Tag: fossil fuel

The Future of Food*

organic veggies 2-22-18 copy
Organic local carrots, winter radishes, & kohlrabi. Watercolor pencil & gouache on paper, 15″ x 11″ © J.Hart 2018

Instagram is filled with seductive photos of food from high end bloggers, chefs, and assorted foodies. Some of these creative food aficionados were even kind enough to respond to my recent posts. A thank you to all the bloggers who commented and responded!

Now, as a practicing foodie, I appreciate both the pleasure of food sensually and visually. However, our present huge interest in using food as a creative outlet gives me pause. It seems to me that it  rests upon a faith that the supplies that support it, the diversity of crops, both vegetable and animal, coming in from all over the planet, will continue to exist, certainly through our lifetime. I think that is very unlikely: what is more to be expected is that we will lose, in the very near future, many of the foods that we take for granted:


In our present situation, it is heat that is, in the next couple of years, going to radically change the way we eat and drink. It is going to mean that the huge fields of corn, soy, and wheat-with which the mammoth industrial corporations support their empire of fast, processed, and cheap food-will be burned and destroyed by fire and drought. It also means that smaller crops like barley which supports the cheap beer that is the main alcoholic beverage in the States will also be affected.


Very high temperatures during the growing months will make harvesting basic crops like strawberries by hand very dangerous.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/brand-connect/ucdavis/protecting-californias-farmworkers-as-temperatures-climb/

The short-term solution will probably be night harvesting, and, of course, the development of robotic harvesting:  https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/09/07/437285894/4-labor-intensive-crops-farmers-wish-they-had-robots-to-harvest.

Not only heat, but lack of water or too much water at the wrong time, will affect basics like olive oil:

The systematic destruction of the soil and ecosystems will eventually eliminate crops like cocoa:  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/13/chocolate-industry-drives-rainforest-disaster-in-ivory-coast

Finally, the change in the weather and the creation of what Elizabeth Kolbert calls the new Pangaea – the unimpeded spread of microbes, fungi, and insects carrying diseases throughout the globe – are leading to the destruction of crops and the disappearance of foods we have learned to take for granted like bananas and oranges.

This does not even begin to cover the destruction by industrial fishing of ocean habitats that support the seafood we are all encouraged to eat for better health. (Here in Dallas, the grocery stores sell a relatively inexpensive shrimp caught in the Gulf of Mexico. Needless to say, I am hesitant, knowing what I do about the dead zones and massive pollution in the Gulf, to buy these shrimp!)

So one issue is that cooking as if the whole world is one’s grocery store is a reflection of a fossil fuel dependent mentality that refuses to imagine that this way of living will shortly end. Even health books promote, without being aware of it, a static delusional world view. Recipes, such as those I just found in  Dr. Mark Hyman’s Eat Fat, Get Lean cookbook (which advertises a combined paleo and vegan diet), depends heavily on foods, like coconut and avocados, which have a huge carbon footprint for North America.

The other more difficult problem is that cooking as a commodity for consumption by the wealthy (food as art!) normalizes habits that are destructive to the planet.  I can imagine in the not too distant future millions of poor people worldwide starving; the middle class here paying much of their income for food and being disappointed that the wide diversity of food they were used to is no longer available; and the superrich continuing to eat as if there is no tomorrow!


(This is probably the best opinion piece on the coming food catastrophe. It is not the first time that I have posted this, nor will it be the last!)

So my suggestion, as always, is to move away from the exotic and expensive in cooking as in life: to focus on your area’s food traditions and local crops; and grow some of your own food. Your recipes will become more wholesome if less photogenic and novel, but the planet will thank you!

*Warning: this post is what I call a Cassandra Report. As many of you may remember from Greek stories, Cassandra was a beautiful woman with whom the god Apollo fell in love. He gave her the gift of prophecy, but she rejected him. Enraged, he cursed her with the ability to tell truth about the future, but the inability to have anyone ever believe her!

So my modest guesses of what the future will hold for us are Cassandra Reports. As a disclaimer, I do not believe that I am clairvoyant. However, I do believe that anyone with a good imagination and the courage to accept change, can “foresee” the future: you do not need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows! (Bob Dylan)


House of Cards


There should be no “shock” at the disaster unfolding at the moment in Puerto Rico  The combination of an ineffectual and venal Administration which has been undermining the public sector since it took office and of more intense hurricanes driven by extreme climate change was bound to create an humanitarian crisis in this part of the United States. The crisis should also been expected because Puerto Rico adopted the fossil fuel technology & culture that needs a complicated and ultimately fragile (relative to the strength of natural forces like hurricanes & flooding) infrastructure of highways, airports, trucks, gasoline, and people to run it that was difficult to create & sustain on a small tropical island.


Like in Houston, the misery will be compounded by the chemical, atomic, and fossil fuel pollution and Superfund sites on the island which were opened by the hurricane.


