Thanks to David Attenborough, more and more people are aware of issues with plastic, how reliant we are upon our oceans, and the impact of climate change. But, is enough happening in or day-to-day lives to really create change?
What are some of these big issues from climate change and ocean plastics? Let’s start with one of the planets most widely-traded commodity... coffee. You buy a coffee from your local coffee shop and even if you do so with good intentions, in your reusable coffee cup, what else has taken place to get that morning wake up call into your hand? Let’s look at the other basic ingredients: water and milk. Water is becoming more and more scarce as we have seen in South Africa and we’re only 30 years away from the same problems. Can you imagine only being allowed 50 litres of water a day? A shower every few days? Not being allowed to flush the toilet or even put the kettle on?
Then we have the dairy industry which is another issue altogether. The growing demand for almond, soy and other alternatives is causing further issues as a result of its demand, which is causing price increases in other parts of the world, similar to that of avocados and couscous which are now delicacies in their host countries. Coffee itself is mainly grown along the equatorial line due to the environmental conditions, such as sunlight and humidity, but this is also the same line that creates biodiversity hotspots and it’s this diversity of species that create resistant and useful environments. We rely on these habitats for a range of products such as medicines, cosmetics, food, building materials and most importantly carbon sinks and oxygen production. Without these lush, green, wet forests we wouldn’t be able to breathe.
Half of our oxygen comes from these kinds of rainforests and half from our oceans, from kelp forest, mangroves and coral reef systems. We can see how important these habitats are, but as coffee consumption grows so does production, to keep up with its demand, and therefore more deforestation.
Farmers need more land to grow more coffee and by converting this land they change the soil composition, they introduce chemicals and pesticides into the ecosystem. These then run off into the rivers and streams that support it, and burn even more fossil fuels to provide energy for the production itself, not to mention the carbon released as a result of transport, be it by lorry, train, plane or boat. Then there’s the packaging, the labels, the stickers, the cups - it all adds up and before you know it one cup of coffee has wiped out a rainforest.
As our desires grow and society changes it’s acceptable to want a good coffee or a nice steak or a new T-shirt, but we should think about where this stuff comes from, how it’s produced, the company that produces it, their ethos, their values and their purpose. Ultimately, we all have a responsibility to consume “sustainably” - reduce our consumption, eat a few less steaks, drink a few less coffees and think about the impact of our actions. If we all do our little bit we make a big difference... - “A tree once started with a seed but it was all the trees together that made the forest.”