Letter to the Editor

Climate changed

Sunday, September 9, 2018

I listened and watched the ethanol plant rep demonstrate how cleanly alcohol burns.

Our conversation shifted to swapping shared memories of farm chores, and concluded that our respective career paths were definitely influenced by our childhood experiences on our parents’ farms.

“Weather’s always a gamble.” “You can’t trust the market to cover the cost of producing that bushel of corn or hundredweight of milk.” “There’s too much uncertainty in farming.” “Getting established in farming is tough even if the family operation is successful to begin with.” “There were times our family had to compromise the health of the soil, the farm, and themselves to pay bills.” “I had to make a living and grow a family.” “Farming operations have changed drastically.”

Farming comes with some hard lessons, although many are the result of unintended consequences of past policies, practices and good intentions.

Farming isn’t the only occupation or profession where hard lessons are unearthed. Recent news articles inform us that employees, even engineers, inside companies like Facebook, Google, Uber and other Silicon Valley technical powerhouses question whether sacrificing principles for a paycheck is really worth the risk.

“Business as usual” that obsesses on lucrative balance sheets and “growing the economy” may be futile if the outcomes are adverse climate change, melting ice caps, species extinction, more severe storms, flooding, droughts, devastating fires, famine, habitat disruption and economic collapse.

Human nature is tempted to seek short-term personal comfort and wealth. Regrettably, it is easier to succumb to the temptation to ignore or marginalize the long-term consequences on the rest of creation.

We seem to be preoccupied with pursuits of lifestyles and methods of commerce that cultivate an unsustainable false economy. How long can we “cut corners” to exploit our ability to maximize profits with reckless abandon and without regard for the enormous cost of restoring our mutual life support systems?

By ignoring externalized costs, we risk adverse climate change that jeopardizes our ability to sustain abundant production of healthful food. As stated by retired ISU Professor and Nobel Prize-winning panelist Gene Takle, imagine corn trying to pollinate in a 108-degree oven, or “look at adding air-conditioning” to hog buildings when temperatures are 13 degrees higher in the dead of summer.

Transitioning to regenerative agriculture and restoring healthy soils are urgent.

Dr. Edward Wenk, Jr., in his 1979 book, Margins for Survival, stated, “We seem to have spun a cultural web where the predilection for the short run may constitute a self-fulfilling prophecy that by benign neglect of the longer run, there may be none.”

Only about two months remain for citizens to vote for responsible congressional, state and local candidates who comprehend the gravity of the consequences of climate change.

Roger R. Patocka, P.E.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby Iowa Great Lakes Chapter Co-Leader, Estherville