As in Florida on the coasts and Texas along the Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will be inundated by the rising waters and hit, over & over, by ferocious & huge storms (Hurricane Irma was the size of France!)  that will batter it consistently over the coming decades. As tropical areas, these places are also going to be inhospitable to human habitation in less than 30 years.


So what is the solution for people living in those parts of the world, those parts of the United States? Do they continue to try to make the fossil fuel lifestyle fit a natural world openly hostile to it, assuming that gasoline run machines and technology are strong enough to stand against the force of extreme climate change? Or should Americans living in parts of the U.S. that are going to be at the epicenter of extreme global warming and climate change leave those areas and emigrate within the U.S. to higher ground?


And should we all be starting to think about this?!



Gas prices will go up!




With over 45% of total U.S. petroleum refining capacity located along the Gulf coast (https://www.eia.gov/special/gulf_of_mexico/, gas prices will continue to rise. As I write this, a category 4 hurricane (Irma) is heading toward the east coast of the U.S.A. September is the height of the hurricane season, and we are not even half way through the alphabet!!

But as I look out my window on a late Saturday morning, every car that I see stopping at the stop sign across the main street that I live on in Verdun, has but one person, the driver (we have not yet made it to self-driven cars!) in it. There is clearly no pressure yet to conserve gas or to limit the use of one’s car.

My daughter in Dallas is already dealing with gas rationing, and with gas stations running out of gas (she went to four stations before she found gas.). This was a shock to her as she had never seen rationing of any kind. I, however, clearly remember the 1973 and 1979 gas rationing in the U.S. And I also remember the push to carpool (https://www.shareable.net/blog/the-history-of-carpooling-from-jitneys-to-ridesharing).

So here we are, at the beginning of what promises to be an ever increasing price for using our cars. And that doesn’t take into account the cost of our carbon footprint (http://timeforchange.org/what-is-a-carbon-footprint-definition).

A carbon footprint is a difficult concept. Even people who understand the idea can not seem to really apply it to themselves. (Here is a link to calculate your carbon footprint: (http://www.carbonzero.ca/calculate).

It is a lack of understanding of the idea of interconnectedness with which we all seem to struggle. It is the jump that has to be made between the micro (that drive to the grocery store to pick up the cream you forgot when you shopped earlier), and the macro (that twenty minute ride is putting more CO2 in the atmosphere and is increasing global warming). We are all very loath to be inconvenienced or see our independence restricted by even the smallest amount. But the irony, of course, is that unless we change our lifestyle radically, unless we learn to curb our habit of instant gratification, our freedom will be limited for us in a far more drastic and unpleasant way!

So I am suggesting that we look at a number of possible alternatives to keeping our own cars or to using them constantly that will both save us money and greatly reduce our carbon footprint:

1. Carpooling or ridesharing:

this can be done with friends at work or with neighbours. It has the added benefit of helping the feelings of being disconnected and lonely from which many of us are suffering. It does mean, of course, that your schedule must now be negotiated with other people. But that practice of getting along with others is going to be vital for our survival in the coming years.

There are also new apps turning up every day to help find people to share rides. Here are just a few I have found online:




Have you used any of these, and what do you think about them, or about ridesharing in general?

2. Renting a car:

you will want to do the math on this. If you are only using the car occasionally it might make more sense to rent a car rather than pay for a car, upkeep, insurance, and parking (not to mention digging the car out of the snow here in the winter in Montreal if you can not afford an indoor garage!).



Taxis and Ubers are also good if needed infrequently. Again, how much would a taxi cost for a once a week food shopping?

3. Take public transportation:

you have great public transportation here in Montreal relative to places in the US that I have lived. Sometimes it is challenging to have to wait for a bus, but again, patience is going to be very much in demand in the coming years, and it is the practice of patience which makes it get stronger. For those of us who begin to change our way of living now, we are the ones who will be more resilient and able to deal more easily with the coming difficulties!

Would you consider this, especially as Montreal has awful construction delays?

4. Walk or bike:

this is a great way to get the best kind of exercise: drop weight and, by carrying groceries, build your muscles! Unfortunately, in the US especially, there is a real stigma for people who must walk or bike (usually because they have lost their driver’s license because of DUI, or they are too poor to keep a car). In my home town of Dallas, Texas, I am often the only person walking on the street. I am, incidentally, one of the thinner people around!

With Bixi bikes (https://montreal.bixi.com/en) to rent all around town, and discounts on Opus cards (http://www.stm.info/en) for bus and metro (subway) including monthly rates, Montreal is a great town to live in without a car as I do!

Could you see yourself giving up your car altogether?!

If you have finished this post, you will realize that none of this information is new. But it is beginning to be very important, and I hope that it will be helpful to find it all in one place. I would also encourage everyone to look on cars as tools, not status symbols or toys. They are one of the things responsible for climate change and as such, should only be used for real necessities!

I am very interested to hear your stories about the links I shared, and your experiences of reducing car use in your life! Please comment!