Poster from street protest (Kelly Hafermann Photography)

Poster from street protest (Kelly Hafermann Photography)

There is every indication that Trump’s government will roll back environmental regulations and systematically disregard climate change. Trump’s world sees environmental deregulation as about ‘freedom’ and ‘reducing bureaucracy’ and especially ‘making money’. In reality it is about utter indifference to safety, health, long‐term prosperity and security.

In the 1920s, America’s pesticide of choice was lead arsenate. Now that was a food ingredient. Presumably we’ve seen the last of that one, but hopes doubtless linger somewhere for reviving others almost as bad.

America before Trump was not over‐regulated. Pesticides banned in Europe (including those threatening to bees) are still used in America. American milk and meat contains bovine growth hormones banned in Canada. The only thing that keeps these carcinogens out of Canadian milk and cheese are the milk marketing boards that keep our dairy farmers in business. American milk, carcinogens and all, may spill northward if marketing boards are eliminated, something likely on Trump’s trade agenda. Canada may well be under pressure to accept such things in exchange for keeping auto plants open, or selling our softwood lumber.

But that is only one of the challenges related to food. What is sprayed on vegetables, fruits and nuts grown in California, Texas or Florida may change for the worse, too. Canada imports a lot of fresh produce from such places, especially seasonally. Always remember: you are what you eat.

We do not need to grow all of our food (bananas seem unlikely), but we do need to produce and store enough varieties that Canadians remain food secure in the face of the world’s changing physical climate – and America’s changing political climate. 

Politically, we must remember most Trump voters are from rural areas and energy producing states. The coal, oil and gas producing areas (including North Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma and West Virginia) see climate action as an economic threat. So do many rural areas, where there is little public transportation and long distances to drive, often in gas‐needy trucks.

Trump’s cabinet systematically opposes both climate action and environmental protection. Environmental Protection Agency nominee Scott Pruitt as Oklahoma’s Attorney General led the legal fight against federal environmental regulations. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ran the oil company that most strongly resisted climate initiatives.

How is environmental deregulation likely to affect Canada’s food security and safety? Commerce Secretary‐to‐be Wilbur Ross sees NAFTA renegotiation as a priority. What might they most want from Canada? My bet is greater access for low cost American agricultural products, especially dairy. They may also want a few auto jobs from Ontario for Michigan and Ohio and softwood lumber jobs for Georgia. What, if anything, might he offer in return? The Keystone XL pipeline has already been pushed forward by Trump as a payback to oil interests. Other offers for Canada are less likely than threats of import taxes.

Canada’s Ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton, has said that he seeks“mutual ground” ‐‐ changes to NAFTA in the interest of both countries. A reasonable hope, perhaps, but only if one’s counterparts in the negotiation are mostly looking for humiliations to tweet about.The Trump administration’s deregulation and trade ideas suggest that Canadians really need to think hard about our future economy and how to have greater control of our own destiny.

The big questions are: do we want essential goods, in particular our food, produced in countries that are not politically stable? To what extentare we willing to have our food come from nations that do not carefully regulate agricultural chemicals? As a future measure for my own personal safety and health, I havedecided the only food from the United States I’ll be eating will be certified organic. In my opinion, everything else will be unfit for consumption.

Another large question about food: given the production insecurities associated with climate change, shouldn’t Canada be capable of producing most of our own food anyway? The California Department of Water Resources declared 2016 its fifth year of drought in a row. Is food from California secure if it’s increasingly prone to droughts, especially when many of its crops including avocados, almonds and other fruits and nuts, are highly water‐dependent?

Canada cannot grow all the crops that California can, but increasingly, we can produce winter greens in unheated greenhouses and we can grow good substitutes for most things. Canada should therefore prioritize protecting prime farmland and provide more start‐up supports for new growers willing to experiment and to produce year‐round. We do not need to grow all of our food (bananas seem unlikely), but we do need to produce and store enough varieties that Canadians remain food secure in the face of the world’s changing physical climate – and America’s changing political climate. 

Robert Paehlke is a professor emeritus at Trent University where he taught environmental policy and politics for 35 years. About 40 years ago, he envisioned a magazine that was both scientifically sound and journalistically interesting, and Alternatives was born. “Bob P,” as we call him, sits on the magazine’s editorial board and he contributes articles and blog posts as often as we can trick him into it.

He is the author of Environmentalism and the Future of Progressive Politics (1989), Democracy's Dilemma: Environment, Social Equity and the Global Economy (2004), Some Like It Cold: The Politics of Climate Change in Canada (2008) and Hegemony and Global Citizenship (2014).  

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