The Truth Behind Coffee Essay

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The Truth Behind Coffee

The picture may seem familiar. Tumbling out of bed and stumbling around in the kitchen-you begin your day. But wait. It cannot begin properly without that daily ritual, the morning cup of coffee. The aroma swirls throughout the room. What can compare to the richness and fullness of that first cup of coffee?

Americans lead the world in coffee drinking, consuming an average of 3.4 cups per person per day (Pennybacker 18). Gourmet coffee houses are sprouting up all over the place. But what is the real story behind this dark brown liquid? Is it as innocent as it first seems-just a pleasant morning pick-me-up? Unfortunately it isn't. Much of today's coffee is grown in such a way that it damages the
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Millions of acres of rainforest and jungle were planted with coffee trees. However, that was not a completely detrimental move. Because of coffee's need for shade and its ability to be grown alongside other crops, it didn't originally pose a hazard or threat to the environment. Habitats for animals were not drastically changed; indeed, the tropical ecosystems were much the same as before because the small coffee trees growing near the ground didn't require any forests to be cleared or plants eliminated.

But this took a bad turn in 1970 when U.S. agricultural scientists decided to develop a new, high-yield coffee plant that grew only in the full sun. Farmers were easily convinced to adapt to this modernization because they could produce five times more coffee than before (Wille 63). With the support of local governments and the U.S. subsidization of $80 million towards the promotion of the new plant, it isn't difficult to understand why many traditional coffee fields quickly became modern ones (Greenberg 27). As as result, over the past 40 years, Central America has lost two-thirds of its rainforests to coffee plantations at a rate of 40 million acres per year (Pennybacker 18). That figure is similar to Mexico.

These modern coffee plantations are so disastrous because they are mono-cultural; nothing can grow in the fields besides the stubby coffee bushes. According to Elizabeth Skinner, a director of the Rainforest Alliance,

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