Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Burned Out: Crops and Climate Change

Food and climate change with two speakers: Dr. Geoffrey Heal, an eco-economist from the Columbia School of Business, NY, speaking at the London School of Economics; and author/food activist Wayne Roberts at McMaster University, Canada. Wayne Roberts courtesty of Maggie Hughes "News from the Other Side" at CFMU FM McMaster U Radio.

No copyright music.


This is the last show of our 2009 Spring season. Rebroadcasting stations, podcast listeners and regular downloaders: please note - I've laid out 8 key re-runs of Radio Ecoshock for the Summer. The download list will show up on Wednesday July 8th, as well as on our archive page. Radio stations can find a list of any music used, or other production notes, in the expanded listing at That's starting July 8th.

These are the most important, and most downloaded programs we've ever done - as chosen by the listeners downloading from our site. The e-votes are in.

I'll be out of email contact from July 11th to August 11th. I'll check out all email then, please don't expect a reply. There is no electricity or phones where I'm going.

I'll be back with a whole new season, 48 news Radio Ecoshock Shows, starting in Late August. Don't change anything on your podcast - the new shows will show up as soon as they are ready in August.

Here are the links to full speeches by our feature speakers:

Geoffrey Heal to London School of Economics (about 57 min)
CD quality 52 MB
speech Lo-Fi 12 MB
Geoffrey Heal Q and A (about 30 min) Lo-Fi only 7 MB

Wayne Roberts "Food and Climate Change" about 1 hour. Maggie Hughes "The Other Side of the News"

Here is the basic script for this week's show:

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock - home of the awful truth.

We could talk about a half million more people kicked out of their jobs. The record number of regular mortgages 2 or 3 months behind. Collapsing states, budget slashing towns, bankrupt banks.

But hey, why bother with all that bad news, when the biggest story ever told is unfolding before our eyes. I know disappearing coral, birds and plants nobody has heard of doesn't sell. How about this: the food we all eat is under pressure even in these early days of the climate shift.

[Geoffrey Heal Quick Clip: No One is Working on Hotter Crops]

That is economist Dr. Geoffrey Heal speaking to the London School of Economics. He's going to tell us about agricultural loss already underway, and projected in the coming decades. Why fertile California will take a hit. Dr. Heal wonders why America is so slow to react. Could it be the fossil fuel lobby? Did the oil and coal boys twist the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill?

Then food activist and author Wayne Roberts works through the challenge of feeding a world where nature is disrupted. Food and global warming, in a speech recorded by Maggie Hughes.

Personally, I'm heading out tomorrow to buy a couple more sacks of hard red wheat for our emergency supply cupboard. Each bag is 44 kilograms, or about 50 pounds, of the best organic. I'll pour the wheat into Mylar bags, toss in two or three oxygen depleters, and seal it all in a 5 gallon bucket. That should keep at least 10 years, maybe 20.

The wheat news is good and bad. In the Summer of 2009, wheat prices are going down, because so many new acres have been planted. That doesn't mean it will all survive until harvest. Canada is a big wheat producer, and the Canadian Wheat Board predicts a 20 percent cross loss due to a drought in Western Canada. So dry, the seeds never sprouted, or tiny blades of wheat died. It's the Northern tip of a new Dust Bowl expected to fill the North American West as carbon levels rise in the atmosphere.

Two other big wheat producers, China and Australia, are also in big trouble as the rains stop reaching the fields. Increasing heat waves are also a threat to wheat.

Did I mention the new unstoppable wheat disease called ug99. It was first found in Uganda, but has now spread to the Middle East, including Iran. The only response is to burn the crop. So far, we have no resistant varieties, and experts in both Europe and North America say they expect ug99 to arrive sooner of later. That could devastate wheat production.

I like bread. I like some every day. Maybe this year, maybe three years from now, wheat and bread products could rocket up in price, or disappear for a while. That's when I'll crack open my buckets and make my own.

On to the show. First of all - American climate politics. The U.S. Supreme court recently gave the Environmental Protection Agency control over carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Why didn't the Obama Administration use their green appointees to get busy on greenhouse gases, through the EPA? Suddenly, a new piece of legislation appears in the House, where political contributions reign. Suddenly, a bunch of Republicans vote for the Waxman-Markey Bill, which is really a license for the coal and oil companies to carry on.

