kind of future that your Carters see for themselves.
This piece drew on the following three articles: