Coffee...and conservation...

Last night, during dinner with friends, I mentioned a project in which my church is involved called Java for Justice. Each day after mass, we've had the opportunity to purchase bags of coffee on our way out to support this mission. I didn't pay much attention to the idea after it was first mentioned once I realized I couldn't buy a cup of coffee on my way out and would instead need to buy an entire bag of beans...

Then, last week, Jane Goodall was featured on NPR's Science Friday on Talk of the Nation and she was mentioning her newest efforts with establishing coffee farms in Gombe, Tanzania - you know, where she does all the work with her chimps. I have a great admiration for the work of Jane Goodall. I know you have to be a little bit of a wacko to live your whole life in a forest watching chimps, but every time I see or hear her, I just stop in my tracks and the rest of the world goes away. I was lucky enough to get to see her speak in person a few years ago and took a few of my bio students at the time to her presentation. (One of them is currently working with chimps, in a different capacity, but still...I like to think I had a little bit to do with that)

But anyway... I digress.

After mentioning the coffee last night, the question/comment was made regarding coffee being bad for the environment. Turns out, it's not...like with every environmental issue, there are like 8 different problems and if you solve one facet of the problem, you're just feeding another. (Case in point - farm raised shrimp: great because you're providing a sustainable existence for the people of Indonesia and keeping them from overfishing the natural environment along the way, less pollution of the coral reefs, fewer nonshrimp/endangered species damaged as a result..BUT, you damage the snot out of natural mangrove forests making them inhabitable for the other species that naturally live there...hmmm, which side do you want to take?)

Coffee grows naturally in many areas of the world where natural rainforest is being destroyed. The people of the area will try to farm the soil after the forest has been clear cut. This only lasts a few years as the rich and nutritious topsoil is thin and erodes quickly. What people at organizations like The Jane Goodall Institute and Java for Justice are finding out is that turning these defunct farms into coffee farms can actually be good for the rain forest. The coffee grows well in the shade...and you know what provides shade? TREES! Yes, Virginia, we've found another use for those carbon dioxide suckers...go trees! By growing the coffee and creating an economic dependence on it for the people of Gombe and other third world countries, shade is becoming a desire, and trees, in some cases, are starting to come back.

According to Jane's interview, the coffee is quite good as well...about 20 minutes in if you're short on patience and time, btw...

Btw...the pic above is of a civet. They apparently make some pretty good coffee as well. Only after they poop it out, though... Oh, and they're not cats. The closest they come in classification to cats is that they are carnivores...so they're as close to cats as they are to dogs. Quit calling them cats.

Oh...and Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee isn't pooped by monkeys...but it is damn tasty.

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