Hitting close to home
The climate change crisis just came home to roost. There I was, buying my regular dozen bagels from Goldberg's on Monday when boom, the cashier says $9.xx. I can't even remember the exact price because the first number was so astonishing. The price of a dozen bagels (12 plus 1) at Goldberg's had been $8 for years. A small jump would be reasonable, even expected. But 15%! And then I remembered the sign on the refrigerator at the Giant the previous week, apologizing for the uncontrollable rise in prices for eggs and milk. (Paraphrased, the sign said: it's not our fault.) The reasons for these disparate price increases seem to be one and the same: what's happening to our land.
Droughts and floods, not just in one place, but around the world, have reduced wheat production over the past two years and raised wheat prices (futures at least) 100%. Add to these lower yielding harvests the additional impact of fewer fields growing wheat, replaced instead with acreage devoted to growing subsidized corn to meet ethanol marketplace demands, and you get an even smaller wheat, and food, harvest. Add a minus to a minus and you have to get more minus.
Yet if we would raise miles-per-gallon standards quickly enough, conserve meaningfully enough, and invest in alternative fuels (cellulosic biofuels) energetically enough, we could have our corn and eat it too. Meanwhile, we are instead tragically making it more expensive for people around the world to feed themselves and their families on these basic food crops. With wheat and corn getting more expensive, so do the foods that rely on them: eggs, milk and meat.
Even worse, studies coming out show that burning corn ethanol may be even more damaging to the environment than burning traditional oil, and if not worse, than no better either. So we may be creating world-wide food shortages without any environmental gain.
This is a complex issue that is coming home to roost. And we must be diligent consumers and continue to read and learn and advise our politicians. But if we thought climate change wouldn't hit us for decades, we must think again. The future has already begun.