How Our Food Choices Affect the Weather

It’s been a weird growing season in the Twin Cities this year. We had a hot spell in spring, then crazy rain, then a dry but cool summer. Not so much fun for my flowers, but good material for grousing with fellow gardeners. It puts me in mind of that old saw, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

Nobody says that very often anymore, perhaps because it’s no longer true. Most of us do, in fact, contribute to the root causes of unstable weather, the climate change it heralds, and the general planetary degradation that marks our age.

I will not try to convince you that our earth is warming at a troubling rate. I will not spend time detailing how pollution and the greenhouse effect contribute to wild climactic mood swings, stronger seasonal storms, and the kind of crummy weather that can result in massive crop failures. Those facts have been well established elsewhere. I would, however, like to pick a little on how the food we choose for dinner tonight can help or hinder worldwide efforts to slow these disturbing ecological trends. One puzzle piece is food transport and accompanying vehicle emissions that create greenhouse gases.

Everyone who drives a motor vehicle, rides in a motor vehicle, or consumes anything transported by motor vehicle contributes to greenhouse emissions. Unless you are a pioneer and it is 1800, then - at the very least - something you eat, wear, or live in is available to you because of motor transport. For most of human history up to a mere 150 years ago, this was not the case. People had to eat what was grown nearby, and when it was out of season, they had to eat something else.

I’m not advocating that we go back to starving all winter. I would not tell anyone they shouldn’t have their coffee or chocolate. But what if we could return to more localized agricultural support of communities? When your food comes from the next county instead of the next country, then less fuel is consumed to transport it. If populations could grow more of their own food and reduce some of the transport currently necessary to feed their citizens, how much carbon could we keep out of the atmosphere every year?

You can help create local agriculture by providing a demand for it. And the more local food you buy, the stronger and more sustainable local food networks will get. Your individual choice can, and does, influence the direction of market forces that have gotten us into our weather predicament. And market forces - your buying choices! - are the thing that can change the weather for the better.

Amy Boland is a Twin Cities writer, food enthusiast, and all-around rock star. You can read more of her food musings on her blog Cook 'Em if You Got 'Em