Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Heartland farmers becoming climate-change realists who avoid saying 'climate change'

Kansas wheat farmer is environmentally conscious,
but strays away from saying "climate change."
(NYT photo by Christopher Smith)
Farmers in the heartland—where climate change naysayer Donald Trump was largely popular—have become climate-change realists who shy away from using the term "climate change," Hiroko Tabuchi reports for The New York Times.

For example, fourth-generation Kansas wheat farmer Doug Palen "has embraced an environmentally conscious way of farming that guards against soil erosion and conserves precious water. He can talk for hours about carbon sequestration—the trapping of global-warming-causing gases in plant life and in the soil—or the science of the beneficial microbes that enrich his land." Palen, who didn't say who he voted for, only that it wasn't Hillary Clinton, told Tabuchi, “If politicians want to exhaust themselves debating the climate, that’s their choice. I have a farm to run.”

Tabuchi writes, "Here in north-central Kansas, America’s breadbasket and conservative heartland, the economic realities of agriculture make climate change a critical business issue. At the same time, politics and social pressure make frank discussion complicated. This is wheat country, and Donald J. Trump country, and though the weather is acting up, the conservative orthodoxy maintains that the science isn’t settled. So while climate change is part of daily conversation, it gets disguised as something else."

"Many people here in particular resent how, in the polarized political landscape of recent years, conservative Americans have been painted as hostile to the environment," Tabuchi writes, "The Trump campaign successfully seized on that schism, painting Democrats as overzealous environmentalists with little sympathy for the economic realities or social mores of rural America."

Trump told FarmFutures.com, “Many of our federal environmental laws are being used to oppress farmers instead of actually helping the environment. Farmers care more for the environment than the radical environmentalists.”

Miriam Horn, author of a recent book on conservative Americans and the environment, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman, told Tabuchi, “It would be a huge mistake to think people voting for Trump were voting against the environment,” and if Trump aggressively follows an anti-environment agenda, “There will be a big backlash in the heartland.”

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