An excerpt from Michael Brownlee’s new book titled


<<Message to Students

In early 2015, I was asked to speak to a group of college students studying writing and rhetoric who had been exploring some of the issues concerning the industrial food system and the local food movement. This is how I began the presentation.

My primary interest in being here today is to talk with you about what you’re facing—what we’re all facing—and how we might respond.

It’s certainly not fair, but if you do your homework, you will discover (if you haven’t already) that you have been born into a world that is now experiencing its worst crisis in sixty-six million years. By some estimates, up to two hundred species of life are going extinct every single day, and humanity itself is on the endangered list. No kidding. Extinction has become a very real possibility for the human species.

Human-caused climate change is rapidly transforming into an inevitable global climate disaster, and almost no one is willing to even discuss this, let alone address it. Even the environmental and climate movements (and scientists) are reluctant to admit just how bad it’s going to get—perhaps 4 to 10 degrees Celsius warmer in the next few decades. The coming devastation is almost unimaginable, and everyone will be affected—much sooner than is being talked about publicly.

If you haven’t already realized these things, you will in the next couple of years. It’s unavoidable.

Like it or not, this planetary crisis is what your life is about. This is what you were born for, to respond to. This is the situation that calls forth what you have to give. The sooner you realize this and commit to giving yourself to this, the less you will suffer. There is no escaping or denying this reality. This is the nature of life on this planet in the early twenty-first century.

The kind of future that we have all wanted—and that many of us have worked toward for years—is simply not going to happen. Our future will be radically different from what we all expected and wanted—for the world has reached a turning point, and there is no going back.

You might protest that I’m just being negative, but actually I’m just being realistic and candid. We all need to become realistic.

In this situation, there are some things that you will absolutely need—some perspectives and some skills that you will need to develop—in order to survive and thrive in such a future. I’ll mention just six of these, for starters. These constitute the best advice I or anyone else can give you.

    •    Learn to face the truth of our collective predicament; learn to see and feel the depth and urgency of this planetary crisis, this evolutionary threshold.
    •    Seek and discover the meaning and purpose of your life, the gift that you have come here to contribute in this time of profound crisis. This must become your highest priority, and it will take a long time. This requires preparation and discipline.
    •    Learn how to decolonize your mind and your behaviors. Stop being a consumer. Encourage others to do the same.
    •    Discover why real freedom is almost nonexistent on this planet.
    •    Learn to see and feel (and become part of) what is attempting to emerge here on this planet—and in you and through you.
    •    Discover what is truly sacred, and bring that into the center of your life.

We’re clearly heading toward an evolutionary bottleneck or pinch point, and it’s likely that, at best, only a few of us will squeak through. The devastation will be profound, but perhaps not quite total.

Of course, it’s simply too late to avoid all this. We need to recognize—and help others recognize—that we’re not going to “solve” climate change and related disasters. Instead, at least some of us will learn to adapt to a radically changed environment as our population is
reduced dramatically.

In a report leaked in late 2013, the United Nations’ ultraconservative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that climate change will reduce global food production by 2 percent per decade for the rest of the century… at a time when population-driven demand for food will increase by 14 percent per decade. Just using these extremely conservative numbers, we can see a global food calamity looming on the horizon unlike anything the world has ever seen before. The global industrial food system is headed for catastrophic collapse, and we must begin to prepare for that now.

While there is great uncertainty ahead—and near-certain global climate calamity—there is one arena where we can make an extraordinary contribution toward ensuring human survival beyond this evolutionary crisis: we can learn how to feed ourselves again, as locally as possible, localizing our food supply, and thereby regain some semblance of freedom and sovereignty. In fact, this may be the only arena of human activity where we can do this now. It’s a great place for us to make a stand.

Humanity faces a near-term and prolonged global food crisis, driven by converging forces of climate change, soil and water depletion, environmental destruction, species extinction, and economic decline. The profoundly unsustainable and already-failing global food system will not be able to adequately support our growing human population, leaving billions of people at risk—even many in the United States. To avert disaster and to successfully make the transition into a world of declining resources, the global food supply chain must be localized to the greatest extent possible, beginning in local communities and regional foodsheds.

This is the most urgent and most important social cause of our time.
From The Local Food Revolution by Michael Brownlee, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2016 by Michael Brownlee. Reprinted by permission of publisher.