字幕列表 影片播放 列印英文字幕 This video is sponsored by CuriosityStream. Get access to my streaming video service, Nebula, when you sign up for CuriosityStream using the link in the description. It's the start of a new day. You roll out from under the covers, stagger into the kitchen, and make a cup of the brew that will wake you up and carry you through the morning: coffee. The liquid that fuels millions around the globe. Offering caffeine and warmth to early-morning risers and late-night workers alike. There's little doubt that coffee is a staple commodity, but all this consumption means it also holds with it ecological consequences. So today, I'm going to investigate the true cost of coffee by asking two questions: What's the environmental impact of growing coffee? And why do we grow it the way we do? 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed globally every year. And in the United States, where the coffee flows like water, drinkers consume roughly 450 million cups a day. The popularity of coffee is undeniable. It's the second most traded commodity next to crude oil. But there's something hidden in these massive numbers: a stark split between the geography of coffee consumers and coffee producers. The countries that import the most coffee, like the United States, Germany, and France, are primarily situated in Europe and North America, while the biggest producers are situated in the Global South, with countries like Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia exporting the lion's share of the world's coffee. Essentially coffee plantations have sprawled across the majority world to satiate the coffee addiction of the Global North. So when considering the environmental impact of coffee it's not just the visible waste t of unnecessary to-go cups that we need to address, it's also the impact that stretches back to--and is indeed centered around-- how coffee is grown. So in very simple terms, there are two ways of cultivating coffee: shade-grown and sun-grown. Sun grown coffee is just another way to describe the relatively new “technified” or industrial coffee farming systems. These production methods were kickstarted in the 1970s and 80s by neoliberal policies championed by the United States Agency for International Development (or USAID) and the World Bank, which sought to industrialize supply chains to increase yields and drive down prices. But as many of the coffee growing countries like Colombia and Brazil transitioned to this new technified way of farming, which relied on chemical resistant and sun-tolerant coffee strains like Robusta coffee, they began to experience the ecological burdens of this globalized system. Sun grown coffee relies on large swaths of closely planted crops of coffee that are then grown without the protection of shade trees, doused in chemical herbicides and pesticides, and then harvested in one fell swoop using expensive technology, which is not unlike the monocropping techniques applied to corn and soybeans in the United States. As a result of technification, smallholder farmers in some cases are forced out of coffee production altogether, because they're unable to keep up with the crushing combination of high input costs of big machinery and the low prices caused by competition with larger monocrop farms across the globe. This industrialized coffee system can lead to numerous environmental issues like mountainside erosion, chemical pollution in waterways, soil degradation, as well as deforestation. Sun grown coffee is one of the most sprayed crops in the world. This not only causes ecological damage in the form of runoff and species loss, but it also damages the health of workers at farms where the chemicals are prioritized over safety equipment. As demonstrated in an article in the Guardian, which revealed that Brazilian workers often complained of “difficulty breathing, skin rashes and birth defects” after working with pesticides that were banned in the EU. In a paper on the effects of coffee production and exports, Professor Kelly Austin concludes that countries that depend on coffee as a primary export “produce unique and especially harmful patterns [of] deforestation, hunger, and schooling” especially when compared to other forms of agricultural production. Essentially, sun-grown coffee farmers are stuck in a system that demands high yields and low prices at the expense of the environment and the community around them. But there is an alternative method of growing coffee. In fact, it's how coffee has always been grown up until recently. Under the protective cover of other trees. Shade-grown cultivation is the traditional system of growing coffee that prioritizes a biodiverse landscape to build a healthy habitat for coffee plants. Indeed, coffee plants prefer shade when they grow in the wild. This type of growing system allows for a much more varied, and ultimately stable, method of growing coffee. By allowing the coffee plant to thrive in its ideal habitat, it requires fewer chemicals and mechanized input, and the trees that are intercropped with coffee not only provide shade, but they have the potential to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. According to Project Drawdown, which looks at the top 100 solutions to climate change, if more farmers adopt tree intercropping systems like those used on coffee plantations, they could potentially sequester 17.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide over the next thirty years. For context, the United States emitted roughly 6.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2017. This sequestration happens because intercropped trees on a coffee farm in many ways mimic forests. As a result, this means they have the added benefit of attracting a myriad of pest loving birds that act as a natural insecticide for the coffee cherries. And unlike sun-grow monocultures, clearing forest land for shade grown coffee production is unnecessary, and as a 2013 study on the effects of traditional coffee systems on deforestation in Ethiopia shows, shade grown coffee can help slow forest-loss. Alongside all of these environmental benefits, intercropping with fruit or nut trees means a more diverse harvest and ultimately a more stable livelihood. Pairing coffee plants with macadamia trees, for example, means that farmers not only get the yield from coffee plants, but they also can reap the benefits of macadamia trees. This means that if a coffee crop fails one year, it won't necessarily spell disaster. So, yes while overall yields might be a bit lower than a technified system, shade-grown coffee means more economic security, less mechanization, and a healthier ecosystem. On top of all of that, the coffee just generally tastes better. Ultimately, the industrialized system, while good for higher yields (and higher profits for coffee corporations), has pushed coffee-growing into an environmentally destructive activity. Shade-grown coffee clearly demonstrates that coffee doesn't have to damage the soil or its environment, in fact, traditional coffee growing has been around for hundreds of years. The important thing here is to recognize where and how this transition to an environmentally destructive practice is happening. So let's be clear, this didn't just happen naturally. USAID and other global free-market-oriented organizations like the World Bank have created the conditions for this switch. And the result of transforming local economies of small traditional farms into larger global economies of industrialized farms is that the coffee that gets consumed in North America and Europe wreaks environmental destruction in the form of pollution and deforestation in the Global South. So as the Global North's addiction to coffee grows, and with it their demand for cheaper prices, they are essentially exporting the environmental and social consequences of large scale coffee production onto the majority world. When we looked toward the environmental impacts of coffee then, the answer is not as simple as just buying single-origin, shade-grown varieties. That is important and part of the solution, but we also must simultaneously understand that for more ecologically-sound systems to prosper, they need a global economy that actively seeks to support and fund them. One that prioritizes environmental health, communal well being, and quality goods and stands in stark contrast to the current global capitalist system which seeks high production, low prices, and growth regardless of environmental and social cost. If you're exhausted of hearing my voice and are looking for some really great nature-related documentaries, I'd highly recommend checking out this video's sponsor CuriosityStream. With thousands of documentaries and non-fiction titles spanning topics from artificial intelligence to plastic bag waste, it's hard not to get lost in their library. And If you're interested about learning more about the future of our food system, I'd highly recommend the documentary Farming of the Future. It looks at farming systems like aquaponics and robotic AI that are trying to address a growing demand for food. It's definitely worth a watch if you have the time. 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If you like what I'm doing on this channel and are looking for ways to help me reach more people, feel free to support me on Patreon. For $1 a month you can join an awesome crew of eco-minded people, get early access to my videos, and help me choose which non-profit to donate to every month. Thanks again for making it to the end, and I'll see you in the new year!