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Agri & Gardening agri   gardening General

Your cup of coffee will destroy the planet while the planet destroys your coffee

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by: Sharai Hoekema
your cup of coffee will destroy the planet while the planet destroys your coffee

Most of us thoroughly enjoy our cup of coffee in the morning. It wakes us up to a bright new world and it warms us up on chilly days, prepping us for a full day of work ahead. How ironic that this little habit might just lead to permanently warming up any chilly days and eventually us not having any world to wake up to. And if this is not yet bad enough, all of these adverse weather effects might ultimately lead to you not having any more coffee to drink.

Why? Recently, scientists put out a warning stating that the majority of coffee species are at risk of extinction, as the sole result of climate change. They estimate the number of species that might go extinct at 60 percent - or higher. This is bad news for more than one reason, as it might trigger a sequence that ultimately leads to the end of coffee as we know it today. Or force us to save it by taking very unsustainable actions.

The hard numbers of climate change

Research is hard to refute. And research is exactly what lies at the basis of the coffee vs. climate change debate. It found that climate change has already been affecting two of the most frequently consumed coffee species, being the C. Arabica (better known as Arabica coffee) and C. Capephonara, otherwise known as Robusta coffee. 

Of the remaining 124 wild coffee species, it has been found that at least 60 percent will go extinct if global warming is not addressed properly. And while not all of these are heavily consumed species, they are important for keeping up the diversity in the plant-family. Once diversity in coffee species dwindles, it will become harder to find hybrids that are capable of resisting extreme weather events and pests - side-effects of global warming. 

The facts above are basically just the first trigger in a causal chain that will lead to more and more coffee species dying out as they are not able to fulfil to the first rule of Darwinism: adapt or die. The only alternative will be using up scarce resources and huge amounts of energy to artificially keep our nation’s favourite beverage alive. Which will leave the world in an even worse situation as it is in today.

Finding sustainable conservation plans

You might as well make yourself another cup of cappuccino at this point, because it is not getting any better. Despite pleas and warning cries from coffee producers and researchers alike, we have not yet come up with sustainable and effective conservation plans to save the dozens of coffee plant species at risk of going extinct. The ones that are currently in place are highly inadequate and often even polluting of their own. 

As Aaron Davis, a coffee specialist and frequently credited author of research papers on the topic admits: “Ultimately, we need to reverse deforestation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Yet the big puzzle remains: how to save the planet and coffee at the same time?

A potential solution for saving our coffee

It might seem depressing, but stay with me - as there are potentially viable ideas and innovations that focus on retaining at least a significant part of the currently existing species. These largely focus on the world’s most widely consumed coffee species, being our favourites Arabica and Robusta.

The largest risk threatening these species is that they are rather finicky and fragile. Arabica, for instance, is a slow grower and enjoys a place in the shade of trees, preferably at higher altitudes - which is why they are mostly produced in or near mountains. Robusta is not much better, also requiring a specific ecosystem to live in and climate to thrive in.

Building up genetic resistance

As all of these ecosystems are likely to change as the result of global warming, the key to saving your favourite latte is the adaptation of the crops to allow them to be more sustainable to their new environment. The Arabica and Robusta plants can be made more resistant by letting them borrow certain traits from their wild coffee-relatives, of which - let’s look at the glass half-full - some 40% are decidedly not yet at risk. 

Why are these safe, for now at least? Well, they might possess a certain pest-resistant gene, they might be unappealing to destructive insects, or they might be better suited for warmer or colder climates. A trait that could be passed on to our favourite coffee species. Through breeding, hybrids can be developed that will give us the same - or similar - flavour, while being easier to grow. So, it is basically gene-editing, to find out which wild coffee species are best combined with Arabica and Robusta. Science at its best, that will once again come around to save the planet.

