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  • 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 newtechnifiedor 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 ofdifficulty 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 exportproduce unique and especially harmful patterns [of] deforestation,

  • hunger, and schoolingespecially 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.

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咖啡(The true cost of coffee.)

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    joey joey 發佈於 2021 年 06 月 27 日
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