10 March 2011

Food and Water

There's lots of disturbing stuff in the news lately, with collective bargaining rights taken from unions in Wisconsin, the unemployment rate in Colorado over 10% for the first time, and riots all over the world. Scary times. But even more concerning is all the low-key noise about food costs and possible shortages. I know that's been bandied about for years, but suddenly it seems much closer to reality.

When I first moved to Denver in the late 70s and was married to a newly-minted water engineer, there was much talk about the Ogallala aquifer, that vast body of ancient waters that feeds a multi-state region in the center of America. Even back then, talk of rapid depletion and lack of government oversight to manage its use, was a common topic in certain circles.

I'm somewhere over that blue section in eastern Colorado, where center-pivot irrigation rules, and water costs are still darn cheap despite the writing on the wall. I don't think I've ever paid more than $100 a month during the driest summer months, and we have very large gardens on this two-acre property. There's a lot of water waste in the area, along with oil consumption, another unsustainable practice that won't last many more years. But now, the depletion of the aquifer, and not just this one, is taking center stage because food supplies are decidedly connected to this region. It is, after all, called The Breadbasket for its wheat and corn commodity crops, which don't just feed America, but the entire world.

People in this country can't fathom the idea of starvation, and certainly not in mass terms, but there are signs of impending crisis. First we have rapidly rising food costs, which are fueled by decreasing cheap energy costs and the destruction of crops by severe weather patterns. Both of those issues aren't going away. In fact, they'll likely get worse. Add in the above-mentioned water depletion and what will the future in a few decades look like? What will life be like even in five years?

Signs that may people are anticipating some changes (and some of us don't think it's such a bad thing) is the move toward vegetable gardening, the increasing legal changes allowing livestock in cities, and interest in open-pollinated seed stock that allows the farmer to harvest his own seeds rather than depending on seed companies. There's also a burgeoning movement among the young to preserve and store foods for future consumption, and it's not just for health reasons. Fewer citizens are trusting the government to take care of them, and planning ahead to take responsibility for their own well-being. It all sounds kind of like the fifties, doesn't it? We can only hope life will be as good as it was back then.

For us personally, life won't change much over the next few years, except to maybe do more of what we're already doing. We'll inventory our seeds and add to those, as we do every year. We might add a small greenhouse to the property, some more cold frames, and try a high tunnel to moderate and extend growing season. We'll have to figure out how to handle the grasshopper plague without chemicals. Maybe we'll figure out some sort of collaborative effort with neighbors to exchange produce and share ideas. We're also going to try to grow a good-sized stand of oil sunflowers and buy a press to manufacture our own cooking oil! That'll be a first for us.

Those are just a few thoughts. The biggest and best change, of course, would be to live somewhere all of our efforts would be easier! Somewhere with more rain, more kindred spirits, more resources. I just haven't figured out where that is yet. Got any brilliant ideas?
Temps: 62/26 Suddenly a late Spring day!
Writing: 4 pages
Dinner: Aloo Gobi with peach lassi

1 comment:

Sarah said...


Interesting post! Especially, the section on starvation.

Feeding America is the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity. Our mission is to feed America's hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger.

Each year, the Feeding America network provides food to more than 37 million low-income people facing hunger in the United States, including 14 million children and nearly 3 million seniors.

So, as you mentioned, starvation is becoming more prevalent than some people believe.

Thanks for sharing. Feel free to check out our site. Take care!

Feeding America

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