New report helps Southerners fight climate change

In the midst of a record-breaking cold snap in the South, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is releasing today a comprehensive position paper detailing policies for agriculture to adapt and mitigate climate change.  This study integrates the most recent climate research to develop comprehensive agricultural policy recommendations. However, it won’t keep shivering Southerners from echoing the tweet from a Florida golf course last winter that “perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old global warming.”

2018 soil cools in climate change

Climate change does not always mean global warming, but it does mean challenges to all farmers in the US.  The report details the likely climate changes which will take place and how farmers can adapt to these changes.  The report also details how climate change is intensified by hog and cattle factory farms and traditional row crop practices.

The report notes climate change is taking an anomalous path in parts of the Southeast.  In some areas, centered around Alabama, Mississippi and southern Arkansas, temperatures have cooled by an average of 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958, while global average temperatures have risen 1 degree.  This cooling has mainly occurred in the winter months.

The cause of this “global warming hole” appears to be relatively warmer air in the Arctic pushing the still cold Arctic air deeper into the US.  So cold air, which once only reached Ohio, is now getting down to Alabama.  The 2018 article propounding this theory is at this link.

Most importantly to non-farmers, the report reveals how farms can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce release of other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.  The South has immense potential for locking such greenhouse gases in soil and perennial biomass where they can increase resilience of Southern farms. Most soils in the South have vast capacity for increasing their storage of organic carbon.  The long growing season and high rainfall in the South provide perfect conditions for storing carbon in perennials and cover crops.

Some counties in the South have totally abandoned row crops and turned all their land into carbon-fixing pastures and forests.  Two such counties, Neshoba County in Mississippi, and Winn Parish in Louisiana, have turned from cotton to management intensive grazing and trees.  These counties, which rank in the top counties on resilience nation-wide, did not set out to be climate change pioneers.  They developed farming systems based on perennials because these systems fit their agroecological conditions. They left row crops to the farmers in flatter ground such as the Mississippi Delta.

Farmers in the most resilient Southern counties realize the benefits of manure from animals along with perennial biomass.  They are managing their land to mimic the movement of the herds of buffalo which helped create the carbon rich soils of the plains.

Research cited by the NSAC paper indicates that everyone, even vegetarians, should applaud management intensive grazing since it is one of the top means of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.  Even those who don’t eat meat should support agricultural systems where animals graze perennial species in ways that mimic nature’s adaptive cycles.

NSAC’s paper also points out that increasing resilience has implications far beyond climate change.  Climate change is just one of many disturbances buffeting farmers. Others include tariffs, input costs, market fluctuations, labor supply, and policies which support monocultures grown on immense acreages.

The good news is that resilience to all disturbances can be enhanced by the practices and policies advocated in the NSAC paper.  The best agroecological research indicates that increasing diversity, soil health, perennials, animals on pasture, composting wastes and organizing local processing and marketing helps the climate and helps farmers’ bottom lines.

Download your copy of the policy paper at this link: NSAC Climate Change Policy Position_paper .

For discussions of resilience beyond climate change, see the Resilience Project’s reports at this link.

To find out how your county ranks on resilience, try out the tools at this link.

Southeast cools as rest of country gets hotter

Last summer for a few days it was cooler in Arkansas than in Missouri or Michigan. Climate change is not always bad. Tornadoes also seem to be less prevalent here lately. Missouri and other Northern states are getting hit more and central and southeast Arkansas less.  So maybe there is good reason that climate deniers are more prevalent in Southern states as several studies have indicated.

south cools in climate changeAs the map shows, many areas of the South have been having cooler winters over the last few years.  As the rest of the nation warms up, we are cooling down.

The unusually cold weather has produced a mix of outcomes for farmers, wildlife and human residents. South Carolina peach farmers welcome a certain number of cold winter days for their trees to produce a full crop. But they’ve been walloped when a freeze arrives late, as have Florida’s citrus growers and Georgia’s Vidalia onion farmers.

Across the region, the cold helps knock pests, but it can stress native flora and fauna. Some 35 manatees died of cold stress syndrome in January 2018, according to a preliminary report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The cold also numbed the state’s invasive iguanas, some of which started falling out of trees in January, prompting Floridians to rush to their rescue.

According to the Third National Climate Assessment, part of the Southeastern United States  experienced much cooler than normal temperatures in the years between 1991 and 2012.  The phenomenon is so contrary to the rest of the country and the world that it has been labelled a “global warming hole.”

