Editor’s Desk: Climate change is affecting every issue we cover

For a few years now, we’ve been covering issues of climate change, food and agriculture. In the past year, especially, it has felt as if nearly every story we’ve done has a climate dimension. In fact, it has inspired us to embark on a significant reporting initiative.

We’re looking at how food production is being affected by the changing climate; how agriculture is a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions; and how farming can be – and is – part of the solution. We know that addressing climate change without agriculture in the equation is impossible. But we’ve also seen that climate change affects every link of the food chain.

That’s certainly the case with a story we published this week on Alaska’s Bristol Bay, the most productive salmon fishery in the world. Written by Julia O’Malley, a third-generation Alaskan, it was produced in collaboration with The Nation magazine, which made it a cover story.

O’Malley reports that the pristine salmon habitat of Bristol Bay is facing two big threats: One, in the near-term, from a proposed mining venture which was thought to be all but dead before the Trump administration intervened. The worry is that the Pebble Mine will leach toxic waste into salmon spawning grounds, killing the fish, a way of life for Alaskans, and a fishery that generates $1.5 billion in economic activity.

O’Malley also argues that the bay is facing a longer-term threat from climate change. Summer temperatures hit records in the state, with drought, wildfires and sudden marine die-offs that scientists are struggling to explain.

We know the northern reaches of the planet are coming under extreme pressure. But we’re also seeing a parallel reality for dirt farmers in the lower 48, who, even if they don’t accept the idea of man-made climate change, see the impact of it on their farms. This was evident in another recent story we did on Iowa: Brian Barth, in a story produced with Mother Jones, wrote about a faith-based movement among farmers to address climate change that’s gaining momentum in the Heartland.

In the run-up to the UN climate summit in September, we also joined with more than 300 news organizations (with a combined audience of more than 1 billion) #CoveringClimateNow. On FERN’s Ag Insider — our daily news policy service —  we highlighted a new initiative among farmers and ranchers who are backing the Green New Deal. We interviewed a former agricultural adviser to President Trump who is altering his farming practices as the climate changes. And we covered a UN initiative to restore landscapes, in part with sustainable agriculture, to counter greenhouse-gas emissions and biodiversity loss.

These are just some of the stories we’ve produced under our climate change and agriculture initiative. We have more in the works and we hope you will support us as we expand our coverage of this vital topic.