I really believe history will show that the emerging "backstory" of the climate change debate will eclipse all the arguments about what is causing climate change and the uncertainty of its impacts. The fact is, a small, yet enduring shift in weather patterns has already caused loss of snowpack worldwide and reduced water availability for farming. In California, this shift (both reduced water supply and loss of winter chill necessary for certain crops as well as killing pests) now threatens agricultural production in the Great Central Valley, which will have repercussions not only in California but around the world:
California forced to model new waterways: http://www.rodaleinstitute.org...
This has caused a seachange in how people view the food supply system while exposing its weaknesses, much like Michael Moore did for the health care industry in his film, "Sicko."
http://www.rocfund.org/ and http://fooddeclaration.org/
The paradigm shift called for by Roots of Change and Food Declaration.org is necessary for human and ecosystem wellbeing, and will take 20-50 years to bring about. That is the same timeframe for the leading edge of expected impacts from climate change to hit us, and still that debate has not yet fully addressed the fact that individual behavior in food choices and our collective food systems will be a key strategy for mitigating impacts if we begin now to change, or a key stumbling block if we don't. The irony is that it took the threat of climate change due to human activities--the greenhouse gases we've put into the air-- to finally focus attention on how we've abused the natural resources on which life depends-- the primary fertility of soil and the water we've squandered. All the while, it was acceptable that the people who actually harvested our food-- primarily ethnic farmworkers-- lived in poverty, struggled to feed their children, and lacked basic healthcare. In terms of their quality of life and opportunity for advancement, their situation is not so different from the Old South of the Civil War era.
I suspect that human activities are accelerating and making less resilient natural processes that have in the past and continue to this day to produce long-cycle patterns of heating and cooling in global weather. We do need to understand those patterns, and how we are effecting them. But the fact remains that the civilizations that have fallen in the past (Easter Island, the Mayans, Iceland, etc) did so not so much due to those cyclic disturbances in weather patterns, or even long periods of drought, but rather to loss of their resource base-- topsoil and tree and grass cover, and loss of biodiversity. The land could no longer feed them. Climate change vis a vis our food production system is generally the backstory now, and no doubt it will become the central issue for the next generation. When we talk about "sustainable systems" as those we manage for current needs without robbing the next generation, the way we eat today cuts to the very heart of the matter.
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