It was an odd juxtaposition: talking about climate change in the middle of a cold spell.
By “cold spell,” I’m talking about high 70s during the day/60s at night in May in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.
Sounds perfect to me, but the cooler-than-normal spring has meant a delay in the beginning of the Texas watermelon crop.
Climate change came up when the shipper I was talking to mentioned that, after hanging on extra long because of the “cold,” Texas melons could be more susceptible to heat damage should Mother Nature take a look at the calendar and decide to crank the heat up.
Because of climate change, he said, when it gets hotter these years, it really gets hot — even by South Texas standards.
Climate change isn’t something shippers I talk to bring up much. But as it turns out, my conversation about Texas watermelons came not long after another piece of news related to global warming.
The news was that the Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas was hosting symposiums on greenhouse marketing and technology, and that one of the sessions covered climate change.
Climate change coming up twice in such close proximity got my attention.
Then, an essay by Matt Ridley in the May 27 Wall Street Journal gave me a fresh perspective on the issues related to agriculture and climate change.
The essay, “A World Running on Full,” is an optimist’s take on the future of climate change, energy, water, agriculture and the fate of mankind on Earth in general.
Ridley’s take, in a nutshell, is that throughout history, humans have overcome doom-and-gloom scenarios about using up the Earth’s resources by developing technologies that allowed us to adapt in spectacularly successful ways.
Agriculture is one of the biggest of those success stories.
Ridley, a member of the British House of Lords, goes on to cite the work of an economist who calculated that the amount of land required to grow a given quantity of food has fallen by 65% over the past 50 years, worldwide.
Given that huge parts of the world haven’t yet fully benefited from irrigation, fertilizers, etc., when they eventually do, that percentage will fall even further.
Even with population growth and more demand for food as more of the world gets richer, because of technology, “we will need less farmland in 2050 than we needed in 2000,” Ridley writes, citing the work of several economists.
More open-field crops using the latest technologies is one way to keep the world’s larder full of fresh produce and other foods.
Greenhouse technology will likely be another, as FPAA wants the world to know.
As for crops like Texas watermelons, Ridley’s essay indirectly touches on that, too. He discusses the huge gains in water conservation that came with the advent of drip irrigation.
Who knows what the next drip irrigation-like technological breakthrough will be? What we do know is that based on the history of technology, more breakthroughs are a given.
It doesn’t mean we don’t need to worry about global warming, population growth and other daunting challenges. But it does help us face the future with a fair measure of hope.
What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.