• Amina Khan

For Food’s Sake: Climate Action and Violence in the Face of Food Insecurity

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

The issue of food scarcity and insecurity that is exacerbated across the globe by climate change is a heart-wrenching one that really presents itself as a direct image of the foreseeable future that we are trying to combat. Hunger, as an uncontrollable, base human emotion, brings more pathos and emotion to climate change by showing the manifestations of the damage we do to our world in real time. Contradictory to many climate change deniers who state that we have yet to realize the effects of the disastrous future that we are bringing upon our race, food insecurity is an immediate and prolonged public crisis that has anthropogenic roots in many of the positive feedback loops and scientific processes that drive the environment’s destruction forward.

From my perspective as an Indo-Pakistani Muslim-American, I can see the impending climate-driven violence leading to a potential “hydrowar” between India and Pakistan, particularly within the current upheaval in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is strongly motivated by the fact that the Indus River supports both India and Pakistan’s populations. As desertification increases, especially along the equator region, many fundamental practices in my religion, such as the annual fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, become increasingly and unnecessarily difficult for my fellow Muslims as they attempt to brave the intensifying oppressive aridity and lack of water in the Middle East. Domestically in the United States, we can see how food deserts, caused by the push for GMOs and the increased genetic vulnerability of certain crops to scarcity and disease, can disproportionately affect urban, low-income communities who have less access to fresh food and healthier options due to gentrification of cities. Climate justice truly plays towards the altruistic nature of us humans to provide for each other, especially with such an integral part of life as food, which is the backbone of human survival.

Present the symptoms and diagnose:

Bloating, nausea, a burning pain at the core,

Dizziness, why it can only be one thing!

Not H. pylori, something more-

A far superior parasite, a Lord of the Flies-

H. sapiens, of course!

The host’s gut groans, discomforted and hungry,

Well what’d you expect? Her to endorse,

The starvation of her citizens, the sauve qui peut?

We unbalanced the malnourished, so now we’ll bid them adieu

The scale has tipped, the land stripped,

The nutrients slipped, the water ceases its constant drip,

And we’re not equipped, but why so tight-lipped?

People are dying, starving- oh! Apologies, that’s too difficult to digest.

The plants grew fine without us, the animals lived great before us;

They seem to have forgotten now that we’re here.

Or maybe we changed their home- their planet’s climate- so much,

They found it more convenient to disappear.

Biodiversity’s overrated, mutations and evolution,

Creating new species every day- er, years? Eventually.

That’s far too slow- and why are there so many?

Let’s just do it our own way, let’s play God!

Cultivars, selective breeding, crossing plants with ease,

It’s like shopping, for genes (not jeans)-

Ooh, resistant? I’ll take that one, please!

OMG, it’s GMOs! Technology that limits

(Progress that inhibits) biodiversity? Now, just wait a minute...

Twelve plants and five animals are seventy-five percent

Of global food production, now that’s engineering well spent.

You like my grain? Gee thanks, just grew it,

From CRISPR-Cas9 in the lab, how else would you do it?

Transporting genes, cut-and-paste, tissue cultures galore,

Compared to natural selection and survival of the fittest?

Ugh, Darwin? What a bore.

Just follow the recipe, until the ingredients exhaust:

The oven heats the batch- don’t forget, a dash of pesticide!

A pile of rocks, iced with blue and bound with orange, 29% baked

Salivating, impatiently waiting, but why won’t it cool down?

Dinner was served, now bring on the desertification!

Well… the thing is… there’s not enough to make,

More people at the table, and it can’t be split so many ways.

Just sugarcoat it with nitrogen, speed up the growth, fertilized to the max,

And prolong the soil- though acid’s on the rise-

‘Til the plants have breathed their last.

The soil pH was too low, toxic with soluble aluminum,

Devoid of nutrients that it sacrificed to our food.

Burned roots, the plants were contaminated- nothing we could do.