Why the hole exists is an open question.  National Geographic published an article summarizing the major theories, if you are interested.

The most recent (2018) theory is that relatively warmer air in the Arctic is pushing the still cold Arctic air deeper into the US.  So cold air which once only reached Ohio, is now getting down to Alabama.  You can read the article propounding this theory at this link.

This study was based their on examining NOAA data from 1,407 temperature stations and 1,722 rain stations across the United States, from 1901 until 2015. They then identified stations that were persistently cooler than average from 1960 to 2015.

They found that daily temperatures in the hole have cooled by an average of 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958, whereas global average temperatures have risen 1 degree over the same time period.

The most recent data is shown on the following map which shows that Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama are the states with the largest decreases in temperatures from 1895 to 2018.

2018 soil cools in climate change

The 2019 article producing this latest data also has a feature which lets you enter any US county and find out how much the temperature has increased or decreased since 2018.

The bottom line is the climate change will not occur in any regular, predictable fashion.  Mother Nature is striking back at us in strange and unexpected ways.  Some of these might even be nice.  If you like thunderstorms, then you’ll get few more thrills from as the climate changes.

And the South may continue to get cooler.  Or not.

 

Eight almost-commandments of resilience

The only dogma of Nature is survival.  Whoever survives the latest challenge or disruption gets to enjoy life until the next challenge.

hot dogma

Nature demands adherence to no commandments.  You are free to go off on all sorts of silly, frivolous and destructive paths. And you will.  Nature loves and accepts such messes. . Nature’s only response is to wipe you off the planet when you mess up enough.

Some of us have survived decades of messes and have had the opportunity to observe many people and communities messing up and surviving, Our conclusions from these observations amount to  almost-commandments.  These are more than suggestions, but not immutable laws since such do not exist in Nature.

We’ve distilled the best of the best of those almost-commandments into a set of antecedents of resilience for you and your community.

  1. Be connected but independent.  You are a community of species and a part of a community of people and other species. We all need genuine relationships with other people and animals and plants, but we must also be independent, able to survive without any one of those relationships. Be independent but part of a community of our own and other species.
  2. Be self-organized. Don’t depend on others to organize your life. Be creative and create your own order, one which arises from the community which is you and which your are a part of. You are composed of multiple needs, impulses, and desires as are the people, animals and plants around you.  Organize them all to create a system which works for you and creates a locally self-organized community.
  3. Be curious and innovative, but conservatively. Traditional behavior and structures exist because they contributed to resilience in the past.  A particular behavior or structure which worked in the past may not necessarily support resilience in the future.  But a community which does not preserve the basic foundations of its resilience will never survive. The most innovative usually do not survive.  The conservatively innovative are resilient.
  4. Be focused on maintenance and redundancy.  Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves. Some are so focused on efficiency, they forget that efficiencyBe efficient in your work, including creating back-ups for your community.
  5. Be thrifty and accumulate useful tools.  Resilient communities build richer and deeper soils, a variety of skills, water catchment systems, and any other tool which passes the conservative innovation test.
  6. Be ready for transformation. Always be ready to be born again.  You and your community must be open to renewal and must lay a foundation which encourages that transformation when it is needed.
  7. Be integrated in your ecosystem. Enjoy the natural world where your community lives. Treat your ecosystem as you would your neighbor and yourself. That is, follow the other almost-commandments with the natural systems around you.
  8. Be diverse and promote diversity, as long as it is complementary. We are built to give and receive.  But we are not built to only give or only receive.  We must do both.  Anyone who only gives or only receives destroys their community.

The above spell out the acronym CLIMATED, fortuitous since climate change and weather extremes are among the most treacherous challenges to any community.

These eight almost-commandments have proven themselves time and again.  They are include all the qualities included in numerous frameworks of resilient systems including those of Rockefeller Foundation. Stockholm Resilience Center, international development experts (Frankenberger et al.), Australian resilience pioneers (Walker and Salt), agricultural development experts (Cabell and Oelofse) and many others.

For more information on how you and your community can become more resilient, download the chapters of our free book here.

Indigenous Day!!!!!

