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Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Salting of Fields and Forests

Climate change deniers don't think they see the results of the environmental damage that's being done. Or, they blame it on something else. What I'm hearing often now is that "the climate's changed many times." That last one is true, although it's never been on such a large scale, caused by human activity, and so fast. The consequences of our inability to change our ways won't wipe out our species, but it's causing a lot of damage long the way.

The impact of climate change isn't coming in a generation or two. It's here right now. One way we're seeing it is in coastal forests and farms along the east coast. In ancient times if someone wanted to be certain an area would remain unpopulated after conquest, it's said that they would spread salt so that crops wouldn't grow. That's what we're collectively doing to ourselves.

First, there are the forests. Along the U.S. east coast we are seeing an expansion of "ghost forests." These are places that as recently as 10 or 15 years ago were healthy woodlands, but now are dead and dying trees. Looking out into the ocean in places you will see dead trees poking out, where once the forest stood. The following video shows the dramatic transformation taking place.

Some would likely see this and respond, "So what? It's just some woodlands. These things have happened a lot over thousands of years. That brings me to my second point, which is about farms.

Farming is a career and a way of life with a rich history in the United States. My paternal family farmed the same land for four generations. There are places here where families go back eight or more generations. That's not to say that each generation is beholden to the past. Yet, for those who choose to follow in those steps, the land is a very personal thing as well as a central source of income. This is their lives and livelihoods. Now, imagine if someone went to a farmer's land and began spreading tons of salt across the fields. Again, this is what we are doing as a people to our fellow humans through our decades of inaction to reduce the impact of climate change. 

I'm convinced we've gone past the point of no return. The global climate is changing. The ocean is rising with the melting of the polar ice caps and the expansion of the warmer water. More frequent hurricanes are pushing water from the high seas further inland than ever before. The forests and farms in the way are dying.

It's possible to save some of the woodland genetics through efforts to plant trees of the species involved further inland. As for the farms, it's either find saltwater tolerant crops and raise them, or set aside the new marshland as paid conservation land. How far any of that can go remains to be seen.