In what are called "ghost forests" — dead trees along vast swaths of coastline have been invaded by rising seas, something scientists call one of the most visible markers of climate change.
Last Friday afternoon Martin Lively went with me to pick vegetables from Ed Keheley's garden. LEAD Agency's community garden had not yet started to "put on," so he thought some of his produce could fill the gap with some of the community members living near our office. We must have picked for hours, filling paper bags with tomatoes, peppers, and POTATOES! It was nearly dark when we returned, so some produce was put right out by our Little Free Library, while other bunches were delivered to the doors of our nearest neighbors.
There is a lot of poverty, and lots of people don't have a lot of extra money to buy fresh vegetables. But we can grow some ourselves. And that is our hope. The children who have helped the LEAD garden for four years have learned as a gardener planting a seed seems like magic when just a while later they were actually eating their own vegetables.
Farmers grow vegetables on a large scale and serve as our collective gardeners.
Farmer Dan Riley sold me his tractor, a big John Deere, one you have to climb steps to get to the cab. This year he borrowed it back so he could plant some soybeans. Then he bemoaned the lack of rain and how devastated he would be if they got no rain and didn't come up. The rain did come, but too much coming could still wash away that relief.
Farmers in India have been really devastated with nearly 60,000 committing suicide in the last 30 years. Suicide is known as a stark indicator of human hardship. According to new research, an increase of just 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit on an average day during the Indian growing season was associated with 67 suicides.
An increase of 9 degrees on any one day was associated with an additional 335 deaths, according to the study in the PNAS journal.
Temperature increases outside the growing season in India showed no significant impact on suicide rates, suggesting stress on the agriculture industry was the source of the increase in suicides.
Climate is affecting lots of others.
Savannah, Georgia Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus knows how to talk Climate Change since she is witnessing it every day. Trees are dying on her river. They are dying in a big way. In what are called "ghost forests" — dead trees along vast swaths of coastline have been invaded by rising seas, something scientists call one of the most visible markers of climate change.
The process has happened naturally for thousands of years, but it has accelerated in recent decades as polar ice melts and raises sea levels, scientists say, pushing salt water farther inland and killing trees in what used to be thriving freshwater plains.
Seas off the East Coast have risen by 1.3 feet over the last 100 years, said Ben Horton, a Rutgers University professor and expert on sea level rise. That is a faster pace than for the past 2,000 years combined, he said. "There is a lot of change going on," Gregory Noe, USGS said.
The ghost forests are particularly apparent in North America, with hundreds of thousands of acres of salt-killed trees stretching from Canada down the East Coast, around Florida and over to Texas.
Some of the most dramatic anecdotal evidence of the acceleration in ghost forest creation is along the Savannah River between Georgia and South Carolina on Tonya's river.
Other parts of the U.S. and the world are experiencing droughts. Droughts are often thought of as creeping, slow-motion disaster. They represent the costliest weather-related catastrophe worldwide.
When considering the relationship of drought to climate change, it is important to make the distinction between weather and climate. Weather is a description of atmospheric conditions over a short period of time, while climate is how the atmosphere behaves over relatively long periods of time.
Individual drought periods can be understood as discrete weather events. Climate changes occur over longer periods and can be observed as changes in the patterns of weather events. For instance, as temperatures have warmed over the past century, the prevalence and duration of drought have increased in the American West.
But this drought is an anomaly, a flash drought. It essentially came from nowhere. It didn’t exist just three months ago, and now it is on target to devastating half the high plains wheat harvest, the breadbasket of the world.
The frequency of these rapid-onset droughts are closely linked to climate change is expected to increase as the planet warms.
Climate is changing there is no longer any denying it. Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper will be speaking at the 19th National Environmental Conference at Tar Creek, and you'll want to hear about her "Ghost Forests."
We need to be supportive of our family farmers as they deal and adjust to what it will take to feed the world. Check out the local Farmers Markets and thank those farmers for providing local access to us yet-to-be farmers. And in the meantime, plant a seed and appreciate the chance they take. Experience the human emotions growing your own brings. And be grateful like we were for a gardener who shares "crops" with you.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim
Rebecca Jim is the executive director of the LEAD Agency.