By: Ojaswee Chaudhary
“The act of putting into your mouth what the earth has grown is perhaps your most direct interaction with the earth.”
We all love Earth. We all also love food, a lot. Obviously these two must be related. How related are they though?
Well first and the most obvious, food grows on the Earth, and it is also consumed on the Earth. So just like us, food products spend their entire lives on this planet. This means, if Earth is experiencing a problem, it is only reasonable that food and us get affected by the same problem. In this case, we are looking at the problem of climate change. Climate change has a huge effect on our food. This means our health is in danger. Basically, climate change messes with the Earth, automatically messing with our food, and then us. The three main ways it does this is through food poisoning, harming agricultural institutions, and increasing the prices.
Food poisoning: One of the most common ways we directly see the effects of climate change is through foodborne illness, or food poisoning. How many times have you or your friends been stuck at home all day because of this horror? The concern is very common as it comes from widespread sources such as high-end restaurants, but also attacks in local grocery stores. Now what may not be very common is the idea that climate change is a main factor to food poisoning. This is true and in fact climate change uses two of its deadliest effects to cause it: rising temperatures and contact with the infamous fossil fuel, CO2. How do different temperatures cause food poisoning?
Well, climate change is known to cause major inconsistency in conditions, therefore the name climate change. Studies show that this inconsistency causes pathogens to be more prevalent. The pathogens provoke 1. Salmonella infection, a sickness that messes with the digestive systems of humans, and 2. Vibrio vulnificus, a dangerous bacteria found in seafood. National Geographic talks about vibrio in an article. The Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey tested this temperature-pathogen relationship proving they do affect each other.
Now food poisoning is not the only way that the rising force of climate change causes harm to our food. It also contacts the roots, literally, of where our food comes from: the farms, or the agricultural institutions, to be fancier. Agriculture has shaped the lives of humanity practically since day one, but it is not the same as it was before. The soil is growing weaker in our best farms, the rain is ceasing to nourish our plants, and those pesky weeds are rapidly growing in number… because of climate change. Mainly as a result of droughts and floods, our crop yields are getting lower and lower. The droughts either dry up the soil or create temperatures too high, above many plants’ highest temperature capacities. For example, cherries in an area in Michigan caused a loss of $220 million due to a warm winter refraining the growth of the cherries.
In terms of CO2, we might believe that more of it would help plants, as going with the basic principles of photosynthesis. But, in order for it to help, many other factors such as water, nutrients, and temperatures have to be at desirable conditions as well. CO2 also has shown many examples of reducing nutrients and proteins in crops like wheat and rice. Lastly, all these problems harming the crops such as rising temperatures and CO2 levels actually are where weeds and fungi thrive best. Climate change hits our food every step of its way, from the farms in which it is born all the way to where we mark its end: our plates.
For a long time, food prices have been shooting up making it hard for many to muster enough nutrients for their daily lives. But there is a way to fix this: conquer climate change. And yes, climate change causes rising food prices as well. It really is a problem. Effects such as low water quantities, droughts, and much more has caused farmers to have to increase their prices because they cannot produce as many crops as before. For example, a severe drought in New South Wales, Australia is causing many crop failures. To fix this problem, the region has to increase imports from other countries, but prices will rise even more in order to fulfill these import orders. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization says the developing world will have to spend $52 billion on imports of many cereal crops. Global hunger will become a more prominent problem than it already is due to this issue.
If we want to keep eating safe and abundant food, we need to take action. It is a bit ironic how we need food to survive, yet we still let climate change take it away. Together we can save our planet and our beloved french fries both by conquering climate change.