A Strange Year

The long days of summer are here, and I find myself thinking, as I have before, that this is a rather strange year, following up on a growing number of peculiar years in the recent past.

So what makes this year different?  Is it the year itself, or the trend that is developing?

To start with, it’s been a year of zany weather.  We’ve had a mild condition of weather insanity, but in some places, it’s downright, and often severely, record-breaking.  For us, it was a mild fall and early winter, followed by the sudden onset of a long, cold spell.  So long and cold, in fact, that much of the salal in our area, and on Vancouver Island, was frost bitten, turning brown and dying back in the spring.  The salal around our place has recovered, but some parts of of Vancouver Island still sport patches of dead salal.  Spring was late … the latest we’ve seen here.  The salmon berries suffered frost damage, and hardly blossomed.  There have been few berries on the bushes this spring.  Then, when spring finally sprung, it was with a series of very hot days followed by cold nights … not good weather for starting a garden!  The plums blossomed late, with little fruit set.  My early crops, like kale and carrots have hardly grown, even after nearly three months in the ground.  Now we are looking at another hot, dry summer coming on, the third in a row.  The interior of BC is expecting another fire season.  And I can go on … If anyone hasn’t figured it out by now, this is global climate change – extreme and unexpected weather patterns which are no longer predictable by our current models.

On a positive note, the garden crops I planted later in the season – potatoes, beans, pumpkin, peas, and tomatoes – are doing well, and hopefully we’ll see a harvest there.  Also, a number of test plots of grain that I have planted (wheat, rye, oats, and barley) are also doing well.  We’ve also managed to nearly triple our water storage this year, so we will be in better shape as the drought season comes on.

Black bear and cub swimming in our water reservoir.

But back to the to the weirdness of the season … there’s been a worldwide spread of politics supporting “isms” – sexism, racism, etc.  I thought we’d reached a stage on enlightenment of this planet!  And yet in the States, and even here in Canada, there are politicians supporting the degradation of women’s and children’s rights through “anti-abortion” legislation.  In other parts of the world, we are seeing more actions of racial  extremism.  It’s like we are a bunch of over-crowded rats in a cage biting each other’s ears and tails off.

The WHO now claims that red meat and processed meat are carcinogenic.  In fact, reading between the lines of their report, this is old news dressed up to look like something scary and recent.  Yes, we have known for some time that burnt food (e.g., meat burned on a barbecue at high temperatures, scorched fats in a frying pan, blackened toast) and processed meats containing nitrites have the potential to be carcinogenic … and in reading the FAQs from the WHO report, you can see that these are the culprits that they are admitting to.  But why now?  Is this in support of the growing number of people who believe a vegetarian diet will solve all our woes?  Unfortunately, if this is so, it is encouraging a faulty belief.  Firstly, diets based on industrially farmed vegetables are hardly likely to be any lower in carcinogens than diets containing small portions of meat.  In fact, given the global distribution of carcinogenic pollutants, it is unlikely that even “organically” grown products are completely free of carcinogenic substances.  Secondly, the last thing we need to encourage at this point in time, when resources are likely to become more limited rather than less, is a further increase in population.  Even if it were possible to feed all the people on this planet a vegetarian diet, and in the process temporarily reduce the impacts on our ecosystems caused by commercial meat production, without a commitment to population reduction, we would be in exactly the same situation of excessive demand on limited resources within a generation.  Think people!

I guess even I’m starting to sound a little crazy, feel a little antsy, maybe even feel a little bit like we might getting to a WSHTF event or even a TEOTWAWKI situation … maybe I’m starting to think like the preppers and survivalists.  In any case, I’m glad I’m living out here, and not in a big city anymore.  Changes still affect us, but more slowly, and we have more space, resources, and time to adapt to them.  Resilience is the key … being flexible enough to take changes in weather, economics, and social regimes in stride.  Each year, we work a little more towards being self-sustainable out here … it makes us feel good about our situation, and if we ever need to survive in a difficult circumstance, well …

1 thought on “A Strange Year”

  1. An addendum:
    I’m definitely not bashing vegetarianism.
    As a scientist, I object to the WHO article on several counts: (1) It presents correlations as if they are causative, based on a data-mining study. In fact, income level could be correlated to higher meat consumption and higher stress levels, and the higher stress levels could be correlated to colon cancer (or any other series of correlations). So correlations do not represent causes. (2) It does not present new data. In fact, it is a 2019 International Journal of Epidemiology paper (Diet and colorectal cancer in UK Biobank: a prospective study) that harks back to a study done by WHO in 2015 that only references the possible causes of its correlations in the FAQs section of its public documentation, which are in fact old, and well known issues. (3) Rather than presenting the possible causative agents (e.g., oxidative byproducts of burning, nitrites, etc.) for colon cancer up front, the article basically states that red meat and processed meat causes cancer. The average reader will not dig deeper into the article to learn more, and as a result, is left with a faulty conclusion that it is the meat itself, rather than by-products or contaminants, that is causing cancer.
    These articles have surfaced (again) at a time when a number of other reports have come out suggesting that reducing meat and dairy consumption, or becoming vegan or vegetarian is essential to the survival of planet (e.g., one report is quoted as saying “Eating meat has ‘dire’ consequences for the planet”). I do not disagree with the fact that there are too many people on this planet eating too much meat. However, the assumption that any diet on its own, whether omnivorous, vegetarian, vegan, or sunlight and water, will solve our current crisis is simply a way of evading the “white elephant” that truly needs to be addressed. Without a significant effort at population reduction, no diet will resolve global climate change, and even a severely restricted vegan diet would likely only stave off the damaging effects on our environment for possibly one more generation.
    In our own way Kennard and I have made our ethical decisions in response to the growing severity of the global situation. We have both grown up watching and worrying about the state of our world, and have both, independently, chosen to be childless, thus supporting our view that the human population is already well above the sustainable level for this planet. While we are not vegetarian, we consume only small amounts of meat, and most of that is sourced or foraged locally, and hopefully is as free of contaminants as possible (with the global spread of pollutants, the remotest areas of our planet are now contaminated with carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting chemicals, so even “organic” and “wild” foods will contain some level of contamination).

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