Food and Drink 

In the green shadow of Earth Day


It was the warmest winter on record for all of us in Canada this year – for we Canucks; for our beautiful polar bears; for the salmon about to migrate up our rivers; for the teensy mountain pine beetles munching their way through 80 per cent of our lodgepole pine forests because winters have been too warm to kill the buggers off; for our pets, who will likely get more fleas; for our forests and gardens.

Right now thanks to our record warm winter, and sudden burst of heat this spring, there’s a massive green aphid invasion infesting my chives and tulips, the likes of which I’ve never seen. For the tulips it will mean a shorter bloom of glory.

But for the chives it’s more than that. Normally I snip them, give them a quick rinse since they never see the underside of a chemical bottle, and toss them into salad. This year it’s not going to be as simple, or as appetizing, what with all those bugs and their squishy juices – not at all what anyone has in mind in terms of going green.

When we hear about the fallout from global warming it’s usually in the context of the big picture: Greenland ice sheets disappearing in a blink, forests in Indonesia and the Yukon up in smoke because of drought, the Arctic and Antarctic meltdowns. Enough to make you drag out your Earth Day posters and your Earth shoes all over again.

But what about the interface between what’s on our plates and global warming?

Not to guilt you out or anything, but thinking about it one day a year just ain’t gonna cut it. A little mindfulness at the grocery store, as well as the gas pumps, every day will go a long way in keeping your basic Earth sense grounded.

First of all, here’s a little carbon-bomb I just found out about. Buying organic isn’t just about avoiding carcinogens and crappy, tasteless agri-biz food. The chemical pesticides used in factory farming actually destroy the micro-organisms in the soil that keep carbon there. When the micro-organisms are gone, the carbon is released into the atmosphere as CO2. As well, when those organisms are destroyed, soil is no longer naturally fertile and chemical fertilizers are a necessity, not a luxury.

This leads to the next link between fossil fuels and food fields.

"Agriculture in this country is not about food; it’s about commodities that require the outlay of still more energy to become food," writes Richard Manning, author of Against the Grain: How Agriculture has Hijacked Civilizations , in a classic essay in Harper’s Magazine , February, 2004. He’s referring to the USA, but we sure can’t take the moral high ground in Canada.

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