We needed this morning's moisture and we're far enough from the course of the Sunrise River that I'm not concerned about flooding, although the Kinnickinnic River area southeast of here is reported to have received around 7 inches of rain this morning (scroll down the linked page to see a graph of the river stage), compared to 3 inches or so in our neck of the woods. We definitely seem to be settling into a Summer weather pattern of heat, humidity and hotspot downpours. Last week a friend who lives north of us mentioned that the hail in his area damaged his beans and tomatoes and black raspberries.
apple blossoms and buds
Photo by J. Harrington
I remember a past year's September hail damage to Minnesota's apple crop and a prior year's April frost damage to the buds. Those who study such things tell us that we should expect more sporadic severe storms as the climate changes and the atmosphere warms. I suspect that's going to have some unfortunate affects on our local food system and am beginning to wonder about the potential vulnerability of a Twin Cities' foodshed based on a forty-mile radius. I spent a lot of my planning career working on regional system plans, all before the time that there was much thought, or at least before I was doing much thinking about regional food systems. There was concern about protecting prime farmland from development, but not much more that I recall.
Although I try to leave my Eyore hat on the shelf as much as I can these days, here's a quick summary of various system vulnerabilities I've noticed in the news during the past several months:
- California's drought and food supply effects
- Toledo, Ohio's water supply algae problem
- Minnesota's blue green algae problem
- A growing list of places in Minnesota and Iowa suffering the effects of nitrate pollution, largely from agricultural sources, of groundwater used for drinking.
agricultural fields, southwestern Minnesota
Photo by J. Harrington
The pattern I think I see is an industrial agriculture effectively destroying our common wealth of surface and groundwaters, being a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, opposing, even though they're largely exempt from Clean Water Act requirements, the protection of public water supplies and becoming well on its way to being considered about as beneficial a player in our economy as those who mine coal by blowing the tops off of mountains. This is happening concurrent with the increased vulnerability of our food supplies and catastrophic disruptions of our drinking water supplies. Is this is what we, as a society, should expect from responsible citizens and corporations? We require cities to treat their (our) wastewater and stormwater. We require manufacturers to pretreat or treat their wastewaters. Why shouldn't we expect the same from industrial agriculture. How much of our healthy food comes directly from field corn and soy beans? If we're feeding the world while polluting our own water supplies, how long until we have to trade food for water? Which do we need more? This isn't isn't just the way it is, it's the way we let it be. Will Rogers noticed industrial agriculture's locational requirements when he said "Buy land. They ain't making any more of the stuff." He might have said the same about water. What happens on the land doesn't stay on the land.
soon, industry and agriculture convergedand the combustion enginesowed the dirtclod truck farms greenwith onion tops and chicory
mowed the hay, fed the swine and muttonthrough belts and chutes
cleared the blue oak and the chaparralchipping the wood for mulch
back-filled the marshesreplacing buckbean with dent corn
removed the unsavory foliage of quagmade the land into a productionmade it produce, pistoned and oiledand forged against its own nature
and—with enterprise—built silosstockyards, warehouses, processing plantsabattoirs, walk-in refrigerators, canneries, mills& centers of distribution
it meant something—in spite of machinery—to say the country, to say apple seasonthough what it meant was a kind of nose-thumbingand a kind of sweetnessas when one says how quaintknowing that a refined listener understands the doubleness
and the leveling of the land, enduing it in sameness, cured malariaas the standing water in low glades disappeared,as the muskegs drainedtyphoid and yellow fever decreasedeven milksickness abatedthanks to the rise of the feeding pencattle no longer grazing on white snakeroot
vanquished: the germs that bedeviled the rural areasthe rural areas alsovanquished: made monochromatic and mechanized, made suburban
now,the illnesses we contract are chronic illnesses: dyspepsia, arthritisheart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, asthmachronic pain, allergies, anxiety, emphysemadiabetes, cirrhosis, lyme disease, aidschronic fatigue syndrome, malnutrition, morbid obesityhypertension, cancers of the various kinds: bladder bone eye lymphmouth ovary thyroid liver colon bileduct lungbreast throat & sundry areas of the brain
we are no better in accounting for death, and no worse: we still diewe carry our uninhabited mortal frames back to the landcover them in sod, we take the land to the brinkof our dying: it stands watch, dutifully, artfullyenriched with sewer sludge and ureato green against eternity of green
hocus-pocus: here is a pig in a farrowing crateeating its own feceshuman in its ability to litter inside a cageto nest, to grow gravid and to throw its young
I know I should be mindful of dangerous analogy:the pig is only the pigand we aren't merely the wide-open fieldflattened to a space resembling nothing
you want me to tell you the marvels of invention? that we perseverethat the time of flourishing is at hand? I should like to think it
meanwhile, where have I put the notebook on which I was scribbling
it began like:"the smell of droppings and that narrow country road . . ."
Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.