Year 4, Month 2, Day 6: You’ll See No Potato Juice

The Seattle Times addresses the problems facing the coffee growers of the world:

One of the biggest problems facing coffee farmers in India and elsewhere is climate change. Fluctuations in the weather have always happened, but they come more frequently now and are often more extreme, farmers say.

Like many tropical crops, coffee needs predictable dry and wet seasons and cannot tolerate extreme temperature fluctuations.

“Climate change is hitting us hard,” said Jacob Mammen, managing director of India’s Badra Estates. Three times in recent years, Badra has lost a third of its crop because of rains at the wrong times. Some rains come too soon, causing trees to blossom early; others come as the trees bloom or are ready to be harvested, destroying valuable blossoms or dropping ripe coffee cherries; still others ruin coffee left to dry on outdoor patios.

To protect coffee from the latter fate, nearby Balanoor Plantations spent more than $20,000 for a large cylindrical drying drum last year.

The drinks, and the laughs, are on me. Sent January 28:

American coffee drinkers have had a chance to sample a wide variety of the finest coffees the world has to offer, and selecting one’s personal favorite bean from a huge selection is now a perfectly ordinary part of shopping. But the impact of climate change on coffee growers is going to change this equation drastically. What we’re likely to be drinking in coming years won’t necessarily be the coffee that tastes the best, but that which is most resistant to weather extremes and the various epiphenomena of the greenhouse effect. Of course, it isn’t just coffee that’ll be affected, but virtually everything we eat and drink.

Our politicians, terrified of offending their corporate paymasters, continue to dawdle and delay instead of taking immediate steps to protect our agriculture from the consequences of climate change. But with each year that passes, action becomes more expensive — and less effective. The time for excuses and evasions is past. Wake up and smell the coffee.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 10, Day 21: Brrrrrr.

I’ve been seeing this come up in Google recently, but it was only on October 17 that I decided to write a letter about Starbucks’ concerns about the world’s coffee crop, which were described in the October 16 issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

There’s a global crisis of unimaginable import and the powers that be aren’t doing anything about it, despite Seattleites’ strident efforts to raise awareness.

No, it’s not “Occupy Seattle.” We’re talking about a threat to the world’s coffee supply; and Starbucks executives, not underemployed young people, are ringing the alarm.

Jim Hanna, the Seattle coffee empire’s sustainability director, told The Guardian that climate change is already spurring severe hurricanes and more resistant bugs that are reducing crop yields.

I could imagine a future without oil more easily than one without coffee. Sent October 17:

For American coffee drinkers, the news that climate change may drastically impact future crops around the world should be a sobering revelation. Of course, it isn’t just the bitter brown berry that’ll get clobbered by the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect, but virtually every aspect of planetary agriculture.

But it is also worth noticing that Starbucks actually has a “Sustainability Director” — an official whose responsibilities presumably involve looking farther into the future than the next quarterly report. This is something which other corporations should emulate.

How different would our planetary energy economy be if the big oil companies’ priorities were built around more than short-term profitability? How different would our planetary environment be if they respected (and acted upon) climatologists’ reports instead of lavishing funding on anti-science politicians?

It’s time for the fossil fuel industries to wake up — and smell the coffee.

Warren Senders