Well, why’d they die, they’ve got everything they need-

How inferior, we’ll sow and harvest someplace new!

Yet the eroded graveyard remains,

Loosened soil skittering across the coffins,

Not just plants dead, but animals too- the ecosystem?

It’s gone, ravaged by overuse and chemicals-

Now let’s discuss what’s important:

Society and the human impact without food.

Less biodiversity is lower land efficiency

Means less plant productivity and nutrient deficiencies,

Unbalanced diets, no good ol’ proteins, a drastic decrease

Of those essential amino acids, now we’re left with cardiovascular disease.

The land can’t be farmed, it was already farmed,

And farmed, and farmed, and farmed, and....

The earth’s dry. But what about us? How will we survive?

Oh no, and the economy! Agriculture was our industry, our life-

Please care, rich people, developed countries,

Or else, dying, we’ll turn to strife.

No hydration, overpopulation, a difficult situation,

So just keep the water for yourselves- it makes sense.

Then come the nuclear missiles, the cancerous aftermath

And the radiating force of death sweeping through hamare Hindustan,

Eradicating the gentle fragrance of basmati-

That humble bowl of rice, delicate grains sticking to the sides.

Could’ve saved a child, could’ve saved a wife

Could destroy a nation, a culture, if it ever lost its life.

Monsoons are the blood of my motherland, until

India choked, filled with smoke, and her blood

Turned to acid fury, as she rained upon seventeen percent of the globe,

Tainting the soil, the precious basmati, the last hope

Of feeding and paying, sustaining this ever growing nation,

Leaving her crippled, unvain, exporting refugees instead of grain,

Upheaval of surrounding sovereignties, attempting authority

Against this majority, and blaming the next Desi juniority-

Pakistan Zindabad! Us and India? We’re not friends,

Especially when they keep all the water, that’s where common history ends.

Just because we’re downstream, they always think they reign supreme,

Condescending, now look who’s ascending. Give us the water,

Our people are also starving. That’s your last warning,

Our nuclear stockpile’s at the ready and waiting.

As for me, my homes are both Hyderabad and Karachi,

My chai is a custom house blend of Indian and Pakistani,

So it’s just not ideal to see my people, my family,

On a course for mutually assured destruction, especially

If it all could’ve been averted with a bowl of basmati.

These outcasts and émigrés, we Westerners ascertain

That their home’s destruction was their own fault,

Why should we let them in? Those people, they all look the same,

There must be something wrong with them.

Their countries aren’t democracies, they follow shari’ah law,

So I’m not racist, but as an outside observer,

There’s clearly something flawed.

Besides, they’re the ones who caused the problem

Pumping as much oil as they do, their region’s instability

With food security is not our problem, just a product of their apathy.

Right, because clearly the Middle Easterners are the real prophets of war,

The death of the Nile, the Fertile Crescent’s demise,

Sand in the original breadbasket, for planet-killers they take first prize.

Although as a fellow Muslim, I really sympathize,

And as a fellow human, one should realize,

That while we can pass the hot potato and

Big Oil and Imperialism can all be constantly blamed,

They consist of individuals, people, families, who all care

About their future, through which they think

They’re making the Earth a better place.

We can’t turn back the clock, rewind the doomsday,

Because it’s still two minutes to midnight,

Flip the cards- War! and again, and again, until the deck

Has finished, until there are no players left to play.

Zindagi tumhari lenekeliye- bas lelo

“The world is what we make of it”, and right now

We’re starving it; which of the favors of our home did you deny?

Contaminated, stripped, ravaged- this is not crying over spilled milk,

But rather spilled oil, burned trees, and diminished survival;

Which of the favors of our world would you deny?

So it’s a bitter morsel to swallow, but H. sapiens has bitten off more

Than it can chew- too many people and not enough food,

Leaving Nature to take things into her own hands.

Which of the favors of our Earth will we deny?

I’d offer some food for thought, but

Right now, there’s not enough to go around.

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