Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Coffee Concerned

When I visit coffee farmers in Nicaragua, they sometimes ask me, "What are you doing about climate change?" The do this because they know I am from the United States, which is both a democracy and a leading contributor to the problem of climate change. They also ask because they are already seeing the effects of climate change on their crops.

For two decades, the specialty-coffee movement has been helping farmers to improve the quality of their coffee, not only so consumers can enjoy a better cup, but also so that farmers could earn a better living. With climate change, all of that progress is severely threatened. Quality coffee is highly dependent on intricate combinations of factors coming together in particular places, generally at high elevations in the tropics.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is answering the question that my friends have been asking -- it is putting pressure on President Obama to enact new clean-air regulations that would reduce carbon emissions, thereby slowing the rate of climate change, perhaps saving coffee, among other things.

Watching this video with students today, we noticed three difficulties, two of which I have mentioned to the UCS through its web site. First, and most importantly: the red berries shown in the opening frames are not coffee. Second, the video indicates that "we" drink 2.25 billion cups of coffee per day. Because the video is focused on the U.S. president, viewers may infer that this refers to the United States, but this is in fact a worldwide total. Third, at 1:20 into the video, a sign asks for legislation to be passed, when in fact the campaign is intended to encourage the EPA to interpret existing legislation -- the Clean Air Act -- in a way that would require the regulation of carbon emissions.

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