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Big Agriculture Should be Fighting Climate Change

Across the board, the biggest of the big agricultural corporations do little to combat climate change on a national level and instead work on systems to adapt to it.

story by Thor Benson - images by Luca Babini
©Luca Babini

©Luca Babini

With organizations like NASA predicting mega droughts within one generation, it seems obvious our agriculture will be severely affected. They’re essentially saying this mega drought will make the black blizzards of the Dust Bowl look like sand blowing onto your beach towel. The Dust Bowl was a major contributor to the Great Depression, as you should know unless you were educated by buffoons.
While corporations like General Mills, that create the goods made possible by our powerful agricultural systems, basically admit humans caused climate change and are slowly working to do something about it, gigantic agriculture companies do little more than admit climate change might be real.

©Luca Babini

©Luca Babini

“As a society, we’re just beginning to feel the impacts of climate change,” reads Monsanto’s website. “Some effects of agriculture—such as the greenhouse gases produced by farm machinery and the production of fertilizer—are contributing factors.”
Monsanto is a corporation seen as an evil empire by many. From their involvement in creating Agent Orange in the Vietnam War to their current genetically modified Roundup Ready seeds and the suing of small farms, its image as an agriculture company is similar to the image of your new neighbor who’s legally obliged to tell everyone in the neighborhood he’s a pederast. For a company like this to simply acknowledge the concept of climate change is a win, in some ways, but then they go and donate money to politicians who actively fight against climate change action.

©Luca Babini

©Luca Babini

Monsanto is seriously altering their business model to deal with climate change, in ways that could help curb it, but they’re pretty much just covering their asses so they don’t go out of business. The company has invested over one billion dollars into creating and distributing technology that can provide farmers with data to help make their farming more efficient. They’re changing with the times. What they’re not doing is trying to slow down climate change or push for any kind of real action—they’re just preparing themselves for what they see as a possible future.
Cargill, the largest private corporation in the United States, makes a lot of money in agriculture. “Cargill sees climate change as a risk influencing our ability to create a more food-secure world,” its website reads. “All the things that are challenging about producing food for a growing, more affluent population become more interdependent when faced with the range of possible impacts of a changing climate.”

©Luca Babini

©Luca Babini

When Greg Page, executive chairman at Cargill, was asked by Grist if he publicly states that humans caused climate change, he replied, “Nope”. His company sees some risk in stating it’s on one side of a somewhat controversial debate. His company also donates to politicians who actively deny climate change and fight against acting to stop climate change. And, Cargill cannot claim ignorance to how climate change is affecting their business already, considering the current drought has forced them to close down facilities all over the Southwest United States.
Across the board, the biggest of the big agricultural corporations do little to combat climate change on a national level and instead work on systems to adapt to it. Food production companies seem to often be doing more, and that’s likely because they have to answer more directly to the populace. It’s hard to boycott Cargill or Monsanto, because most of us don’t even know where their products end up, but it’s not hard to stop buying General Mills cereal if you disagree with what the company is doing. The company’s name is right there on the label.

©Luca Babini

©Luca Babini

Unilever, a British-Dutch food and beverage company, is another company at the forefront of speaking out about climate change and actually acting to help solve it. “For those of us in the food sector, like my company, we know that climate change cannot be tackled without a fundamental change in the way that agriculture – the world’s oldest and largest industry – is practiced,” Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, said in 2014.
Polman recognizes that climate change could seriously impact his business and hurt society and is doing things about it, like joining a coalition that pushed for global net-zero emissions goal by 2050. That kind of action is what the world needs to see from agriculture companies that have a real motivation to instigate such changes.

©Luca Babini

©Luca Babini

Monsanto, Cargill and all of the biggest agriculture companies should be helping farmers install solar panels, lobbying for less emissions, fighting pollution, investing in technologies to clean the air and water and pushing to protect forests from the clear cutting often associated with large agricultural organizations. Until these companies do that, the statements on climate change written on their websites are meaningless.
In business, you dip your hands into the boiling pot of politics when it’s in your best interest. When a group is trying to regulate your industry in a way that will stifle innovation or somehow alter your ability to do business, you support the other side. It’s the law of war. Agriculture cannot survive when temperatures are too hot and it never rains or when everything is frozen over. Climate change can and will ruin the industry if it is not curbed. I’d like to see Cargill and Monsanto and all of agriculture calling out Exxon-Mobil and Chevron in public. I’d like to see a bloody fight between Big Oil and Big Agriculture, but maybe I’m just a fucking idealist.

©Luca Babini

©Luca Babini

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