The media headlines are all abuzz today about the newest UN climate study showing that we're in for catastrophic climate change. We're past the tipping point; the oceans can't handle the warming and things look bleak.
I am not a climate change denier. All you have to do is look at satellite images of the earth over the last half century and the ice masses are considerably smaller. You don't have to be a scientist with sophisticated measuring devices to see the shrinkage. I was in Alaska two years ago and drove on major highways through what 50 years ago were massive glaciers. They've receded 25 and 30 miles; at their current rate of melting, they will absolutely be gone in just a few years.
Siberia is melting, revealing mega-fauna long frozen. When I was in Sweden last they told me Monsanto has moved into their agricultural sphere dramatically preparing for the new grain basket of the world to be located in northern Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Can you imagine northern Scandinavia being the bread basket of the world?
The report goes on to warn of more frequent and violent storms as this disruption shakes the earth. These predictions may or may not be true. We've never been here before. Sometimes I think we're too sophisticated for our own good and cause ourselves unnecessary angst. And I don't know how much of it is human-caused and how much of it is simply an earth cycle.
When I look at this stuff, I'm pushed to ask myself: "What can I do?" Let's assume all the predictions are accurate. What can I do to prepare? I can't affect the hurricane in the Bahamas. I can't affect the drying of Australia. But I can do something about my life, my situation, my tiny corner of stewardship.
So here are agenda items for Polyface:
1. Build more ponds. We've been irrigating with the beautiful K-line system for about a month now and are draining our ponds of the water they caught and stored during the winter and early spring--remember how wet it was? North America, prior to European conquest, was 8 percent water; today we're less than 1 percent. They were beaver ponds. So every spare penny we're dumping into excavating permaculture-style high landscape ponds to catch violent rain/snow events and cushion drought affects. You should see these irrigated pastures; they are vibrant green, lush, growing like gangbusters, flooding the dry air with transpiration and biomass activity. This we can do.
2. Upgrade the forest by weeding out the diseased and dying and releasing the vibrantly growing trees. Crank up the chain saw and chipper and get to work converting poor growing individuals into carbon for composting to build up organic matter in the fields. Every percent increase in organic matter adds 20,000 gallons of water retentive capacity per acre; since 1961, we've gone from 1 percent to 8 percent, which is 140,000 gallons per acre. That sponge is invaluable in times of earth discomfort. And a healthy forest is a more resilient one.
3. Reduce food waste by shortening the chain between farm and fork. Right now 40 percent of all food produced gets thrown away. The closer we buy and sell to point of production the less inventory spoilage and damage. Forget the Caribbean cruise and fire up the canning equipment. Leave the supermarket and the exotics; eat close to home, seasonally, from local sources preferably or at least direct sources.
4. Do more to develop resilience in our own home. We've already put a solarium on the south side of our 1790 log cabin house; that's a cool retrofit. We can grow leafy greens year round and get passive solar heat gain in this old house. Increase your rain barrel to massive cisterns; if more of us installed them, the price would drop. Right now cisterns in Australia are a quarter the price per gallon that they are in the U.S. and it's simply because we don't have a competitive and vibrant demand. Store food by canning, freezing, dehydrating. Dave Ramsey says we should all have an emergency fund of cash to handle 4-6 months of economic catastrophe; how about an emergency food larder to handle a weather catastrophe? Root cellars? Yes.
This is not an exhaustive list, but I think it's helpful to review it and realize that in the face of dire warnings, when the first reaction is paralysis because it's such an overwhelming problem and then depression because there's seemingly nothing we can do about it, focusing our attention on practical, actionable steps to prepare personally is an uplifting, enjoyable activity.
Sorry this is a long post today, but it's hard to counter all the negative without digging into the positive a bit. And remember, if you like this, send it to friends to increase our tribe. Thank you.
What personal, practical shifts have you made in your life to prepare for these unsettling times?