New from Starbucks: Coffee Fear-mongering

October 16, 2011

Starbuck’s sustainability guru, Jim Hanna, is talking these days about the future of coffee, which he fears has no future. He’s afraid that in a few decades, the earth will be too warm to grow coffee. Proof is offered by the problems of changing rain patterns and insect infestations in some of the coffee growing regions. Do we really have to fear a coffee-less future? The answer to this depends on one’s thoughts on global warming, or its more politically correct euphemism, climate change.





ABC posted one of their reports on Youtube; in it, they relayed Starbucks’ concerns and interviewed coffee lovers for their responses. Starbucks, like others in a coalition to stop global warming, sees the issue in a simplistic way in which carbon emissions cause world climate change. Therefore, their main goal is to curb the carbon emissions. Man has become so confident in the ability to project current data into the future in order to predict conditions decades ahead.





But those models are only as good as the data driving them, and the biggest missing piece is the set of conditions that are totally out of our control. So, as mentioned at the very end of the segment, scientists are not agreed as to whether or not the world’s climate is indeed changing. Whether the cause is solar flares, a change in the earth’s tilt, or any other number of possible explanations for the warming of the North Pole, we see only a small glimpse of where we are now, let alone where we’re headed. But why the fuss over coffee? If indeed coffee ceases to grow in the near future due to a warmer climate, we should probably be more concerned with the basic crops, which also would be endangered. Since putting our heads in the sand and choosing denial isn’t a good option, we need to plan for adapting to whatever challenges threaten the future food supply. Maybe the location of the prime farmlands will change, moving to places which are now too cold for coffee, for example.





Already some farmers are pushing the boundaries of what we have always considered the coffee growing zones. A farmer in central California is succeeding in growing coffee, roasting and marketing it, although he’s only planting a small area so far. If California can support coffee crops, what other areas might also, given a few extra degrees of temperature? The internet carries posts of individuals growing coffee in greenhouses well outside of the tropics. There are unpublished reports of coffee experiments in other regions as well. There is no need to limit our thinking in this area. So will coffee survive? Will WE survive? We should if we can think outside the box. Brew on, optimistically!



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