If Americans’ first addiction is to oil, their second addiction has to be to coffee. Starbucks worries that there may not be room for the both of them.
In an interview with the Guardian this morning Starbucks’ sustainability director Jim Hanna explained that coffee farmers are already facing challenges posed by climate change, and warned that if we don’t change course quickly, environmental shifts could eventually have a substantial impact on coffee production.
“What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road – if conditions continue as they are – is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean,” Hanna said.
Hanna told the Guardian the company’s suppliers, who are mainly in Central America, were already experiencing changing rainfall patterns and more severe pest infestations.
Even well-established farms were seeing a drop in crop yield, and that could well discourage growers from cultivating coffee in the future, further constricting supply, he said. “Even in very well established coffee plantations and farms, we are hearing more and more stories of impacts.”
These include: more severe hurricanes, mudslides and erosion, variation in dry and rainy seasons.
As an ardent coffee drinker, it’s hard to imagine a world in which coffee is a specialty, hard-to-get item like saffron, astronaut ice cream or TastyKakes on the West Coast. Without quick easy access to coffee, caffeine addicts will have to get their fixes from those miniature 5-Hour Energy shots with the awkward commercials, or worse, Monster Energy Drinks, which pose the risk of guzzling a dead mouse.
It’s also hard to imagine a world specifically without Starbucks. The massive coffee chain has over 7,000 stores in the U.S. alone, and while it catches flack for charging $2.50 for a cup of joe in some locations, it’s also famous for providing healthcare to all employees—even part-timers—and other socially progressive policies. On November 1st the company will start its Jobs for USA program which will allow customers to donate $5 when buying a coffee, all of which will go towards job creation. And that’s to say nothing of our deep attachment their collection of seasonal drinks, specifically the Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
The U.S. seems to be growing more politically active in recent months, especially since the start of Occupy Wall Street, a movement geared towards changing economic policy in the U.S. Hopefully people, and companies like Starbucks, will start demanding policy change on environmental issues too before it’s too late to save coffee.