It’s TED Talk Thursday on 350orbust, and I’m reposting this talk from TEDx Austin 2011. I’m presenting about GMO/GE foods at a regional diabetes conference this week, and as part of my preparation I listened to Ms. O’Brien’s talk again. Her journey from Wall Street executive to food activist is worth listening to more than once:
Okay, maybe we don’t need to worry about zombies but we should certainly consider future food shortages, not to mention the pesticide-laced food and genetically modified food (GMO) we are already exposed to on every trip to the grocery store. Today is World Food Day, and while I write this I’ve got a batch of Green Tomato Pasta Sauce bubbling away on my stove. It was a bumper tomato harvest this year, and we’ve already put away jars of salsa, both mild and medium, as well as more conventional red tomato spaghetti sauce. Also preserved in our pantry are: canned carrots (processed using our new pressure canner), pickles, dozens of jam and jelly jars, yellow and green beans, and chicken broth. Our freezer contains some swiss chard (see below), which was a bit fussy to process but I’m sure will be delicious in January, as well as rhubarb, and strawberries waiting to be made into delicious fruit crisps in the dead of winter. Here’s some photos that show the chard’s transformation from garden to freezer (I followed the great instructions found on The Art of Doing Stuff blog).
If you haven’t started to preserve your own food, or food that you’ve picked up at a local farmer’s market, I would encourage you to start – and if you can join forces with a friend, so much the better! Some community organizations and churches have started to offer help with preserving – check around to see if this is available in your community. As George Monbiot wrote yesterday about the impacts of climate-change-related extreme weather events and food:
...This summer the UK and the US seem to have found themselves on opposite sides of stuck meanders, and harvests in both countries were savaged by opposing extremes of weather.
This is where we stand with just 0.8 degrees of global warming and a 30% loss of summer sea ice. Picture a world with 2, 4 or 6 degrees of warming and a pole without ice, and you get some idea of what could be coming.
Farmers in the rich nations can adapt to a change in averaged conditions. It is hard to see how they can adapt to extreme events, especially if those events are different every year. Last winter, for example, I spent days drought-proofing my apple trees, as the previous spring had been so dry that – a few weeks after pollination – most of the fruit shrivelled up and died. This spring was so wet that the pollinators scarcely emerged at all: it was the unfertilised blossom that withered and died. I thanked my stars that I don’t make my living this way.
Perhaps there is no normal any more. Perhaps the smooth average warming trends the climate models predict – simultaneously terrifying and oddly reassuring – mask wild extremes for which no farmer can plan and to which no farmer can respond. Where does that leave a world which must either keep raising production or starve?
And – while you are preparing for the new normal, which includes rising food prices and less reliable global food production (and frankly, what system which takes 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food could be sustained indefinitely?) – how about calling or writing to your local and federal political representative and telling them you want them to take decisive action on climate change now. While zombies may be difficult to prepare for, we know that if we take action on climate change we can avoid the worst effects that will be visited on our children and grandchildren. If you want to learn more about how to do this effectively, go to Citizens Climate Lobby, a grassroots group focused on creating the political will for a sustainable climate.
I’ll let this short video prepared as part of the Proposition 37 campaign in California, requiring that GMO foods be labelled, have the last word today:
Winona is an internationally renowned activist working on issues of sustainable development, renewable energy and food systems. She lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota. As Program Director of Honor the Earth, she works nationally and internationally on the issues of climate change, renewable energy, and environmental justice with Indigenous communities. In her own community, she is the founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, where she works to protect Indigenous plants and heritage foods from patenting and genetic engineering. A graduate of Harvard and Antioch Universities, LaDuke has written extensively on Native American and environmental issues. She is the author of five books, including Recovering the Sacred, All our Relations and a novel, Last Standing Woman.
I’m taking a sabbatical from writing for a while – for how long, I don’t know. I do know that I need a bit of a change/break. In the meantime, I’ll be posting food and gardening related links and videos, as it is summer and the livin’ (and eating) should be easy and good! The quote in today’s headline comes from the documentary “King Corn” that was released in 2007, but is just as relevant four years later:
KING CORN tells the story of two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. As the film unfolds, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-ubiquitous grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find questions about how we eat—and how we farm.