The knowledge of how to fight Roya, and the money for fungicide, the labor to treat it, and to cut back the trees deals a huge blow to the income and profits of the coffee farm. The real impact is on organic farms,  whether certified farms or organic-by-default farms, on casual coffee farmers who have little technical knowledge, and on smallholder farms in general. In a couple crop cycles, Roya unmanaged is the death of the coffee farm.

–Tom Owen

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Coffee, Climate Change and Canaries

Coffee, Climate Change and Canaries

What’s the impact of global climate change on coffee? I’ve had conversations with a number of coffee farmers — particularly folks in South and Central America — about what they’re experiencing on their farms. The stories they tell are of seasons off kilter: of too much rain at the wrong time of the year, not enough when they need it; of coffee trees flowering and coffee cherries ripening in increasingly staggered spans — especially among farms at varying altitudes —  making harvest more challenging. But still, they are simple anecdotes, these stories farmers tell… and every year has such stories. They are not, themselves, a body of evidence of climate change. The report released by Oxfam this month — Turning up the heat, Climate Change and Poverty in Uganda — now that’s evidence of the impact of climate change on coffee production. And the evidence does not bode well: “The outlook is bleak. If the average global temperatures rise by two degrees or more, then most of Uganda is likely to cease to be suitable for coffee..this may happen in 40 years or perhaps as little as 30.” Keep in mind that the figures that Oxfam cites are for coffee production in all of Uganda. It’s more than possible — it’s likely — that coffees from premiere origins within Uganda could succumb to the devastating effects of a changing climate in only just a few years as they lose those unique microclimates that contributed to their coffee’s character. Coffees like Bugisu, the bluesy, saturated cup from Mbale that I profiled here a short seven years ago: In the cup...

I Can’t Hear You!

It reads like an episode of The Office. Turns out, it’s your government at work. From the New York Times: “The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week. “The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said.” Let’s make sure we’re  perfectly clear on this. After years of foot-dragging on the part of the Environmental Protection Agency, the frickin’ Supreme Court orders the EPA to fish or cut bait, by making an agency-level determination whether greenhouse gases are, or are not, dangerous to our health and environment. Having exhausted its available “do-nothing” options, the EPA finally, reluctantly, sends its court-ordered findings to the White House where the Bush administration — in a fit of pique that would rival a three-year-old stickin’ his fingers in his ears and squealing “I can’t hear you!”  — refuses to open the email. This, my friends, is your government at work. January 20, 2009 cannot arrive quickly enough. Hat tip: to Making Light, which you may want to visit to see the fireworks that occur in response to this development. Update: Don’t miss the fun conversation happening over at Scalzi’s place, where the trolls are in full throat and Scalzi’s whackin’ em like so many moles in an arcade...
Green Up Your Coffee House!

Green Up Your Coffee House!

It’s Earth Day 2008. The climate crisis is accelerating, vast sheets of ice are collapsing, islands in the Pacific have been drowned in rising seas, and weather the world over is growing increasingly violent. If we don’t take immediate action — all of us, and right now — we face a future unlike anything we’ve known. But let’s be honest… running a successful and (ideally) profitable coffee house is something of a high-wire act at the best of times. And — economically-speaking — these aren’t the best of times. You’ve got a budget to watch; a creeping expense column can throw things out of kilter. Fast. It’s not going to do you or your environmentally-minded customers any good for you to bankrupt yourself in the name of ecology. That said, there are savings to be found in running a more efficient and sustainable coffee house, coffee shop or espresso bar. Some of these savings can be realized pretty quickly, others require a longer view. If you can, don’t just consider today’s bottom line, but tomorrow’s. And next year’s. And — for goodness sake — don’t lose sight of the ultimate bottom line here… the planet’s climate is in crisis. And it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the viability of specialty coffee is at the forefront of that crisis. In greening up your coffee house, there are (at least) three distinct areas where you can bring your efforts to bear: reducing energy, increasing sustainability, and making it easier for your customers to go green, too. We’ll look at each in turn. There’s a lot to slog through here, so...
Bloggle Redux: Green Up Your Coffee Cup!

Bloggle Redux: Green Up Your Coffee Cup!

On the eve of Earth Day, here’s an oh-so-topical post from the Bloggle archives. Read it, already? Good! I challenge you to give it another review and see how your efforts to green up over the last year stack up. (And feel free to post a comment bragging on how you’ve done!) Tomorrow, a new Earth Day post: Green Up Your Coffee House. In the face of the now very real threat of global climate change, this year’s recognition of Earth Day carries with it a certain sense of urgency. It’s time to change some habits. Permanently. The good news? Greening up your coffee cup doesn’t mean sacrificing the quality of your coffee! Here’s some tips to get you started… Enough of the paper filters, already. If you enjoy your coffee in a press pot, good on you, you’re already there. But if you’re making a drip cup, consider some alternatives to your paper coffee filters. The gold standard of reusable drip filters are made by SwissGold, and they have a product line that covers most every filter basket style — from Mr. Coffee to Bunn to Melitta-styled cone filters — used in auto-drip machines today. Enough of the bottled water, too. I’ve written quite a lot about the importance of good water for good coffee. So by all means, use great water, but make it great yourself. Start with water from your own tap and filter it with any number of great filtration products (I like Brita, and PUR.) You’ll save oodles of money, and save oodles of carbon emissions from all the shipping that bottled water requires....
It’s a Fabulous Eco-Friday

It’s a Fabulous Eco-Friday

The birds are singing, the trees are budding, and the snow is all but a dirty-white memory. The crocuses that herself planted last fall which are not blue or purple, but yellow — Yellow! Scott, I blame you — are blooming. By golly it must be mud season Spring. And if that weren’t sign enough of the change of seasons, the dance-card is full of ecologically-minded events, many right here in Vermont. Earth day is Tuesday, April 22nd. This year — in the face of looming climate crisis — it’s important to not only act locally (you can find an Earth Day event near you) but also to make some noise. If you’ve been following the seemingly endless string of political debates (don’t even get me started on the recent ABC debacle) you may have noticed something missing — the climate crisis. That’s not an accident. Most all of these debates have been sponsored by front groups for Big Oil, and they’ve been excruciatingly effective at keeping global climate change out of the conversation. Let your elected representatives know that you haven’t forgotten the climate crisis. Vermonters will want to note, too, that Small Dog Electronics is once again doing their Earth Day affiliated electronics recycling event. It’s free (recycling fees are being picked up by Small Dog’s sponsoring partners) and it’s a great way to keep heavy metal “e-waste” out of Vermont landfills. Be sure to note, too, that it takes place Saturday, April 19th. Green Up Day is, as always, the first Saturday in May — this year, May 3rd. Green Up Vermont is in its 38th...
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