A gouge in a metal sign, seen as crop spoilage induced by climate change

I found this damaged sign almost a decade before the time of writing, and immediately saw the ponderous springtime churning of a crop’s remnants. I’ve seen and heard of north-central Illinois crops left unharvested due to excess precipitation throughout my adult life. Saturated feed crops are left throughout winter in an effort to promote drying, and anything that is still soaked by the next growing season is disposed of. Crops are wasted rather than sold at a loss, and farmers are left to struggle until corporate farming operations or building developers provide an easy out.

With climate change increasing the likelihood of excess rainfall and destructive storms, I seem to hear about this situation more and more often. Looking beyond anecdotes, the NASA outlook for the impact of climate change on global crops is not encouraging. Ironically, industrial agriculture is a key contributor to greenhouse gases, and their lobbying efforts to exempt themselves from emissions reporting and other meaningful environmental regulations is a direct and insulting contradiction to the mostly symbolic 10-, 20-, and even 30-year carbon neutrality commitments that corporations love to saddle future leadership with.

All-in-all, it’s the ailing rural farmer that sees his or her livelihood dry up, which ripples deep into the surrounding community. It’s the vulnerable rural farmer that is doubly punished by corporate entities: once by corporate environmental misdeeds, and again by paltry buyouts or compensation plans. It’s the vanishing rural farmer that, driven to desperation, finds the arms of populists, demagogues, and other predators open and waiting. Even sustainable choices like eating less (or abstaining from) meat and purchasing local produce batter farmers without the means to adapt. I know the last point sounds like lamenting the plight of wagon wheel builders, but trump’s election and its consequences has already shown the acute danger of writing off rural communities.

I wish I knew how to break this seemingly perfect negative feedback loop. For now, each time I see or hear about the disposal of spoiled crops, I wonder if the farmer will have the means to do the same the next year. If the land will even be a farm in the years after.

A damaged metal sign.

Minolta XG7
Minolta MD 75-200mm f/4.5
Kodak Ektar – ISO 100