Monday, September 19, 2011

What does Irene and the bigger picture of climate change mean for agriculture?
This American Farmland Trust article by Bob Wagner, titled, "In the Wake of Irene: What Natural Disasters Teach Us About Farmland Protection" highlights pertinent lessons from Irene for our society in terms of deciding how much we value agriculture and to what lengths we must go to keep agriculture viable. 
Wagner writes "Farmland is of value to local populations beyond the food and fiber it provides. It helps to absorb and filter water, an indispensable characteristic in mitigating the impact of flooding and other results of a natural disaster. Unfortunately, these valuable benefits are often not missed until they are gone and – as is the case with Irene – lost attributes with disastrous consequences. The rainfall and flooding from Irene was unprecedented in much of the Northeast. What appears an anomaly for the region may be the result of our changing landscape."
You have probably heard about the benefit concerts  for Vermont farmers and emergency loans and the exception response to Irene as a natural disaster and as a farming disaster. But we must also consider how agricultural conservation is closely tied to environmental management.  It was tragic that so many crops were destroyed, but would have been far more disastrous if those properties had been turned into housing developments. 
As this Huffington Post article, "Hurricane Irene 2011:Climate Change To Blame?" explains, Hurricane Irene also fits into a larger issue for farmers of addressing more extreme weather due to climate change.  While Hurricane Irene cannot be directly attributed to climate change (after all hurricanes occur naturally on the East Coast), but it demonstrates that we are not ready to face climate change's extreme weather forecasts. 

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