There are no indigenous people to the US.  The first people to come from Asia wiped out the huge indigenous animals which then roamed the continent. Yet some unhappy people don’t want anyone to celebrate the immigrant known as Columbus.  They want an “Indigenous Peoples Day.”  They want us to celebrate the people who wiped out these beautiful animals.  I say celebrate Columbus Day by getting out and exploring the little Nature we have left.  It’s  the best time of the year to be in the Delta.  No mosquitoes, cool temperatures, low humidity.

megafauna-of-north-america

City councils of many US cities don’t have enough to do.  These politicians do have time to grease the squeaky wheel, though.  And the vast Know-Nothing-but-indignant-about-everything crowd is squeaking, “indigenous, indigenous!!!”

St. Paul, Albuquerque and a growing slew of other ignorant city councils have declared today Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day.  I do like indigenous people, they strewed around a lot of arrowheads for me to find.  I found a prehistoric knife sharpener on this trip to Meadowcreek.

I’m not sure which indigenous peoples I should celebrate today, though. The first humans to leave any calling cards on the North American continent migrated from Asia.  They are called paleoindians or Clovis people, hunted the mastodon, mammoth, horse, tapir, ground sloth, giant bison, giant beaver, giant tortoise, American lion, short-faced bear, and saber-toothed tiger. Over-hunting caused the mass extinction of these animals as the Ice Age ended. More than thirty species of large animals became extinct. By about 10,500 years ago, megafauna no longer roamed North America.

So, if these city councils were less ignoSerpent_Mounds_sketchrant, I’m sure they would not want to glorify the paleoindians because they wiped out some species that we all would like to see.  Kinda like the Africans of today are wiping out the rhinos and all the other big species that the Chinese want for some revolting practice.

The paleoindians were in turn wiped out by the more advanced Hopewell people.  The Hopewell people knew how to garden a little (so they could stay healthier than the Clovis people when game got scarce due to over-hunting) and they made captivating mound art.  On my way to visit the Worstell Building in Athens, Ohio, I stopped at the Serpent Mound.  Any modern artist would be extremely cocky if he had produced this 1330 foot long earth sculpture.  It’s impossible to describe it, but look at this drawing of it and you get a feel for it.  If you’re ever on the road between Cincinnati and Athens, Ohio, you gotta stop and see it.

serpent_mound__ancient_aliens_in_america__201081Nearby have been found some giant skeletons in burial mounds.  These are similar to skeletons found from the eastern Mediterranean, mainland Europe, and the British Isles. These folks appear to have shared an identical material culture, a religion of constructing burial mounds for the dead and solar temples to track the movement of the sun.

According to the folks who investigated the site on a high point in Highland County, Ohio, these graves were made of large limestone slabs, two and a half to three feet in length and a foot wide. These were set on edge about a foot apart. Similar slabs covered the graves. A single one somewhat larger was at the head and another at the foot. The top of the grave was two feet below the present surface.

Some think these were the Nephilim mentioned in the Bible.  That seems pretty far-fetched to me, but if the Nephilim are the “indigenous peoples” the city councils are honoring, then I’d be all for it.

Maybe, though, the city councils mean to honor the tribe which wiped out the Hopewell.  I could see the politically correct honoring this culture (called the Mississippian).  This tribe invaded from Mexico, kinda similar to today, with an extremely resilient agricultural system. They grew corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and gourds.  They kept turkeys and dogs for food and feather coats.

Or maybe the city councils meant the tribes from the Plains who learned how to ride the horses they stole from the Spanish and used their new skills to conquer the more civilized folks who had previously invaded from Mexico.

I guess I just know too much about “indigenous peoples” (who are all related to ancient Asians and not really indigenous at all) for my own good.  It just makes it really hard to figure out why the city councils are honoring these blood-thirsty sun worshippers over some blood-thirsty Christians.  They were both pretty horrible to modern, politically correct sensibilities.

It must be some kind of self-hatred since most of these city council folk are white people.  Either that or they just  don’t like Italians like Christopher Columbus.

White male patriarch

Aggressive, obnoxious people are not my favorite dinner companions. I try to avoid them whenever possible. On the rare occasions when I walk in large American cities, I keep an eye out for threatening people. When I am disgruntled, I can understand why people avoid me. I do my best to avoid mean people on the internet too. But recently I failed.

I had just finished a really productive session with several Malagasy men and women. We worked late and identified several strategies around problems that had been plaguing their organization. Back at my mountainside guest house, I had some great Malagasy rice and shrimp and the national Three Horses beer and turned on my computer.

