Norman Rockwell painted a scene of a fictionalized Thanksgiving that still haunts hostesses and hosts to this day.
By now most people are aware that the history that brings us Thanksgiving is not all as sanguine as we may have been led to believe. The subtext of conquest is bitter to swallow for many.
And abundance itself can devolve to gluttony and greed – stampeding consumerism no longer contained to the immediate Black Friday aftermath even, but invading the holiday itself.
So don’t blame me for ruining the day to raise another issue we can fret over even as we count our blessings otherwise – and that is climate change. Specifically what that clear and present climate crisis means for the food system and food security.
As you slather butter on squash and pile high your pie, you might consider that food systems are among the most vulnerable to climate change. At risk from drought and wildlife, floods and landslides, threatened by declining pollinators and expanding pests, burdened by crashing fisheries. Of the systems that sustain humanity, how we produce and find the food we eat may be the most in jeopardy.
The point with all this isn’t to ruin the feast but to provide a morsel to chew on as the tryptophan kicks in. And may there be many more days of too much deliciousness in your life. But if we care about feeding ourselves and each other we ought to care about climate change and what we can do about it.
Recently I helped convene a group of growers, food advocates, climate crusaders, and local heroes in a series of gatherings and events around local food security and climate change, as reported in High Country News and KVNF community radio.
Pete Kolbenschlag, the organizer of the Paonia panel discussion, knows that food security affects everyone. “If you care about what’s on your plate, and you care about feeding other people and the planet, then we need to care about climate change, because climate change is going to affect our food supply,” he says.
The purpose was to consider what climate change means for agriculture and rural communities on the Western Slope and how we could begin to work collaboratively to address it.
Generally western Colorado is vulnerable to increased periods of drought and extreme precipitation, a snowpack that melts earlier and warmer winters, with freezes into May likely to remain a fact on the elevated slopes on the western flanks of the Rocky Mountains.
Warm winters result in early blooms on fruit trees that are then at risk to late snow and spring frosts.
Accepting some problems such as increased incidences of early bloom coupled with late April freeze, which is a real problem for the fruit producers where I live for instance, will be part of living with a changing climate.
And climate change means several things more broadly for farming and food security in Colorado as well, including:
*Adapting our farming and food systems to a changing climate will be necessary: to create more climate resilience into the design, crop selection, and techniques; and to make wise water use and management, a top priority in all aspects of growing and producing food.
*Adopting better practices in agriculture and in food system, to reduce greenhouse gas contributions – from eating less meat to utilizing techniques that enhances local carbon capture.
*Accelerating the transition to cleaner energy sources and more local power production in agricultural and food production.
Food security and the threats looming to it from climate change is an issue of global significance. It also matters for us here at home. And meeting the challenges that climate change poses for Colorado’s food system will take national and state commitment, as well as local action.
Homegrown approaches for rural communities and others that can help us adapt our food system to address climate change, from sharing local clean energy capacity and installations (‘solar barn-raisings’) to expanding local food networks.
There is tangible value in gratitude. And for most of us there are things for which we are rightfully thankful. Considering these things helps cultivate a positive attitude.
We can be thankful we are removed from troubling global events we see, perhaps. We may be thankful we are not fleeing a war torn cluster of other powers’ making.
But even these situations have roots not only in political upheaval, like in Syria and Iraq, but also in basic needs that are going unmet. The fact is we are all connected. Global security is connected to food supply. And that supply is being directly impacted from climate change.
A stock Thanksgiving meal set unlike any that I have personally experienced, yet with several classic elements.
So if you are fortunate enough to be able to look with thanks upon your table this season, do take time to think about the world beyond your circle. Remember your family and friends that aren’t there. Include the farmers and winemakers, the workers and craft that brings bounty to you.
But also thank Governor Hickenlooper for defending the Clean Power Plan and Senator Bennet for supporting it against Republican rollbacks in the Senate. One little bite at a time, and some perseverance, and we can make a real difference.
Maybe say a little prayer for peace. But also send it to the world’s leaders heading to Paris this week. Ask that they keep the wisdom that reminds: the smart ruler fills bellies while the harvest of an army is a waste of thorns.
If we want peace, we need security. And if we want security then people need to be secure in their food supplies. And to ensure people have full bellies, and secure food supplies, political leaders need to Act on Climate. It really is as simple as the food on our plate.