The New Mass Extinction: Our Food System Is A Racist, Ecological Nightmare

Racism, classism, and just about every “ism” that is out there are intertwined with climate and change and the Earth’s new mass extinction. The roots of any civilization are in its food system. When we look at the food system of the United States, it is not hard to see how it helps to reinforce both racism and classism while also exacerbating climate change.

Estimates vary on how much carbon pollution is put into the air because the food system in the United States. It could be around 17 percent or much higher, depending on what factors you take into account. When you consider the carbon emissions from transportation, fertilization, and storage of food the footprint begins to skyrocket. This exacerbates climate change, which in turn hurts future crop yields and the ability to store food. Because of these problems, we are going to have to figure out how to feed the world’s estimated population of 9.6 billion by the year 2050 without destroying the planet.

And besides being an ecological nightmare, it is also incredibly racist.

The Huffington Post published an article detailing some of the race issues that plague the United States agricultural industry, in 2013. They report:

“In 1920, one in every seven farmers in the U.S. was African-American. Together, they owned nearly 15 million acres. Racism, violence, and massive migration from the rural South to the industrialized North have caused a steady decline in the number of Black farmers. So, too, has, institutional racism in the agricultural policies of the USDA. By 2007, African-American farmers numbered about one in 70, together owning only 4.2 million acres.

Over the years, studies by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission (CRC), as well as by the USDA itself, have shown that the USDA actively discriminated against Black farmers, earning it the nickname ‘the last plantation.’ A 1964 CRC study showed that the agency unjustly denied African-American farmers loans, disaster aid, and representation on agricultural committees.”

There is some hope on this issue though. When a person thinks of farmer’s markets and organic farming, images of middle-class white people and hippies working the land might be the first to pop into a person’s head. However, people of color from all over the nation are rising up and taking a stand against both racism and ecocide.

Take for example, the work Karen Washington is doing in the Bronx. Washington was recently chronicled in a story by Nation Swell. She says that the taste of a fresh tomato that she grew in her backyard garden changed her world. She took her new passion for gardening and used it to start a farming operation that is in direct confrontation with the institutional racism found in the United States. After starting her work by growing urban farms in the Bronx, she founded Black Urban Growers. Black Urban Growers is an organization that works to reconnect people of color with food and agriculture.

In her work, Washington not only confronts racism but also helps to show how a new model of food growing can help to feed people in a world with a climate gone mad and lighten our carbon footprint a good deal too. Washington is not alone in this fight. There countless stories of people of color fighting against this injustice that rarely gets much attention in the media.

Once again, we find that the by combating the systems of oppression that are inflicted upon marginalized groups, people are also fighting to end the ecological havoc that is fueling the Earth’s new mass extinction.

You can watch the profile on Washington’s work, below.

Featured Image Courtesy: Black Urban Growers