To Coffee Lovers

Do you love coffee?

Well, guess what? You are not alone! There’s over a 50% chance that you, as an American, wake up and gulp down at least one cup of coffee each day. Actually, it’s closer to 1.6 cups of coffee, but that’s not the important part. You and 150 million of your coffee drinking companions should expect a great deal of change to your daily ritual. Recently, a study published in Science Advances Magazine determined that over 60% of coffee species are at risk of extinction! Additionally, just over 10% of the 124 species examined were classified as “data deficient”. The term “data deficient” means that the species are not used enough in the coffee production supply chain to determine whether the strands are healthy. Or, in other words, less than 30% of all known coffee species are not at risk to extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s various standards.

Did you know that — worldwide — coffee plants are 3 times more at risk of extinction than any other type of plants? Want to know why? Well, even if we ignore the effects of climate change in the study about Coffea Arabica (the most commonly traded coffee species) we would have to discuss deforestation. Also, as a fun fact, Coffea Arabica amounts to 60% of the worlds coffee trade!

These coffee species moved from the category of Least Concern (LC) to Endangered (EN) almost overnight!

This suggests that if we were able to acquire similar levels of data for all other coffee species similar harrowing inquires may be found. However, climate change is not the only human-induced threat to coffee!

Deforestation plays a significant role in threatening our coffee.

Deforestation is another example of a perverse incentive. When we consider the quality of wood from coffee trees, generally, people in the area desire to use it for timber. This practice coupled with other types of habit-loss inducing practices — raising livestock or other agricultural activities — lead to the continual decline of safe and protected forested areas for coffee to grow.

While it may be hard to give up coffee, it is possible to ensure the health and prosperity of coffee species around the world. In order to make an impact on an individual level, there are two things we must do. Firstly, we have to enhance research capabilities and continue studies by Science Advances Magazine and other organizations just like them. These researches allow us to focus on derivatives in species state of health and give us a higher fidelity look into the problem at hand. Secondly, we must work to ensure more protection of the forested ecosystem that coffee inhabits occurs. This is meant to slow down the continual rate of decline. More time to tackle the external consequences of drinking coffee, also will allow us to help solve the world’s greatest problem. Climate change.

Save our coffee species so we can stay awake in the mornings! If you like what we write, follow us on Twitter @CountCurrent or Instagram @thecountercurrent! Or find us on Facebook!

Implications of Animal Consumption

The consumption of animal products is globally pervasive.

Whether a cultural cornerstone, a religious requirement, or simply because people like the taste of them, animal products are consumed in disturbingly high amounts worldwide. While the consumption of animal products is a widespread practice, it is important to internalize the stresses being placed on the environment by the animal agriculture industry.

Simply put, animal product consumption is taxing on the environment. Negative implications include large water footprints, significant greenhouse gas emissions, and various other agricultural requirements. To elaborate, in a study of meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans, researchers found the greenhouse gas emissions of individuals adhering to a plant-based diet to be approximately three times less than those of individuals with a ‘high-meat diet’. In this study, the researchers defined a ‘high-meat diet’ as consumption of a minimum of 100 grams of meat per day. In other words, a ‘high-meat diet’ individual that eats a three ounce portion of meat is 85 grams of the way there. Or, another way of thinking about it, a three ounce portion of meat is roughly the same size as a deck of cards. So, as a threshold, this is fairly easy to surpass. Additionally, animal products account for roughly ⅓ of the water footprint of all agriculture worldwide. This is further magnified by the finding that the water footprint per calorie of beef is about 20 times larger than that for cereal and other starchy root vegetables. This analysis using ratios should be more than just thought-provoking for our readers — it’s an excessive and, generally, wasteful practice.

In the European Union, researchers modeled the environmental implications of a transition towards a more plant-based diet. They found that doing so would reduce nitrogen gas emissions by about 40% and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of between 25 and 40%. While this study simply used theoretical models, their is unequivocal certainty that the reduction in our society’s consumption of animal products would have profoundly positive effects on the environment.

