True
Gates Foundation: The Story of Food

If your livelihood depends on crops, which need water, and there isn’t any water ... what do you do?

Borrie Erasmus struggled with this very problem just this year in South Africa.

His family has lived on the same farmland for 50 years. It usually rains between October and April in the region, but in 2015, El Nino weather patterns caused a drought that lasted through late February of 2016.


“On our farm, there has never been a time when there has not been any maize in December,” Erasmus told Aljazeera. “We could not even try planting seeds. It has been drier than ever.”

‌Weeds grow in a maize field in Malawi, which is one of the areas affected by drought earlier this year. Image by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images.‌

Over the last 40 years, Africa has suffered seven major droughts like this one that have dramatically affected food supply, crops, and livestock.

Philip Tioko, a villager in the northwestern Turkana region of Kenya, told the Washington Post that he lost all his livestock — including some 200 goats — in the span of just 20 years after repeated droughts dried up the rivers and caused the nearby lake, Lake Turkana, to recede. Now he survives by fishing, but even the number of fish are dwindling as water levels continue to fall.

‌A fisherman carries a caught fish at Lake Turkana in northwestern Kenya. Photo by Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images.‌

These dangerous droughts are likely to become more common if trends in climate change play out as predicted by scientific studies.

Many of the world’s important food crops, as well as its livestock, are sensitive to changes in temperature and rainfall. Many simply won’t be able to survive in certain regions if it gets too hot or too dry. This problem will affect what local farmers can grow across the globe, as well as their everyday diets — especially when they rely on what they farm in order to eat.

‌A man cuts what is left of his yield to feed his livestock in Lesotho after a year-long drought devastated crops in the region this year. Image by John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images.‌

The good news is, people around the world are already starting to figure out ways to adapt their diets to the changing climate. To see some of the changes a warming world has had and will have on how people eat, take a look at Africa.

Here are five ways climate change could affect how Africa — and the world — will eat in the next century:

1. Corn might become less common.

Maize — a type of corn — has become an important staple food throughout the African continent over the last century. It's actually a pretty popular food all over: It’s the world’s third most important cereal crop (after rice and wheat).

A woman prepares the maize she raised inside her hut in Malawi. Photo by Kate Holt/Africa Practice/Flickr

‌In Africa, maize is often eaten by itself — roasted over a fire — or it is featured as a prominent ingredient in a lot of local dishes, such as the common mealtime starch ugali (a thick, stiff porridge) or the popular Kenyan githeri stew.

However, according to a study published in the scientific journal Nature, as much as 41% of the land in Africa devoted to growing maize could stop being productive by 2050.

2. Other staple foods might disappear too.

A banana harvest in Arba Minch, Ethiopia. Photo by Rod Waddington/Flickr.

Maize isn’t the only crop in trouble. Beans, bananas, barley, and wheat are just a few of the crops that could all struggle to grow because of climate change in certain regions of the world. This means that these foods might become less prominent in local diets, or they will need to be imported.

In Africa, the effects could be profound for local farmers. According to the study in Nature, 60% of bean agriculture and 30% of land currently cultivated for bananas could stop being productive.

3. New grains might become more popular.

‌A man loads his cart with millet near the village of Simiri in Niger, Africa. Image by Boureima Hama/AFP/Getty Images.‌

If some crops won’t grow where they used to, local farmers will need to grow something else in order to survive.

In Africa, this could me

an that farmers grow varieties of millet or sorghum instead. Both of these grains are actually native to Africa — unlike maize — and they are expected to maintain their production levels in the region despite climate change through 2100 because they are more resilient to drought. (Red millet also makes for a delicious and nutritious substitute to maize in ugali.)

4. We might eat different kinds of meat.

‌Image via iStock.‌

If it becomes too difficult to grow certain crops, some farmers might swap crop agriculture for livestock farming. Other farmers might change what animals they raise entirely.

In Kenya, camel rearing is catching up with cattle farming, reports Reuters News, because camels can withstand drought situations better than other animals.

While cows (and goats) require daily access to water and pasture, camels can survive without food or water for up to three weeks because their hump stores fluids to keep them hydrated.

5. We might start eating new veggies.

‌A man drying cowpeas in Ghana. Cowpeas grow in dry areas because they are able to survive high temperatures with little water. Image by Tree Aid/Flickr.‌

Several organizations, including the World Food Programme, are working to help local farmers in Africa become more resilient to climate change and “climate shocks” — like droughts — by diversifying what they grow. Instead of growing just one crop, farmers grow a variety so that even if one crop dies, others might survive.

Grain legumes, such as cowpeas, are often a great choice for this in Africa. These legumes are more drought-resistant, can provide protein, and they can even help restore the farmer’s soil because their roots "fix" nitrogen from the air, which then helps grow future crops. The stems and stalks of these plants can also be used to feed livestock.

While it is true that climate change could cause certain crops to disappear altogether, scientists, organizations, and farmers are working hard together to adapt and prepare for the future. It might just change what foods we all eat.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less
Pets

Ginger the dog reunited with family 5 years after being stolen

Ginger's family never gave up hope, and it payed off.

Ginger the dog was missing for five years before being reunited with her family.

A sweet pup is finally home with her family where she belongs after way too many years away.

Ginger the dog was stolen from her family back in 2017. Her owner, Barney Lattimore of Janesville, Wisconsin, never gave up the hope that his sweet girl was out there somewhere. Whenever he'd see a dog listed on a rescue website or humane society website that even remotely resembled his Ginger, he would inquire about the dog. Unfortunately, it was never her. You'd think that after a while he would stop, but if he had, he likely wouldn't have gotten the sweetest reunion.

Keep Reading Show less

"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

Keep Reading Show less