From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer
I don’t like to write about climate change because it only inspires bristle talk: bristles to the right, bristles to the left, bristles from the pulpits, bristles from the labs, bristles on social (unsocial) media. It is just a bristly subject that is never going to be solved anyway. But because all sorts of important meetings are taking place at the moment, it occurred to me that approaching the subject from a sustainable farmer’s attitudes about weather change might be helpful. Weather change is not the same as climate change, but the search for defense against weather calamities in farming ought to present some guidelines for dealing with the impossible problem of global climate change.
And if you think the problem is solvable, take a closer look. I’m sure there is serious talk, for instance, about the amount of fossil fuel that all these new highrises require. But it rarely gets in the news. If you look at almost any developing country, not to mention developed countries, there is an enormous new growth of tall buildings that simply can’t function without enormous amounts of fossil fuel. Furthermore, houses keep getting bigger too. Should there not be a law limiting the size of houses? Good luck on that one. Good luck on limiting travel. Look at the irony of our leaders of all countries meeting now to discuss ways to cut carbon pollution, and at the same time calling for more and more bombs. Have you any idea what all those bombs and bullets cost us in carbon pollution?
Traditional agriculture has learned how to cope with bad weather, not by standing around wringing its hands over possible tragedy a couple thousand years from now, but developing overides to survive it. The good old “can do” attitude ought to be applied to climate change too. Maybe it is not all bad. Maybe there is some good in it if we play it on a more opportunistic agenda. Instead of bristling around about who is right and who is wrong, think practical survival. If some areas are opening up opportunities for increasing food production, start thinking about how to make friends with the mammon if climate change iniquity. This is not the first time we have been threatened both by ice ages and global warmings. I like to think about hay in the Middle Ages, the almost foolproof example of resilience to whatever the weather threw at us especially around the time of the Little Ice Age. Haystacks and grain stacks are wonderful solutions to combat the uncertainties of weather. That is why they were almost adored down through the ages. Once in place, with lots of manual labor and skill, they become fairly secure food for farm animals and then for humans and can supply food for several years. What is required is the willingness to do the work, to make the changes. If corn doesn’t work anymore, try something else. If Kansas turns into a desert, figure out how to make a desert productive. If California is inundated by melting glaciers, it will surely have a positive agricultural effect on the western deserts.
My friend, Bob Evans, farmer and fast food tycoon, has been a model for me. Decades before the bristling clamor over climate change came to the fore, he called me, all excited over the good effects that might come. He was already hard at work developing cattle and forages that could withstand at least some of the bad effects of climate change. He was positively elated by the possibilities of better farming forced on us by global warming because in some instances it would encourage permanent pasture farming in lieu of annual cultivation.
My thinking is that climate change is not the real problem. Human bullheadedness should get the credit. As an old Egyptian saying puts it, if the bull wants to charge you, lie down.