Every action, every choice we make, is attached to an environmental consequence — including eating! Therefore, we should all strive to be aware of the foods we are putting into our body and know that they will not only have an effect on our health, but an effect on the health of our planet. By choosing which foods to consume, we are also choosing to either endorse foods that support the sustainability of the environment or foods that harm the environment. When we purchase more foods that harm the environment, we are sending the signal that we want those foods to be produced in higher quantities and that we support the industries that support those foods. To paraphrase a common saying, we are putting our money where our mouths are when we eat.

Which industries do you want to support? Those that strive for environmental sustainability or those that drain our limited resources and harm our planet?

Crisis Management

Secretary Pompeo wants the State Department to get its swagger back.

While the State may start to swagger again it also needs agility and adaptability to face down three big trends. Chaos, complexity and convergence will have profound implications for the United States and the world order in the mid-21st Century.

First the world may be tipping to chaos. More than 65 million people are displaced; the highest number since World War II. Displaced populations often accelerate local conflicts into broader regional wars. The world is also experiencing a substantial increase in the number of disasters — both natural and political. Right now four concurrent famines place 20 million people at grave risk. The near future may likely be more chaotic than any time since World War II.

A chaotic world coupled with rising nationalism pose a complex threat to liberal post-World War II institutions. The Syrian crisis continues to challenge the nation-state order in the Middle East. Rising powers and the proliferation of non-state actors seek to destabilize political and economic systems. Yet, the United Nations and international financial institutions are in desperate need of reform; these institutions operate on an outdated model which does not align with the challenges of the mid-21st Century. This trend may move international systems from order to uncertainty.

Despite chaos and complexity, technology, public and private finance, as well as rapid advances in power and water are converging forces to change the human experience in frontier markets. Specifically, community access to power and water coupled with agriculture and technology can fundamentally change economic and political development. The convergent world has seen rapid transformation in standards of living, education and health to previously vulnerable populations.

Given chaos, complexity and convergence, America will certainly remain the dominant power in the decades ahead. Yet, as President Trump’s election demonstrates, American voters have little appetite for big civilian attempts to nation build in far off lands. America canassert its interests abroad while not bankrupting its future at home simply by being smarter and more efficient in responding to many of the most complex crises.

First, leverage the private sector to help fix a humanitarian assistance system that is overwhelmed and failing. The United Nations estimates that the humanitarian architecture costs $25 billion — and yet there remains a fundamental need for leadership, adaptive technology, forensic audits, causal impact analysis, and better results. The continued spread of conflict particularly in the Middle East also underscores the requirement for new and creative solutions that bridge the divide between humanitarian relief and much cheaper, more efficient development assistance. It is time to bring start-up culture to the humanitarians.

Second, Senators Corker and Coons are leading a bipartisan effort to reform America food aid to make it far more efficient. Allowing for local purchase of food in a crisis zone, if available, would save millions of lives while lowering costs. There is, however, much more which can be done to improve food aid. For instance, expanding the use of iris scans, mobile payments, RFID chips, electronic vouchers, drone technology and operating systems reform could dramatically improve impact over cost. Additionally, the famine early warning system based on satellite forecasting has directly saved hundreds of thousands of lives but was developed in the 1985 and now currently fails to adequately capture crowdsourced and big data analytics. Collectively, food aid reform — from procurement to distribution — is ripe for disruption change.

Third, encourage private-public partnerships to transform the water, power and agriculture nexus. If Google can map all streets, then it is time to map all water sources in Africa. Water technology, including desalination, efficient use and re-use technology, remains largely untapped in semi-arid environments in the Middle East and Africa. The relationship to water and power with solar, wind or biomass can change fundamental economics for communities. The relationship between water and power is on the tipping point of massive change in many frontier markets.

Finally for high priority crises, the Administration must begin by building expeditionary embassy teams. Think Rumsfeld after 9/11 and his small military units deployed in Afghanistan. The decade ahead will demand something similar in diplomacy — small, professional, resourced, and adaptable teams which can be deployed as interagency crisis responders in theaters where the US military is engaged, where the U.S. partners closely with allies on cross-border crises, or where there is a protracted crisis.

The mid-21st Century is coming. U.S. leadership, resolve and innovation can shape the most complicated challenges ahead to favor American interests — but policy leaders will need to hack the systems that served us since World War II.

This article was originally written by Dave Harden and published on Medium.