Food and Farm – Join the Movement
We’re writing to ask that you take part in what may turn out to be the biggest global environmental action ever this October—and that you do it in some way that highlights the all-important link between global warming and farming in the years ahead.
There’s no activity on earth more dependent on the weather than growing food. And as you know, weird weather caused by global warming has already begun to make farming more difficult. In Australia, for instance, entire river systems are drying up as warmer air leads to drought. Because what goes up must come down, farmers in wet areas are dealing with unprecedented deluges that wash soil away and make planting impossible. The hardest hit are in the poorest and most vulnerable places on earth, and the damage will only get greater unless we quickly take action—recent studies show that by the latter part of the century, average temperatures will be too hot for our basic grain crops to grow successfully.
And at the same time, the way we farm in this world is one of the biggest causes of this global climate crisis. Concentrated animal feeding operations, over-application of fertilizer, industrial-sized farms, and a system that ships most food thousands of miles combine to make agriculture one of the biggest sources of global warming gases. Then there’s the food waste that our centralized food system piles up in landfills, giving off methane when it could be used for compost instead.
In Copenhagen, in December, the world’s leaders will meet to finalize a new treaty on climate change. But that treaty, if it were finished today, wouldn’t be nearly good enough. The latest science—in the wake of the melt of Arctic sea ice and the spread of catastrophic drought in the last two years—makes it clear that we need much greater progress. In fact, our best scientists have given us a number to work with. NASA’s James Hansen and his team said recently that any amount of carbon in the atmosphere greater than 350 parts per million was not compatible with “the planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” Since we’re already past that number—the air holds 387 ppm co2 and rising—that’s bad news. It explains why we’re seeing such devastating change.
And it explains why a network of people around the world—organized at 350.org and led by young people, and people in developing countries, but now growing to include everyone—is holding a huge global day of action on October 24. This “350 day” will attempt to take that number and push it into the human heart and mind, this resetting the psychological bar for these negotiations. We need to tell our leaders what they must deliver.
October 24 will feature thousands of actions in almost every country on earth. There will be climbers high in the Himalayas, and 350 scuba divers underwater on the Great Barrier Reef. Hundreds of churches will ring their bells 350 times, and bike clubs will have 350 riders out on the roads. In Nigeria they’ll be planting 3,500 people will plant 35,000 trees; in New Zealand, the Maori will gather on the high mountain ridges where the sun first strikes the earth.
But we need to make sure that everyone who’s involved with food (which would, if you think about it, include most of us) are deeply involved with this huge global action as well. That means farmers carving huge 350s into unmown fields, or gathering people to glean 350 pounds of grain. But it also means chefs, localvores—all of us. Already we’ve heard from Slow Food chapters in Spain that will make and serve 350 paellas in solar ovens, and farmers markets in New England that will make pyramids of 350 pumpkins by the entrance. Anything that’s beautiful and smart will help enormously—especially when you take a picture and upload it to the website that day, joining the thousands of images from across the globe. And it will help not only to slow down climate change, but also to remind people of the enormous role that shifts in agriculture could play as we try to tackle this most basic problem.
Please go to 350.org to register an action for that day. They can help you with materials and ideas, but it’s your spark and creativity that’s most necessary.
We will raise a glass of something local in your direction on October 24th to thank you for your help!
P.S.—One reason we thought to write farmers was because an email arrived at the 350 office a few weeks ago from a peasant farmer in Cameroon West Africa. He’d heard about this effort, and got together with his neighbors to plant 350 trees on the edge of his village. It was very moving, because you know that West African peasants have done nothing to cause global warming. But they understand that in this ever-more-connected world they can play some role in slowing it down. We hope you’ll feel the same way.