When you say climate change, most people think about polar bears and a distant Al-Gorian threat of rising sea levels. But it became clear in the Friday afternoon session of the Aspen Environment Forum that the biggest and most immediate impacts of climate change will be on something much more immediate and familiar — food.
Jane Lubchenco, the newly appointed head of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,) said that the current flood in North Dakota (which now surpassed the 112 year record) is a "window into our future," where unmitigated climate change could dramatically deteriorate our agricultural lands.

With rising global temperatures come changing weather patterns, melting glaciers (which supply about 2/3 of our fresh water) and severe drought. According to recent studies, extreme heat in places like Eritrea in Africa, which has now lost both its water table and its summer rains due to changes in Indian Ocean weather patterns) is displacing millions of people.

Add to this two other major forces — the demand for biofuels and the hunger for meat — both of which are are marginalizing subsistence farmers and threatening the ability to produce sufficient crops for the 6.6 billion people now occupying planet earth.

National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer has been documenting the global food crisis for the past year. On Friday he gave us a sneak preview of the June issue, which will feature his travels to India, China, Ethiopia, The Philippines, Egypt, Bali, Brazil, Peru and Iowa. Stanmeyer has created a sweeping survey of the impacts that climate change and the accelerating demand for biofuels and meat is having on the lives of real people.

The images are beautiful, but I'm not going to say they weren't disturbing. Unfortunately (or perhaps intentionally) Stanmeyer's lecture and slide show took place during lunch, making it a little difficult to finish my plate of food, though it did suddenly give me a profound reverence for my breaded organic chicken breast with wild mushrooms and asparagus. 

In his talk (above, complete with plate clinking) we meet people who are living on less than $1 per day and have witnessed sudden price increases in basic foods, making it all but impossible to feed their families. Learn more at the National Geographic website.

Click here for Part 2 which looks at the dramatic impacts on Africa and Brazil.

The 'End of Plenty' - PART 1
Sneak preview of National Geographic's investigation on climate change, agribusiness and the global food crisis.