Monday, June 6, 2011

"big picture agriculture" Makes its Second Appearance on NYTs Dot Earth

This weekend, the NYTs ran a big agricultural article by Justin Gillis titled "A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself." The article is worth reading, but I detected the usual MSM sensationalism long on alarmist rhetoric and short on fact. There was just so much relevant information left out. None-the-less, the article derived a great deal of attention and mentions.

I was thrilled to see Dot Earth's Andrew Revkin cover the article by including a link to my post, "The Perils of International Farmland Investing." See Revkin's "Farming in a Challenging Climate."

Under his post, Revkin wrote this comment:
Roger Pielke, Jr., has a more critical view of the article, particularly its effort to cast climate change as a dominant concern: Here's his opening paragraph:

Today's New York Times has an article by Justin Gillis on global food production that strains itself to the breaking point to make a story fit a narrative. The narrative, of course, is that climate change "is helping to destabilize the food system." The problem with the article is that the data that it presents don't support this narrative.
I would have to agree with my fellow-Boulderite, Pielke. Don't get me wrong, on days when I read the weather headlines I could let myself become fearful, too, but we need to maintain some equanimity before drawing over-arching conclusions. (I try to keep a running list of agriculture/climate change study reports under the "climate change" tab at the top of this blog.)

Even more exciting for this humble blogger was Revkin's message on his personal blog:

And, finally, I see that Gillis followed up his prominent doomer article with this, "Reverend Malthus and the Future of Food" which I see as a more realistic viewpoint.

Yet, Gillis still fails to mention the U.S.'s corn ethanol policy which was politically driven to support corn prices due to ongoing agricultural overproduction and he fails to mention the adaptability of the human diet if climate change leads to less global production of corn, soy, and beef. Those promoted crops of today could be substituted with more drought resilient ones of sorghum, millet, dry beans, wheat, and hopefully, the most resilient of seeds. For meat, milk and cheese eaters, goats could be the answer in an agricultural world which is climate-stressed. On the doomer side of the argument, he fails to mention the elephant-in-the-room "peak oil."

I've made the case for increasing global agricultural commodity production quite a few times on this site since the first of this year here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for examples.
K. McDonald