Will the day come when you want to make your kids a PB&J sandwich, but both peanut butter and jelly have become so scarce, you’ll have to settle for mustard and ketchup?
Don’t scoff. Worldwide, food production is changing significantly as climate change wreaks havoc on fields and farms and the resources needed to produce our groceries. The result? A toll is being taken on almost every vegetable and fruit we buy – fish, too.
Here’s a rundown of some of the common foods we take for granted that are being affected by climate change.
Maple Syrup – New Hampshire environmentalists and scientists organize an “Annual Climate and Pancakes Breakfast” to share research. Among recent findings: the sap-sugar content of the state’s maple trees has decreased 25 percent in the past half-century. Another indication that things are out of whack? Maple syrup farmers used to tap their trees after the first Tuesday in March. Now they’re tapping two or three weeks early, in mid-February.
Tabasco sauce – The Simmons family has been brewing Tabasco Sauce on Avery Island, Louisiana since 1868. But the marshes that surround and protect Avery Island are being swamped by sea water at a rate of 30 feet a year, threatening not only this decades-old family business but the condiment many can’t live without. Ironic, isn’t it, that “hot” sauce could be destroyed by a hotter than normal climate?
Avocados – Avocados prefer a tropical climate, so they require a lot of irrigation where they’re grown in California. Unfortunately, severe droughts have taxed ground water supplies and led to destructive fires. It takes 72 gallons of water to grow a pound of avocados. Without adequate snow and rain, “all bets are off,” says Charley Wolk, the former chair of the California Avocado Commission.
Almonds – As avocados go, so may go almonds, which, require more than a gallon of water to grow one single almond. Almonds also depend on honeybees for pollination, but if the trees bloom before the bees arrive, pollination doesn’t happen. Talk about a double whammy!
Lobsters – When I went fishing in Nova Scotia last summer, the boat’s captain noted the toll climate change is taking on all kinds of seafood, including delicious Atlantic lobsters. As ocean temperature rises, the captain said, the lobsters can’t make shells hard enough to protect them from predators. NOAA reports that ocean temperatures worldwide have risen steadily every decade since 1980, with sea surface temps in the coastal Northeast warming twice as fast as elsewhere around the globe.
Salmon – Higher water temperatures are pushing up the spawning cycle for salmon and increasing the mortality rate for the eggs and the fry (young fish). For those that make it, warmer water temperatures aren’t ideal for young salmon to grow.
Apples – Back in New Hampshire, unusually early warm weather is tricking trees to bloom prematurely. When the frost inevitably returns, the blooms may be damaged, reducing apple yields by up to 30 percent. Other farmers may survive an early bloom but then suffer from drought or increased pest infestations. In New York and Minnesota, fruit production has been destroyed by unusually powerful hail.
Peanut Butter – As for that peanut butter sandwich, the problem is that peanut plants are finicky, and do best with about five months of consistently warm weather and about 20 to 40 inches of rain. Peanuts are grown primarily in the Southern U.S., east of the Rocky Mountains. As droughts become more common, and growing seasons spread northward, the peanut crop could crumble.
If it all gets too overwhelming, you could console yourself with a glass of wine and some chocolate.
But vineyards are also suffering. Here at home, the California wine country has been ravaged by one wildfire after another. Abroad, France hasn’t been spared either. Vines from Burgundy to Bordeaux are stressed; the impact is being seen not only in production drops but in changes in taste.
As for that great pacifier of all time, chocolate, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that tropical regions that produce the cacao beans chocolate is made from may grow warmer, drier, and less suitable to cacao cultivation.
A world without chocolate? Surely, if nothing else has motivated you to help stop climate change, it will be that!!