Food Security Will Be The New Wealth in a +2C World

Soil, seeds, and water will be the best future investment you can make.

Food Security Will Be The New Wealth in a +2C World
Photo by Megan Thomas / Unsplash

My father used to wake me up early during summer vacation to help him in the garden. I hated it. I was a bratty teenager who stayed up late watching "Up All Night" on USA and slept in till 10 AM every morning. Not my father, he was up before 8 AM and ready to tackle yard work.

I lived on a larger-than-average property, just under an acre in a population-dense county in New Jersey. My father had grown up on a farm in Germany and loved to have some space between people. As a toddler, he spent his time with his older sisters or mother tending to the berry and herb garden. His older brothers and father would be working in the fields during the day.

The love of living in an old German farming village stayed with him for the rest of his life, and he shared it with me.

He opened my bedroom door and told me to "Get up." I groaned. He told me that our job that day was ripping out a new section of grass so he could extend his garden.

Great. Tough labor in the hot sun.

I hated every minute of it but we worked on it until the section was clear. Then we used a garden fork to turn the compacted soil. Afterward, he made a few furrows and lined them with bush bean seeds. Then we covered them with soil, Hey told me to go get the garden hose and we watered the area for a good 30 minutes.

A few months later my father started harvesting pounds of beans. My mother turned them into bean salad or cooked beans. We started eating our dinners with something related to bush beans.

I hated that too because how many beans can you eat anyway?

Yes, I was a bratty teenager.

In the early 90s, I went to school for Engineering. I learned about dirt, or the proper term: soil. Soil is the inorganic layer below the dirt and dirt is often associated with the organic layer that sits on top of the soil.

Soil is important to give you a solid foundation or drain your septic leech field, but the organic layer is what we need to survive. There's a whole living ecosystem in that organic layer that's supported by the minerals in the inorganic soil.

Knowing and understanding how these two layers interact and stay healthy is vitally important to growing healthy food. You need to protect against denuding soil from its nutrients. Modern farming methods are not good at saving those nutrients and chemical fertilizers are probably doing more harm than good.

Luckily, there's a big movement afoot by local gardeners and soil-conscious farmers to help rebuild soil nutrients through composting and no-till methods.

The moral of the story here, without good "dirt", you can't grow anything.

What about the seeds? Where do they fit into this narrative?

Seeds grow into plants that feed us. They are the food for us humans and animals. Seeds are the second important link in our food pyramid and rely on a stable climate (i.e. sun, rain, optimal temperature, etc) and good soil.

With climate change wreaking havoc across the world, chances are we'll start seeing massive crop die-offs. The seeds won't have a chance to grow into anything we can eat. We'll experience something that the first world hasn't dealt with in 100 years, we'll experience food insecurity.

Extreme heat and changing weather patterns will redirect rain away from crops or create deluges that will erode the good soil away. Without a stable climate, we can't forecast reliable crop yields. We're going to start relying on more groundwater to water those crops. With the ongoing environmental degradation (i.e. PFAS) of our groundwater and depleting aquifers, it's a matter of time before clean water runs out.

Denuding the soil by over-fertilizing, shifting weather and extreme heat due to climate change, and contaminated water is a recipe for disaster. We humans and the delicate and intricate web of flora and fauna in the ecosystem will collapse.

It can't sustainably support all of us. As my old boss used to say, "You can put 10 lbs of shit in a 5 lb sack," and that's what we're doing to our planet.

So, where do we go from here?

We can start by learning about composting. We can start a small garden and grow tomatoes, beans, or whatever you like to supplement our dinners. Save those seeds and trade them with like-minded friends and other climate change fighters. We can be gentle on our aquifers and build rain gardens or collect rainwater in rain barrels. We can stop buying so much plastic crap and drinking from plastic water bottles.

These are not hard things to do and don't require a lot of brainpower. They're a great way for you to become aware of where your food comes from and how to grow it. It'll prepare you for a +2C world where food security will be the new wealth.

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