Let's get a different perspective from Dr. Geoffrey Heal, an economist from the Columbia Business School in New York. His speech on May 6th 2009 second guessed the Obama energy deal - and went on to explain why America has been hustled backward on climate change. Then Heal, who has been working the connections between economy and the environment since 1979, paints a dire picture of agricultural losses - as high as 40 percent world wide, as the climate shifts to it's new hot state.

Heal3 Waxman Markey end of speech.wav 5:31

Why is the American government the last to know we need action to save the climate? Geoffrey Heal gives us three bad reasons, in this speech as first visiting professor at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, the LSE.

Heal1 Anti Science Companies.wav 2:05
Heal4 Corporate AntiScience.wav 2:04
Heal5 US is a Petro State.wav 5:27

Is it true that the United States is the third largest oil producer, and second biggest natural gas producer, in the world? No wonder American climate policy seems to Saudi Arabian.

There you have it: fossil fuel corporations fought to cloud our minds, aided by a history of Conservatism and anti-scientific religious interests. I think he should have added all of us. We love our big cars and leaving all the lights on. We love to fly around on holidays while eating far too much. We're all in this climate tragedy together. Never forget the power of the people to empower a wrong-headed civilization - on our charge cards, no less.

This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith. I'm hungry to get on to our main topic this program: how climate change will affect our dinner plates. Here is more from Dr. Geoffrey Heal, from his speech "Controversies in the Economics of Climate Change"

Heal6 Farm Loss.wav 3:37
Heal 7 World Hydrology Calif Farms.wav 4:15

Finally, Dr. Heal wrestles with the economic cost of mass extinction. Sad but true, we need to enter this fact into the company books: up to 40 percent of all species on Earth could go extinct by 2100. How will that affect sales, you ask?

Geoffrey Heal is not your standard corporate accountant. He knows extinctions impact the environment in many strange ways. Take the Pacific Sea Otter for example. It was almost wiped out in California - and what happened? The fisheries also died out off that coast. It turns out the Sea Otter is a "corner-stone species". The otters were eating other creatures that kept things in balance for fish. When Sea Otters from Oregon were brought back to California, the local fishing improved.

Other connections between the species are harder to see. Let's hear Dr. Heal explain how the extinction of the Passenger Pigeons may have boosted Lyme disease in the United States.

Heal 8 Cost of Extinction.wav 11:14

That was Dr. Geoffrey Heal, from the Columbia School of Business, speaking on "Controversies in the Economics of Climate Change". This presentation was at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics in Britain, May 6th, 2009. Audio enhancement by Carl Hartung and Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock. Find the full 55 minute speech plus Q and A on our climate pages, at And in the links at the top of this blog entry.

[Radio Ecoshock Station ID]

I'm Alex - and we're talking climate disruption of the food supply.

OsofNews_Roberts 1 You can change 7 sec.wav 7 sec

That's author and food activist Wayne Roberts, currently employed as a sustainable food advisor for the city of Toronto, Canada. He spoke at McMaster University in Hamilton on May 5th, 2009 - on “Food and Climate Change”.

Here is the first part of that speech by Wayne Roberts.

OSofNews_090519_WayneRoberts_For Radio 18 min.wav 18 min

You have been listening to Wayne Roberts, a long time food activist, making the connections with the polluted environment and climate change. This talk at McMaster University in Canada was part of a college radio program called "The Other Side of the News" on CFMU FM. Producer Maggie Hughes just announced she had to give up her weekly radio program for health reasons. But she'll continue to get the facts others miss, in specials posted on the audio exchange web site That's radio the number 4 all dot net for Indy producer Maggie Hughes past work, and coming shows. Thanks Maggie.

Or check out her web site at

That's it for Radio Ecoshock this week. Find the full speeches by Dr. Geoffrey Heal and Wayne Roberts as free mp3 downloads on our web site. Choose "climate" from our Audio on Demand menu, lower down on the main page, Or get Wayne Roberts full speech as broadcast on "The Other Side of the News" here.

Load up your IPOD, mp3 player or computer with hot programs and speeches from Ecoshock. It takes a lot to really grasp this developing storm, in your heart.

I'm Alex Smith. Thanks for being on the journey with me.

Have a great Summer. Enjoy yourself - and put away the harvest as it comes.

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