Somehow a social media post appeared which was unassailably logical. It was written by a white American female who contended you should be careful about being nice to white people because they were probably racist and you shouldn’t take the chance on being nice to a racist.

Given her assumption that most white people are racist, her conclusions are very logical. I just questioned whether it wouldn’t be better to just be gentle and peaceful if others are gentle and peaceful. Too late I realized that people who believe such things are living in an echo chamber where everyone echoes the same drivel because questioning it means you are labeled racist and shunned.

She and a bunch of her friends proceeded to make sure I knew how stupid and uninformed I was. I went to sleep. Madagascar is eight hours ahead of middle America, so while I slept they had lots of time to elaborate on why you shouldn’t be nice to white people. When I woke up the next morning, I found that all day these privileged Americans had continued to bash my comments about being nice. I provided them a soft punching bag. I was the scape goat in the Biblical sense. One woman very angrily accused me of being full of anger and being a white male patriarch and probably disliked by all the Africans I’d ever worked with.

Tired of being a punching bag and scapegoat, I deleted all the messages I’d posted about how it’s good to be gentle, nice and peaceful when others are gentle and peaceful and nice and blocked some folks. I thought about pearls and swine.

Then I walked down the street, past beggars, bare-footed porters, home-made push carts, and ragged laughing children to the alley beside the ramshackle market and up rickety stairs past bags of rice seed to begin another productive day of helping a few Malagasy learn market analysis, social motivation and business planning so they can help their villages have a little more income and better lives.

Tribe vs. community

Rarely do the liberal and conservative elites unite in denouncing something. Tribalism, however, they both hate. In elite circles, “tribalism” is the opposite of an urbane, cosmopolitanism outlook. Brexit was cursed as “a reversion to tribalism.”

The liberal elite are joined by the conservative elite in denouncing American tribalism. The conservative elite on “Fox & Friends” joined together one recent morning to lament “hyphenated Americans” who “focus on background.” Having an ethnic identity, like Norwegian, Irish, or African American, is what “we have been trying to move past for a long time.”

“My grandmother, I believe, spoke Norwegian,” Fox News host Pete Hegseth said. “I don’t know a word of Norwegian. That’s what I hope every group who comes here does.” His conservative co-hosts agreed.

These elites act as if their elite tribe is somehow not a tribe. As laughable as this idea is, it’s also horribly cruel. What they value so much in their own lives, belonging to a little platoon that provides a sense of identity and purpose, they want to deny to everyone else.

As conservatism has increasingly defined itself as hating what progressives stand for, the conservative position on race and ethnicity has been to demand a “color blindness” and a denunciation of identity politics that eyes with suspicion any identity other than “American.”

Whether the elites are liberal or conservative, they all seem to have the same attitude. They want to ban tribalism (all tribes but their own) because they desire a society which looks up to them. They seem to want a homogeneous mass of identical individuals whose happiness and behavior depends on direction from them, the elite.

But the elites miss what underlies a strong and resilient society. The most resilient societies are diverse, but the diversity serves a common purpose. It is complementary diversity. It is composed of communities which are all independent but all working together for the common good. America has always been a nation of people with multiple overlapping identities. We have our American-ness as one identity, but that is tied up with a diversity that includes our particular geographic place, our particular vocation, our particular faith, and, yes, our particular ethnicity.

You cannot understand a person, including yourself, without trying to comprehend the invisible forces, spanning generations, that shaped you.

A corollary to this insight is that we owe it to our children to give them not only a healthy and happy and challenging now. If we hope they have a happy and successful tomorrow, we need to also give them a yesterday. In some cultures, this is easy and natural. In some settings, this takes real effort.

A recent book provides a great illustration. It’s author, Michael Brendan Dougherty,was raised around New York City as an only child of a single mother, with only irregular contact with his father from Ireland.

Spending one’s youth in different suburbs, in two different states, raised without a father is a formula for serious alienation. It’s the same profile as the man who murdered Heather Heyer with his car in Charlottesville, Va., after joining a white nationalist movement. Much of what afflicts the working class in Middle America today is the nakedness of a deracinated life: We have more and more men who lack faith, who lack ethnicity, who lack fathers, and who live in areas that lack a sense of distinctive place.

So, what did Dougherty’s mother do? How did she try to save her son?

She made him Irish.

First, she named him Michael Brendan Dougherty.

