How Climate Change Threatens the American Farmer


Photo: nosha. Flickr, CC BY-SA

Too often, the conversation about climate change gets framed as a culturo-political debate: with liberals and scientists calling for action on one side, and conservatives and free market fundamentalists arguing against it on the other. The media is too often tacit in condoning or flat-out grooming this conflict, and as a result, the public loses out on well-rounded coverage on the topic, both from scientific and personal perspectives. So it's refreshing to see a firsthand account like this -- an American farmer's experience with (and fears of) climate change -- published in a leading national paper:Called An Almanac of Extreme Weather, it's an op-ed for the New York Times written by Jack Hedin, a Minnesotan farmer whose family has been in the business since his great-grandfather homesteaded the land in the late 1800s. He describes the increasingly extreme weather that fits the projections made by climate models, and details the hardship he, his family, and his peers will face as heavy floods become more powerful and more frequent.

Hedin notes that even his great grandfather, who recorded in his memoirs the damage dealt by the tornadoes and droughts of the Dust Bowl in the 30s, would be taken aback by the weather his great-grandson's family is coping with today. He mentions that the state's climatologist has said that there have already been three "thousand-year rains" in the past seven years in his part of the state -- and that the trend is expected to continue.

And it's well worth a full read -- but here's the crux of the piece:

Climate change, I believe, may eventually pose an existential threat to my way of life. A family farm like ours may simply not be able to adjust quickly enough to such unendingly volatile weather. We can't charge enough for our crops in good years to cover losses in the ever-more-frequent bad ones. We can't continue to move to better, drier ground. No new field drainage scheme will help us as atmospheric carbon concentrations edge up to 400 parts per million; hardware and technology alone can't solve problems of this magnitude.
Hedin then goes on to make a call for the nation to address climate change in the interest of protecting farms like his in similar regions across the nation -- as well as protecting national food security.

Global warming is already impacting American farming, as Hedin's account (and recent meteorological records) makes clear. Perhaps if the public were to hear more voices like Hedin's, more folks would take the threat posed by climate change seriously.

H/T: Climate Progress
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