Saturday, January 24, 2009

Coffee and Conservation

The posts on this page cover several important matters related to coffee and the environment, beginning with a vexing question that has bothered me as I visit small farmers who are trying to play by the rules of certification. That is, can something be done to move the burden of certification away from the very small farmers who are trying to do the right thing, but are confronted with undue costs when they try to prove it.

LOL god: Persecution complex

LOL god: Persecution complex

This has nothing to do with environmental geography, but I like it. In the past few weeks, some religious folks who enjoy persecuting others (i.e., gays and lesbians who are causing them no harm) are trying to portray themselves as the victims of anti-religious discrimination. This series of images clarifies the nonsense.

Corporate Knights

This is a rich site with a lot of news about the business of sustainability.

The Water Footprint of Coffee

Water Footprint is a Dutch site that allows consumers to estimate the water consumption that is embedded in other kinds of consumption. As a student of coffee, I was particularly interested in the 1100:1 ratio between coffee and the water needed to prepare it. Although coffee requires almost 1.3 meter of rainfall per year, this accounts for only about 1/7 of the total, as water is needed at many stages.

The water used in the coffee is renewable -- it does not disappear or anything. But a lot of it is used in locations thousands of miles from the consumer and with minimal environmental regulations. Because the water used for growing will return to local streams and water supplies, organic coffee can help to keep those resources free of pesticides and fertilizers.

Similarly, the water used for depulping is usually returned to local streams, full of nutrients that can lead to algae blooms and diminished available oxygen for fish. For this reason, it is important to support integrated production systems that harvest biogas or otherwise capture the nutrients before returning water to the local environment.

This page is an overview of the group's findings regarding coffee and tea. It includes links to more detailed studies (in Dutch and English) of each.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Living the Map

Daniel Sediqqui was having trouble finding a job after college, and then he stumbled upon a brilliant, geographic idea. He is taking temporary jobs of one week in each of the fifty states. In the process, he is learning new skills, learning cultural geography, and spending a year exploring the U.S.

I really like the fact that in each state, he is seeking jobs that typify the region.

His project is similar to two of my own web pages, though they pale in comparison: my county map project and my fun jobs list! The end result of Sediqqui's work might have a place on my wife Pamela's Year of blog.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Living on Earth Radio

Living on Earth is a terrific weekly, hour-long radio program about the environment. Each week is a good mix of celebrating earth's beauty and examining the threats it faces. Urban and wilderness areas, water, air, and food are all covered with care and skill.

Friday, January 02, 2009

North America Environmental Atlas

The North American Environmental Atlas is an online product that allows professionals and ordinary citizens to study spatially variable aspects of environmental quality in the NAFTA countries.

It includes pre-formatted maps and dynamic maps in which users can compare multiple variables of interest or concern.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Coffee and Hotspots

Conservation International explains how better choices about coffee can protect biodiversity. For years, biodiversity protection was focused on the protection of endangered species. That needs to continue, but it is not enough. Environmental geographers and ecologists also now focus on hotspots -- places that still have a lot of biological diversity, but where land-use change threatens that diversity. It turns out that many of those places produce coffee, and the way the coffee is produced can make a tremendous difference in whether that diversity is protected.

See my own geography of coffee site for more about such connections.

Coffee Hell

This is my own page about a local company that has become one of my least favorite. Dunkin Donuts has given lip service to fair trade and quality coffee, but has really done next to nothing to help farmers. It is a successful brand with incredible loyalty in its home region, though: my small town has eight places to buy the stuff, and it is impossible to go to a Saturday morning gathering of any kind without finding that a lot of people have stopped at DD on the way.

All of this was gradually growing as an annoyance for me until the early summer of 2008, when the company pushed me over the proverbial edge by caving in to a xenophobic attack on one of its marketing campaigns. I tried communicating with the company directly, but the corporate response actually deepened my concern, so I created this page: COFFEE HELL. And as prolific as the brand is, I have managed to avoid it ever since.


For geographers, the U.S. Geological Survey is "the show." The headquarters in Reston, Virginia (a town whose invention I remember from my childhood) is the fount of beautiful and authoritative maps. The USGS staff in the field make those maps and do a remarkable variety of research into hydrology, fire, biodiversity, and much more.

One interesting thing I learned about USGS staff (at least in hydrology) is that they tend to be very good at English/metric conversions. I am pretty good at it, but these people are amazing. As scholars, they publish their research in metric units, but as U.S. government officials, they have to use the archaic inches and miles stuff.

The geography section of the USGS web site provides updates on recent science, links to various mapping resources and earth imagery, and links to the regional science research centers of the agency.