Blaming Climate Change Won't Help Costa Rica Coffee

March 22, 2011

There have been more than a few articles on the Costa Rican coffee farms vs the weather. In recent post, Melissa Allison shows that neither the experts nor the farmers seem to be able to agree on the correct causes of the decrease in coffee production. One thing seems clear: there is confusion and fear in the farmers which is preventing them from making the necessary changes to adapt to changing and erratic weather patterns. But blaming “global warming”, which means blaming the developed world for driving cars and burning fuel for industry, is not a cause. Even if it could be proven that it was, it won’t help the farmers in the next few years. Complicating the situation, the erratic weather can’t seem to decide if it’s heading to global warming or global cooling. Heavy rains in some areas, drought in others, nights that are too cold in places, are events that have discouraged farmers from replanting. In fact, nearly 10,000 farmers have quit raising coffee. But it’s more than just the weather, which is cited as only 25% of the problem. Expert advisors have made suggestions, such as new hybrid trees, planting shade plants, planting on terraces in curved rows, and more. Though these suggestions make sense and could be implemented, the farmers haven't followed through. Part of the problem is that workers are harder to find and costs have gone up. But loans are available. Erratic weather has always been the farmer’s worst fear. We have had famines every century since at least 400 CE. (Just ask Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_famines ) Was it our careless burning of fossil fuel that caused all those? The earth is not a static rock. It’s a living organism, constantly changing, though we can’t see the slow changes until a dramatic event breaks through the earth’s surface in an earthquake or volcanic eruption. There are influences of solar flares, changing ocean currents - remember El Nino? Farmers have to learn to be flexible and adapt to changes, and coffee lovers might have to pay a little more for their daily brew. But the problems can be solved.



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