Although droughts occur because of climatic conditions, the harm they do is largely determined by how people interact with land and water and by how we plan for and react to drought itself. The story of drought isn’t limited to ecosystems and climate. It is rooted in policy, practice, politics and economics. While climate change may be causing longer, deeper droughts, our collective vulnerability to drought is reinforced by agribusiness, export agriculture and international trade agreements.
How uniformity leads to risk
We can see global uniformity in virtually every consumer product we touch, from sneakers to candy bars. Agriculture is no exception. In agriculture, uniformity takes the form of monoculture: growing a single crop (or single variety of crop) in the same way everywhere.
This system of hyper-specialization has significant economic, biological and social drawbacks. It often results in the consolidation of farmland under one corporate owner or, in many cases, alters local economies in such a way that an entire region’s producers begin to raise a single crop or animal to remain competitive. More important, monoculture undermines resiliency and self-reliance, leaving the land and communities vulnerable when disaster strikes.