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Our Changing Times: Farming

This is the seventh in the series ˜Our Changing Times”. It is about how we are starting to alter our way of living in response to global climate change.Last time we talked about how our everyday electronics and applicances are changing – with batteries being used less and most of those are rechargeable either by hand or the sun.It has long been felt by historians that the day mankind went from hunt to farming was the day that our species started on its long journey to civilization. It’s on the back of farming that we have prospered. Allowing us to reach from one pole to the other and play golf on the moon.The explosion of invention, art and literature that lead to this had its roots in the warming cycle called the ˜Medieval Warm Period” from 900 to 1300 AD. During this period the average temperature increased allowing the expansion of agriculture into the northern reaches of Europe and Asia. Grapes were grown in southern England and wheat in Scandinavia and Greenland. With a decrease in the sea ice in the northern latitudes exploration into the western hemisphiere was expanded.With the increase in the food supply Europe’s population grew by a factor of three hundred percent during this time.The extra calories weren’t just put into making more people but the construction of great cathedral cities, bridges and public works projects. Commerce with all parts of the near and middle east increased. This lasted until the early middle ages – around 1400 when the climate began to cool off.The first thing that happened was crop failures. Grapes wouldn’t grow in England – with the frost and snow. Wheat crops rotted in the fields or the north or gave such a poor harvest there wasn’t enough to save for next year’s seed.In modern western society we take our food supply for granted. One look at the obesity statistics for the United States will tell you that there is more than enough to go around.We are already starting to look at shortfalls of grain products on world markets. Canada, which is the world’s second largest wheat producer, is looking at a harvest that is its smallest in five years. Europe’s harvest looks to be down 40% this year due to floods and droughts.Looking at wheat production on a global scale it makes up 20% of the food eaten. World-wide inventories are expected to be at their lowest in 26 years.Developing countries which don’t produce enough wheat to feed their people are looking at the shortfall as a national security issue because they’ll have to find a way to pay for it.Since global warming affects areas producing other types of grain it’s starting to become scary. China forecasts losing 5 to 10% of its grain harvest by 2030. India has indicated that if global warming continues it will lose over 50% of its grain crops.People in India and China will have no where to move to plant their crops. They make up over one third of the planet’s population and their people are some of the poorest on earth.In the U.S. farmers are paid not to planet crops for fear that a large surplus will drive the price so low that it will put them and the food processors out of business.United Nation’s agricultural scientists are saying that while in North America more land will become available in the northern latitudes of Canada the soil is not as rich as that further south so the yields will be lower.Researchers are using advanced methods way beyond crossbreeding to assess ways to avoid a looming planetary food disaster including gene splicing, ocean culture and hydroponics.It is a little difficult to see the threat of future crop failures for most of us. But, it will be obvious in the coming years. Every year over half the world’s population lives, or not, based on whether there is a normal harvest.

Think Global – Act Local!

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