Climate Crises: Defending the land
SHALMALI GUTTAL AND SOFIA MONSALVE
Sunday 6 March 2011, by
ABSTRACT Shalmali Guttal and Sofia Monsalve argue that climate change will mean a change in local knowledge and resilience, which are at the basis of good agricultural and ecosystem management. Before new ways are found, rural communities are likely to be rendered more vulnerable and dependent on external inputs and techniques, and lose precious local knowledge about food, medicinal
plants, soil, water and coastal management, and forest and biodiversity protection. Therefore, public policies and resources must be redirected towards supporting land use and agricultural practices that cool the planet, nurture biodiversity and save energy. These policies will check global warming, achieve food sovereignty and
reduce distress out-migration from rural to urban areas.
KEYWORDS commons; agribusiness; agrofuels; biodiversity; local knowledge; smallhold producers
The climate change crisis generally refers to recent and future alterations to the Earth’s
climate systems that can be attributed to human activities.1 Foremost among these
activities are the burning of fossil fuels, exploitation of natural resources and produc-
tion-consumption of energy and industrial goods, all of which are high emitters of
Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). The relentless warming of the global climate as a result of
increased GHGs in the atmosphere has already led to disruptions in seasonal weather
and precipitation patterns, melting glaciers, changes in hydrological cycles and an
increase in extreme weather events, with serious consequences for ecosystems, agricul-
tural production, food and water security, and the livelihoods of rural and urban poor
communities throughout the world.
Land and water are central elements in the climate crisis. Industrialization and
economic growth depend greatly on the exploitation of land and water, and their cap-
ture to serve energy production, mining, industry, agriculture, technology parks, tour-
ism, recreation and urban expansion, continues unabated in every region of the world.
Land cover and land-use changes are the oldest global impacts of humankind and result
in significant changes to the amount of carbon that is stored and released into the atmo-
sphere. Forests and wetlands store more carbon than grasslands, which in turn store
more carbon than croplands.