Coffee, the environment, and sustainable agriculture (fwd)

YankeePerm YankeePerm at
Sun Jan 4 12:00:44 EST 1998

	Coffee is the ideal permaculture cash crop for the reasonably humid tropics,
particularly highland tropics.  It is a perennial woody plant that holds the
soil and produces a cash crop in the shade of food plants, nitrogen fixers,
etc. Like any crop that contains a drug, its use can be abused.  

	The problem, of course, comes when traditional varieties of perfectly yummy
coffee are replaced with high-yield full sun varieties.  People who do this
aren't folks trying to feed their families.  They are industrial
agriculturists.  The problem isn't with the species or its use as a cash crop
but with the design.  This is a clear permaculture issue.  

	We should be supporting in every possible way the growing of coffee as
understory in permaculture or agroforestries approaching permaculture.  One
requirement would be worker-owned coffee patches.  

	Here is a clear case when we are directly opposed to the economics of
scarcity, the global cash economy, which provokes people to value money per
se.  In the permaculture economics of abundance, we don't care about money so
much as a good life, if we can get what makes us healthy and happy by working
less, having less money, and having a coffee understory for the little money
we need, so much the better.  However you can't by a TV with a box of
sopadillas.  Or a computer monitor to participate in email discussions.  And
it is easy, apparently, to brainwash people to think that they are inferior if
they lack such symbols of modern consumerism.

	I'm tremendously interested in practical proposals, particularly ones that
have proven themselves in the field, in this whole area of economics of
scarcity (money economy) vs. economics of abundance (life economy).  Can we
get some discussion going on this?

For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since 1982),
Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and now correspondence
courses via email.  One is now underway.  Next Live program:  Paraguay,
8/10-22/98. Internships available. Copyright, 1997, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway,
P.O. Box 52, Sparr FL 32192 USA  YankeePerm at  

We don't have time to rush.

A list by topic of all Yankee Permaculture titles may be found at

In a message dated 1/3/98 9:56:25 PM, london at wrote:

<<Dear all-

Coffee is the world's second largest commodity, after petroleum.
Technified coffee is starting to cause destruction to the natural
environment similar to the destruction caused by the advent of a
petroleum civilization. 

Migratory and resident songbird habitat is declining due to the
destruction of rainforests and of shade grown coffee farms in Central
and South America, by technified agribiz coffee plantations.  Shade
grown coffee farms are eco-sustainable.

The connection between production of technified coffee and
environmental damage is now firmly established.  One expert has noted
that "The coffee/bird connection is about
songbirds--warblers,orioles,tanagers, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos
and their forest- dependent cohorts. Some are clearly in decline.
Others seem to be holding on. But no one doubts that unless current
land-use trends are modified, the future of many of these songsters
will be bleak."
Moreover, Increased nitrogen fertilizer applications have gone hand
and hand with the widespread removal of shade cover from Central
American coffee plantations. In high concentrations, nitrates can
cause infant methemoglobinemia ("blue-baby syndrome") a potentially
fatal condition that impedes oxygen transport in infants'
bloodstreams. Other human health concerns surrounding nitrate
contamination of groundwater include suspected links between nitrates
and certain cancers, birth defects, hypertension, and developmental
problems in children. 

One of the main contributors to the use of chemical pesticides and
fertilizers in Latin America is US AID, which has provided
approximately $80 million to
abet the efforts. Chemicals, which are banned in the United States,
are sold by the tons, to Latin American producers for sun-grown coffee

Unlike petroleum, where the consumer has few alternatives to petroleum
products, a coffee consumer can boycott agribiz coffee, or switch to
eco-sustainable alternatives, like shade grown coffee.
A CANICULE e-zine on bird habitat,rainforests, and shade grown coffee
will be published on the Internet in mid-January, 1998. We'll be sure
and let you know the URL.

Alfred & Geri Webre

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