Then she dug deep to plant roots that would anchor this little family that otherwise could be tossed by the tempests of modernity. She brought little Michael to Irish culture festivals and Irish pubs. She brought him to Gaeltacht Weekends where attendees were supposed to speak no English, but only the Old Irish language, which, as an act of rebellion, some of the Irish had been trying to resurrect for about a century.

“[M]y own nursery was injected with a peculiar kind of Irish nationalism,” Dougherty writes. “My mother wanted me to know myself as Irish. ”

His book is grounded in the specific worlds of Ireland, greater New York, parochial school, and modern America. One can divine easily the broader lesson, though, and that’s why a the book has been praised by a bunch of Jewish American conservative writers who appreciate the richness of family, faith, ethnicity, and language.

“None are so blind as they who will not see.” Other writers and commentators denigrate America, the deplorables, Wal-mart goers, and any other tribe other than their own liberal minded clique. They can’t see how they draw sustenance from being part of a very exclusive community which sure looks like a tribe. They denounce tribalism while pledging full allegiance to their own tribe.

We have an innate need to be part of a tribe. Loving your people, your ethnicity, your culture is something we all need. But when such love is coupled with hate of all those who aren’t part of your tribe, tribalism become destructive.

“We are totally right and they are totally wrong” is an extreme of tribalism which assures destruction.  The American Indians were divided into thousands of tribes which nearly all fought with each other even as the advancing Europeans took over their lands.  Something similar is happening in the US today.  Because we are so busy fighting with each other instead of working together to conquer our many challenges, other tribes are invading and taking over more and more of our country as we fight with each other.

Even if one side does win, this tribalism will identify an Other within its ranks. Then the tribalism and destruction will begin anew. Spend a little time in Africa and you’ll see how tribalism destroys. Yet the elite in Africa also want to eliminate tribalism, while not recognizing they are part of a tribe who wants to eliminate tribalism.

Belonging to a community or tribe is good. But watch out or your allegiance to your tribe will result in destruction all around.

Yes to Koran and eagle hunting; No to Bible

Turkish Airlines breaks the rules. In contrast to what you might expect from the national airline of an Islamic country, Turkish Airlines is much more flexible than American airlines. It does things no American airline would dare to do. For example, they offer audio versions of religious texts. If you don’t want to watch the latest movies, you can listen in sonorous English while the Arabic script flows from right to left across your screen. No American airline is brave enough to offer the Bible to fliers.

Turkish Airlines does a lot that no American airline can match. On my last flight, I was served a cube of comb honey and a dark sphere which stood up on my plate. It turned out to be a shell of hard chocolate with mango slices and soft chocolate inside.

On long flights you get a couple of full meals and sandwiches and spirits whenever you like. Turkish Airlines boasts that it flies to more destinations than any other nation in the world. But even on short flights, they treat you really well. On a 90 minute flight, you get a full meal that is pretty durn good. Most of its airplanes have hundreds of movies available on demand.

Many of the movies are in Turkish with no subtitles. They lure you in with an English summary, but then you usually can’t understand the movie. Sometimes the movie is so entrancing that you watch it anyway. That happened to me on my last trip. I’d just come from visiting guy in Kyrgyzstan who hunts with falcons and eagles, so when I saw a movie about a young girl becoming an expert falconer in rural Turkey, I tried it and watched all the way to the end, though I couldn’t understand a word. Now I know the tricks of becoming a falconer. A red tailed hawk just might be enlisted in my new hobby next winter.

Usually I get bored listening to a language I don’t understand, so I skip around the available channels and that’s how I found the Koran. You can hear the Koran spoken in English as you watch the Arabic phrases flow from right to left across the screen–much like Hebrew. Funny how close Arabic and Hebrew are.

Turkish Airlines doesn’t offer the Bible for Christians or the Bhagavad gita for Hindus or the Tao Te Ching for Taoists. But they do let you switch seats almost at will. American airlines don’t let you do that any more. They are intent on making money by insuring they are paid more for good seats. Comfort of passengers is definitely not the top priority for American airlines these days.

My next flights overseas will be on Delta and Ethiopian Airlines, so I’ll see if they match up to Turkish. I’m not holding my breath, that either will over the Bible, though Ethiopia was Christian a thousand years before America existed and six hundred years before Turkey switched from being Christian to being Moslem. Anyway, I’m going back to Kyrgyzstan as soon as I can, so I’ll get to enjoy Turkish Airlines again very soon.