Nothing says climate change more bluntly than a chat with my neighbours about the harvest. The potatoes at half a crop, rotten, the grapes at mixed maturity, acidic wine at best and no olives to speak of at all this year. Muito estranho. What exactly has been so strange about the weather? It’s just different, they say. The cold too long, the hot too hot, no rain during the summer, too much rain over the winter. “Aquecimento Global”, I offer, this larger context neither providing any comfort or perspective.
For them, the increasingly unreliable weather conditions brutally translates into harder living conditions. With already a ridiculously paltry cash income, no olives on their trees means another €15 euros a month spent at the supermarket: oil of a poorer quality, not organic and less healthy. For a community where health really is everything.
Generations of accumulated knowledge about their environment and how to prosper from it (or just simply survive), is going to ruin in this little village while bureaucrats, politicians and sceptics negotiate themselves into a bottomless intray of bullshit. And my neighbours still bring home their flour and rice in plastic bags from a supermarket which encourages them to do so, and they don’t recycle a thing. And it occurs to me that for farmers and peasants the world over it’s a similar story: the first to feel the earth’s slow but irreparable immolation, and the last to understand it or have the power to control it. Capitalist democracy, isn’t it great?
Meanwhile we of the adopted rural life can still rejoice in the treasures that the land and our hard work have brought for us this year. In my case, my fantasy of being a still sexy woman in an apron making sauce in a foreign language from my very own tomatoes has been indulged somewhat relentlessly this summer, to the extent that The One has said he doesn’t want to see another tomato on the table until Christmas. (What cold revenge! That mediocre nothing in a tomato skin impostor of mid winter – how he will mourn for the sweet fruit of my summer!). And exotic herbs we have had in wasteful quantities. There has been the odd beetroot surprise (spontaneous beetroots are a lesser known Portuguese miracle), prompting much Aussie style hamburger happiness. But everything else – the couve, potatoes, onions, strawberries, carrots, garlic, leeks, capsicum – very little results if anything at all. The lettuce and rocket lasted about a month, a bitter disappointment to someone who must have been a rabbit in a past life.
I have brought over the mountain a few bags of grapes, (for juicing and drying rather than wine-ing this time) a box of figs and small stash of blackberries, for my favourite jam.
Over hill, over dale the results of the harvest are fortunately different, which is why our villages are joined in parishes and our parishes into councils who raise rooves over marketplaces. Other expaters to the north and south report not only splendid tomatoes but riches of onions, potatoes, carrots, garlic, marrows of all manner. While strawberries are a disaster in one corner they flourish in another. And herein lies the lesson: diversify or die. Build communities and live with them in peace. Globalisation is going too far, but the League of Nations were once on the right scale. Think Participatory Economics. Communication. Cooperation. We have the technology, but the power cable is not in the right hands.
Diversify and flourish. It bothers me how my neighbours don’t trade with their neighbours to vary their diet. Following their old school academy they grow the same things year after year while the world’s weather changes around them. Thank god as usual for the Asians and Italians who brought their weird foods to Australian plates, and now thank the Anglo-Saxon migrants here who grow pak choi, Japanese tomatoes, artichokes, dill and asparagus peas. May climate change makes us change. Adapt. Accept. Harvest and feast.