Preventing falling civilizations with fruit trees
By Ashley Hagin
There are a series of black-and-white photographs taken by Dorothea Lange depicting the struggles Dust Bowl migrants faced during the Great Depression. We’re all familiar with Migrant Mother, a portrait of pea-picker Florence Owens Thompson gazing out with a furrowed brow past the photographer while two of her children cling to her, facing away from the camera.
But it’s Lange’s Dust Bowl Farm, a photograph of a simple, lone house in Texas surrounded by nothing but a desolate plain spotted with tumbleweeds, that became the featured image of an article on MyGreenology to highlight the world’s current “transition from an era of food abundance to one of scarcity.”
The article cites population growth, the rise of affluence, the use of food as fuel for transportation vehicles, soil erosion, water shortages, and rising temperatures as catalysts for this transition. It likens this transition to patterns that led to the fall of ancient civilizations. “The Sumerians and Mayans are just two of the many civilizations that declined apparently because they moved onto an agricultural path that was environmentally unsustainable,” the author writes. “While the decline of early civilizations can be traced to one or possibly two environmental trends such as deforestation and soil erosion that undermined their food supply, we are now dealing with several.”
Food prices are now double what they were in 2002-2004, according to the United Nations. For those already facing food insecurity, this is a serious problem. Especially as local hunger relief agencies see cuts to essential support programs like TEFAP, backyard fruit trees are extremely valuable. Not only are these trees typically treated organically, they provide fresh food for the homeowner and – through donation – those who need it most at virtually no cost.
If you are fortunate to own a home and have a patch of land, plant a fruit tree. It will produce local, healthy food for decades to come. Already have your own or know someone who has a fruit tree that produces excess fruit year in and year out? Get registered with The Urban Farmers and help minimize hunger one tree at a time.