As the climate emergency facing the world deepens, leaders of the so-called G7 (“Group of Seven”, representing the world’s richest countries), will be meeting next month in Cornwall, UK.
Failure to agree on major changes in our relationship to the world around us will mean that our decline towards climate-driven chaos will gather momentum.
Climate change already poses a direct threat to our food security, through soil erosion, crop failures and changes to patterns of pests and diseases. Extreme weather events associated with climate change are already becoming more frequent. These are likely to lead to reductions in agricultural productivity, and some of these reductions will be sudden.
Countries such as Russia and Australia have experienced crop losses or reduced yields in recent years as a result of extreme weather patterns, as have areas around the Mediterranean and the key US agricultural regions of California and the Midwest.
The prognosis is not good for agriculture as a whole, and if left unchecked the climate emergency will certainly lead to widespread reduced food production and therefore increased food prices.
Climate-induced drought will create scarcity of water for food production in some regions, and it is not too fanciful to imagine conflicts arising over arable land or water access as the soil in some regions becomes degraded or desertified. We can also expect to see growing numbers of migrants fleeing the countries worst affected.
Ironically, despite being so at risk, agriculture is itself the single biggest contributor to climate change. That fact, of course, also means that agriculture could also be a significant part of the solution to the climate crisis.
The Cornwall G7 summit needs to agree tough measures to bring about a massive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and to sequester carbon. At their heart must be a drive to force global agriculture to embrace sustainable practices. Over time, a sustainable system of agriculture would not only help tackle greenhouse gas emissions but would also help establish improved food security.
Heavy penalties for practices which create environmental degradation, such as deforestation, use of agrochemicals, pollution of waterways and overgrazing should be introduced, hand-in-hand with incentives to switch to alternative sustainable practices.
CO2 emissions can be massively reduced by bringing a halt to deforestation (now the biggest single cause of greenhouse gas emissions), enforcing more efficient management of livestock waste (the second biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions), adopting organic soil management, improved water management, better land management through sustainable integration of crops, grazing lands and trees, crop rotation and reduced tilling.
The Covid pandemic has given us just a taste of the kind of austere and uncertain future we will all soon experience through climate change unless our leaders – and we ourselves – change course.
Some time ago I posted a recipe for creating a sourdough starter. One thing I hate about replenishing my sourdough starter is that it can mean some of the starter is discarded to make way for more flour and water, but rather than throw it away there are any number of ways to use it. This recipe represents but one solution.
These delicious savoury biscuits will keep for a few weeks in an airtight container.
olive oil and poppy seed sourdough crackers
for the cracker dough
120 g ‘00’ grade flour
200 g sourdough starter
40 ml extra virgin olive oil
10 g poppy seeds
½ tsp sea salt
for the topping
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp poppy seeds
½ tsp sea salt
1. Mix the sourdough starter with the olive oil in a bowl until combined. Add the flour, poppy seeds and sea salt and knead for five minutes or until you have a smooth and pliable ball of dough. Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove for two hours (you can leave it for longer, even overnight, if you prefer).
2. Pre-heat the oven to 140°C (275°F, gas mark 1). Divide the dough into four pieces. Roll each piece into a flat, rectangle, either using a rolling pin or a pasta making machine, ending up with the dough at a thickness of setting 2.
3. Cut the dough into long roughly rectangular or triangular shapes and lay them out on a lightly oiled baking tray, leaving a gap between them. Alternatively, use a pastry cutter if you’d prefer neatly shaped biscuits. Brush lightly with olive oil then sprinkle with a little sea salt and poppy seeds.
4. Place the crackers in the pre-heated oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until they are crisp and golden. Leave them to cool on a wire rack.