We won’t even try to address the politics here. Instead we’ll take a look at a (heretofore) safe subject: The weather. Specifically, what several natural disasters meant for our food supply.
In February, ongoing drought in Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen and Somalia resulted in famine so severe the U.N.’s Under Secretary General described it as “the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.”
In March, Cyclone Debbie ravaged Queensland, Australia and caused unprecedented losses for vegetable, sugar and horticultural farmers.
April’s monsoon rains in Sri Lanka created the worst floods in decades, compromised up to fifty percent of agricultural land and left nearly a million people food-insecure. (This, by the way, followed the country’s worst drought in forty years.)
In August, more epic flooding in Southeast Asia created severe food shortages and polluted the water supply for 16 million people across Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, costing the United States US$200 million in agricultural losses.
September’s Hurricane Irma damaged up to 90 percent of agricultural lands in the Caribbean, Cuba and the Florida peninsula and Hurricane Maria delivered the same devastation in Puerto Rico.
October brought historic wildfires: Northern California wine country suffered US$3 billion in damages and the fire ruined the livelihoods ofseasonal farm workers.
And, as we write this in December, the largest wildfire in California’s history rages in the biggest avocado and lemon-producing region in the U.S. The agricultural losses are yet to be calculated.
Catastrophic weather events change the DNA of the areas impacted in ways that we may never be able to fully compute. Yes, many of these areas will bounce back. But they will bounce back differently than they were before.
In this era of climate change, can we predict or control what that “different” will be? How do we protect our food supply from future catastrophic weather events? And, afterwards, how can our farms and farmers recover well enough to feed us again?
There is a great source of hope in traditional seed: Because, more than GMOs or hybrid seeds, naturally adapted seed has the best chance of surviving weather disasters to feed us in the future.
Here’s how Vandana Shiva describes it:
In addition, organic, biodiverse agriculture that respects the integrity of the soil and natural water systems can also prevent and mitigate extreme weather damage.
Permaculture, biodynamics, agroecology—any regenerative agricultural system that works with nature’s processes—will invariably fare better in drought conditions, recover better after fire or freeze and absorb water better when flooding occurs.
It’s on this hopeful note that we look forward to the New Year. In concert with Mother Earth, we have the tools to restore, to adapt, to feed the world and to thrive.
It all begins by showing some love for the seed.