June 4, 2019

The first week of June holds some promise regarding the rain. There is a small amount of rain in the forecast in the next two days, and a relatively dry week after that. The rain pressure has been very bad for all of the farmers in our area, including us. I don’t think that there is a farmer in our area who is not affected by either late plantings, which means lower yields, or washed out fields for the season. Yesterday, I was speaking to one of the individuals  from one of the companies that applies fertilizers and other agricultural products to local farms, and he said that he has not seen it this bad in his lifetime. He is correct, and while he is not old, his statement is true regardless of his age. The NOAA reports that we have just experienced the wettest 12 months since we have been keeping records in the 19th century. 

To most people, the extra rain may mean that a few outdoor plans have been canceled or that the lawns seem to need more mowing, if they are not flooded. Otherwise, life goes on. The grocery store still has food, and our lives continue. It is only an illusion and only through delusion can we allow ourselves to believe this. It’s too easy to believe that we are separate from the environment in which we live.

Environments and ecosystems consist of the life that lives within them, from microbes to large invertebrates. When one part of a system is out of balance, like too many hawks, then the rabbit population will steeply decline. Eventually, the hawks will suffer too by starving when the rabbits are gone. The system seeks equilibrium. Sometimes, however, equilibrium is not achieved and the entire system collapses. That happened on Easter Island. While the debate is still on as to whether this collapse was brought about by invasive animals and plants, human arrogance as the local population cut down all of its palm trees to build its famed statues, an extended drought, or a combination of all of these, one thing is clear. The entire ecosystem collapsed on Rapa Nui (Easter island) and human civilization collapsed. 

We cannot escape the fact that we are living and that we are part of our planetary ecosystem. Despite our amazing technology, most of our food that we conveniently find in the store is there because of a thin layer of topsoil, which is the predominantly bio-active layer of soil, insects that pollinate much of what we eat, sunlight (not too much heat), and rain (not too much). Any disturbance of one of these, and the system collapses for us. Like any life, we have the ability to alter our environment. We have been warned for decades that our impact on the environment is become increasingly dire, and that we will see the results in our lifetime. Every year, we are releasing over 37 Billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that has been buried for millions of years. The effect is that our global temperatures are steadily rising. We are mining minerals from our topsoil through industrial agriculture, destroying habitat in our rain forests to grow soybeans and corn, and we are still reproducing as a species at an unsustainable rate, with a world population expected to exceed 11 Billion by the end of the century. We are literally fishing out the oceans, with many experts saying that the oceans will effectively be dead in 2050.  The implications to weather and rainfall if the ocean life collapses is difficult to assess at this time. Lastly, there is evidence across the globe that the insect population, the base of many ecosystems and required for the pollination of much of our food, is in the process of collapsing as well.
Millions of species are on the brink of extinction, and the impact of their loss cannot be underestimated. This is not an American problem, however. This is a world problem. We have long passed the point of polite conversation. We all need to take action, if we want to leave any kind of world for our children and grandchildren. The problem is large and will require effort by everyone. Below is a small list of things that everyone can do to help effect change:

1. Eat less meat and support local farms (This is one of the largest impacts that an individual can make towards addressing this problem)2. Call your local and national representatives (regardless of party) and tell them you support policies that promote environmental sustainability3. Support any program that reduces or eliminates poverty. This includes healthcare and education reforms. Reducing poverty will reduce environmental devastation4. Support the idea of having fewer children. Our economic system is built on infinite growth of population. This is not sustainable. Most economists and scientists agree with this. Lower birthrates are usually correlated with reduced poverty and increased education (see number 3)5. Ride share and use public transportation when possible6. Support initiatives for peace instead of war, internationally. Our real threat to our existence is not small impoverished countries, but our collective action as a species. We should tell our representatives to spend our money proportionally

As a farmer and being on the front lines of food production, I can attest that growing food is more difficult every year. Unfortunately, I know too many farmers who have either quit farming or intend to quit soon. The insect population is dropping, and we have noticed, along with other farmers, the significant reduction of native pollinators. This spring was one of the quietest that I can remember in terms of the songbirds. Many birds eat insects.  It’s actually pretty eerie how quiet the mornings are. It used to be so loud with songbirds that they would wake me up at sunrise. The last two years have been scarily quiet in the spring mornings. The collapse of insect populations will accelerate the collapse of farms. Not since the Great Depression have we seen so many farms go under. We all, as a species, have to work together before it’s too late. Without farms, we simply won’t be able to sustain for long as a species. Our solutions will not be driven by a small group of people, however, but by the combined actions of all of us. It is our combined actions that harm us, and it will be those actions that can save us.

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