Things are grim if you’re a U.S. corn farmer right now:
The worst U.S. drought since Ronald Reagan was president is withering the world’s largest corn crop, and the speed of the damage may spur the government to make a record cut in its July estimate for domestic inventories. Tumbling yields will combine with the greatest-ever global demand to leave U.S. stockpiles on Sept. 1, 2013, at 1.216 billion bushels (30.89 million metric tons), according to the average of 31 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That’s 35 percent below the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s June 12 forecast, implying the biggest reduction since at least 1973…“The drought is much worse than last year and approaching the 1988 disaster,” said John Cory, the chief executive officer of Rochester, Indiana-based grain processor Prairie Mills Products LLC. “There are crops that won’t make it. The dairy and livestock industries are going to get hit very hard. People are just beginning to realize the depth of the problem.”
— Jeff Wilson, “U.S. Corn Growers Farming in Hell as Midwest Heat Spreads,” Business Week (Bloomberg News), July 9, 2012
And although despite the drought “U.S. production in 2012 is expected to rise 9.5 percent from last year to a record after farmers sowed the most acres since 1937,” the overall outlay of the situation also hinges on global economic circumstances, which in turn highlights the troublesome nature of globalization itself):
Last year my family and I weathered (in all senses of the word) the great Texas drought-heatwave-wildfire apocalypse of 2011. Twice within a span of three weeks, my wife and I stood on our back porch and watched the smoke from a major fire several miles away billowing up from behind a span of folds and ridges in the countryside. We talked seriously with our son and daughter-in-law, who live right across the street from us, about staying alert and being ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
So presently I feel not just sympathy but empathy for those who are suffering through the epic wildfires in Colorado, and the epic heatwave gripping the middle part of the U.S. (including my home state of Missouri), and the dramatic superstorm that hit Washington, D.C. and Virginia yesterday, and the recent torrential rains and floods that hit Florida. And that’s not even to mention the similar phenomena being endured by people elsewhere in the world.
As I was looking up information on yesterday’s D.C. storm, I was struck in particular by the reporting in The Washington Post, not just because of the facts, which are startling enough, but because of the tone. Reading the Post‘s coverage, one gets a distinctly creepy feeling about the shape of the future we’re now entering:
I grew up an hour from Joplin, Missouri, and spent a lot of my formative years heading over there for high school debate-and-drama contests, martial arts lessons, and more. I know people in Joplin and the surrounding small towns. My wife and I still drive through Joplin when traveling home for the holidays. So this year’s epic Joplin tornado hit home for us even more than it did for the millions of Americans who watched the news coverage from afar with horror.
Maybe that’s why the news about a newly released report from Australia’s Climate Institute that links the current and future rise of more severe weather to a rise in mental and emotional illness leaves me fairly thunderstruck (no pun intended). Or maybe it’s that plus several additional considerations, including the facts that 1) my family and I relocated from Missouri to Texas in 2008 partly to escape the epic recent surge (over the past decade) in tornado outbreaks and catastrophically severe winter weather 2) my sister just rode out historic Hurricane Irene in Salem, Massachusetts 3) one of my closest friends was displaced from his home in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and 4) in our new home state of Texas, my family and I are currently enduring historic, record-shattering heat, drought, and wildfires, with local news reported dominated by talk of associated crop losses, burned homes, and impending electricity blackouts due to overstrained grids. This comes on the heels of a 2010-2011 winter that brought record cold temperatures down here.
These things are beginning to hit home, and so the details of this new report about the collective psychological effects of widespread severe weather brought about by climate change make for fairly grim reading. Still, better forewarned than forearmed.
Rates of mental illnesses including depression and post-traumatic stress will increase as a result of climate change, a report to be released today says. The paper, prepared for the Climate Institute, says loss of social cohesion in the wake of severe weather events related to climate change could be linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse … The report, A Climate of Suffering: The Real Cost of Living with Inaction on Climate Change, called the past 15 years a “preview of life under unrestrained global warming” … The paper suggests a possible link between Australia’s recent decade-long drought and climate change. It points to a breakdown of social cohesion caused by loss of work and associated stability, adding that the suicide rate in rural communities rose by 8 per cent. The report also looks at mental health in the aftermath of major weather events possibly linked to climate change … [According to the executive director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute, Professor Ian Hickie,] “When we talk about the next 50 years and what are going to be the big drivers at the community level of mental health costs, one we need to factor in are severe weather events, catastrophic weather events.”
Full story at The Sydney Morning Herald.