Yesterday was World Food Day, and across the globe, filtered Instagram shots of delightfully healthy, organic meals likely skyrocketed as people found reasons to celebrate the most delicious part of our lives. And scoff though I might, if people are finding reasons to be thankful for food that’s grown in harmony with the planet and not against it, all (filtering) power to them.
But we need to start considering something far less tasty when we consider what we eat — coal.
Moving quite a few steps back in the food production cycle from the final product suburban households usually get to see, there are many important links we need to be making to the food we choose to put on our plates. Where and how the food is grown are definitely aspects to think about, but an increasingly important one is how climate change is affecting the food we eat.
Image © The Guardian
Climate change is affecting our food, and we’ll need to go back to the root of the problem to find out how it’s doing that, and how to stop it happening. The root of climate change is burning fossil fuels (and in South Africa’s case, coal).
So we need to think about coal this World Food Day because it’s impacting our food supply in two very important and drastic ways:
- Burning coal is causing climate change, which is causing more extreme weather — floods, droughts, and higher temperatures — that threatens crop growth and food production
The harsh truth is if we keep burning fossil fuels at the rate we are now, climate change could force an extra 50 million people into hunger by 2050.
- Coal mining is using vital water supplies and even sometimes rendering arable land unusable
Mpumalanga is at the heart of South Africa’s coal production problems, and is where coal mining has been taking over some of the best land for crops, as well as leaving farmers around the Vaal River with a decrease in their available water supply. (Incidentally, the Vaal River whose lack of water already has some farmers worried, will be where the behemoth of a coal-fired power station, Kusile will draw its water from.)
Mining coal acidifies the surrounding water and soil, meaning plants can’t grow, even long after the mines have closed down.
This one minute video from Oxfam very succinctly explains the problem, and presents some good solutions to it too:
So by all means, take some time to appreciate the great food you get to eat because we’d – literally – be nowhere without it, and when you next opt for food that’s organic (for its lack of chemicals) and local (for its lack of carbon footprint), make sure to opt for energy choices that are renewable and sustainable as well so that we can guarantee our food supply for a lot longer.