It seems like a win-win situation: saving coffee while not negatively impacting the environment. It might even have a positive impact on your health as well, as the wild coffee species that will be interbred with generally have a lower sugar and caffeine count. Sounds like a perfect solution - that is, unless you strongly dislike your brew decaffeinated.

https://www.whatsorb.com/category/gardening-agriculture

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Your cup of coffee will destroy the planet while the planet destroys your coffee

Most of us thoroughly enjoy our cup of coffee in the morning. It wakes us up to a bright new world and it warms us up on chilly days, prepping us for a full day of work ahead. How ironic that this little habit might just lead to permanently warming up any chilly days and eventually us not having any world to wake up to. And if this is not yet bad enough, all of these adverse weather effects might ultimately lead to you not having any more coffee to drink. Why? Recently, scientists put out a warning stating that the majority of coffee species are at risk of extinction, as the sole result of climate change. They estimate the number of species that might go extinct at 60 percent - or higher. This is bad news for more than one reason, as it might trigger a sequence that ultimately leads to the end of coffee as we know it today. Or force us to save it by taking very unsustainable actions. The hard numbers of climate change Research is hard to refute. And research is exactly what lies at the basis of the coffee vs. climate change debate. It found that climate change has already been affecting two of the most frequently consumed coffee species, being the C. Arabica (better known as Arabica coffee) and C. Capephonara, otherwise known as Robusta coffee.   Of the remaining 124 wild coffee species, it has been found that at least 60 percent will go extinct if global warming is not addressed properly. And while not all of these are heavily consumed species, they are important for keeping up the diversity in the plant-family. Once diversity in coffee species dwindles, it will become harder to find hybrids that are capable of resisting extreme weather events and pests - side-effects of global warming.   The facts above are basically just the first trigger in a causal chain that will lead to more and more coffee species dying out as they are not able to fulfil to the first rule of Darwinism: adapt or die. The only alternative will be using up scarce resources and huge amounts of energy to artificially keep our nation’s favourite beverage alive. Which will leave the world in an even worse situation as it is in today. Finding sustainable conservation plans You might as well make yourself another cup of cappuccino at this point, because it is not getting any better. Despite pleas and warning cries from coffee producers and researchers alike, we have not yet come up with sustainable and effective conservation plans to save the dozens of coffee plant species at risk of going extinct. The ones that are currently in place are highly inadequate and often even polluting of their own.   As Aaron Davis, a coffee specialist and frequently credited author of research papers on the topic admits: “Ultimately, we need to reverse deforestation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”  Yet the big puzzle remains: how to save the planet and coffee at the same time? A potential solution for saving our coffee It might seem depressing, but stay with me - as there are potentially viable ideas and innovations that focus on retaining at least a significant part of the currently existing species. These largely focus on the world’s most widely consumed coffee species, being our favourites Arabica and Robusta. The largest risk threatening these species is that they are rather finicky and fragile. Arabica, for instance, is a slow grower and enjoys a place in the shade of trees, preferably at higher altitudes - which is why they are mostly produced in or near mountains. Robusta is not much better, also requiring a specific ecosystem to live in and  climate to thrive in. Building up genetic resistance As all of these ecosystems are likely to change as the result of global warming, the key to saving your favourite latte is the adaptation of the crops to allow them to be more sustainable to their new environment. The Arabica and Robusta plants can be made more resistant by letting them borrow certain traits from their wild coffee-relatives, of which - let’s look at the glass half-full - some 40% are decidedly not yet at risk.   Why are these safe, for now at least? Well, they might possess a certain pest-resistant gene, they might be unappealing to destructive insects, or they might be better suited for warmer or colder climates. A trait that could be passed on to our favourite coffee species. Through breeding, hybrids can be developed that will give us the same - or similar - flavour, while being easier to grow. So, it is basically gene-editing, to find out which wild coffee species are best combined with Arabica and Robusta. Science at its best, that will once again come around to save the planet. It seems like a win-win situation: saving coffee while not negatively impacting the environment. It might even have a positive impact on your health as well, as the wild coffee species that will be interbred with generally have a lower sugar and caffeine count. Sounds like a perfect solution - that is, unless you strongly dislike your brew decaffeinated. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/gardening-agriculture