|Aoife the cat stricken with philosophy|
29 September 2015
06 September 2015
In the last few days, I've had email from four different progressive organizations about a drowned child from Syria.
They talk about compassion and accepting refugees and petitioning governments to allow the people trying to escape Syria into where we live, which, well, it makes me want to tear my hair.
Not because I disagree with compassion or the duty to accept refugees; those are both obvious and necessary.
Because this is just the start.
Syria's collapse isn't solely due to drought and failed crops, maybe isn't mostly due to drought and failed crops — being next to a failed state that's exporting gunmen can't help; having a despot can't help — but political difficulties can, in principle, be fixed. The Eastern Mediterranean going very, very dry cannot be fixed. (The Eastern Mediterranean is larger than Syria.)
California going very very dry can't be fixed, either. Nor parts of Africa going dry, nor the prospect of the Asian Monsoon shutting down, or the discomfiting observation that folks farming up in Grey County in Ontario are trying to get the hay off in early September, rather than June. It's not like we've got an expectation of nice ordered slow linear failure of agriculture with lots of warning. It's not like it can't happen here; Saskatchewan grows not quite half Canada's food, and they're trending dry, as is pretty much all of Canada west of Winnipeg.
It's not like we have any reasonable expectation of being able to do anything about it once agriculture gets broken enough that even an oil executive or the owner of a coal mine will acknowledge there's a climate problem. There's a decade or two of continuing change built in once the emissions stop; things will go right on getting worse.
Discussions of the bad effects of climate change focus on habitability; the sea will rise, and the coastal cities that hold most of humanity will have to move. Some places may get too hot to survive in at peak summer temperatures, and people will have to leave them, or have very robust air conditioning. Worries like that, safely distant in the future.
The most pressing worry is not safely distant. It's happening.
Agriculture goes long before habitability does; agriculture depends on predictability so you know what and when to plant. Agriculture depends on predictable climate so you know what crop-eating pests you're dealing with and the soil fauna work so there's a viable nutrient cycle and just a whole lot of things.
Agriculture absolutely depends on sufficient rain.
California's agriculture sector desiccating takes a fifth of American food production with it. Yes, there's presently sufficient food surplus in Canada. Yes, we're at 0.8C warming relative to baseline, not the 2.0C warming that's the official figure for "very bad, agriculture breaks". (Though that 2.0 C figure is not looking like a safe bet at this time.)
Thing is, food security goes, everything else goes, too. You can't have a society or an economy or a culture without food security underneath it. There's any number of unfortunate examples from as much history as we've got. Our population is high enough that it has to be mechanized agriculture, too. (Which means that we're desperately dependent on the cause of the problem, and really have to fix that. Any government serious about climate change is heavily supporting not zero-emission electric cars but zero-emission electric tractors. Which is to say, none of them.)
It's all tied together; climate, immigration, the economy, what to do about the increasing numbers of refugees the political instability in other places climate instability creates. It all comes down to being sure people have enough to eat and somewhere to sleep out of the rain. Continued fossil carbon extraction breaks that, and with that, everything.
So, certainly, I will be voting NDP; not because I'm comfortable with their centre-right repositioning as a party and not because they've got an adequate climate policy (it's extremely weak tea), but because it's possible an NDP government won't make our food security worse.
The Conservatives have a pro-fossil-carbon policy of making our food security worse.
The Liberals... it's possible they wouldn't make things worse. It's possible. Given their stunning act of political cynicism around bill C-51, I don't feel very confident they're on speaking terms with reality, though, and I'd consider them a bad bet.
I really, really want someone to vote for who is taking our food security seriously. I have no hope of it happening in time.