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Coffee farmer

How the coffee bean can help shift the climate conversation from doom to solutions

We only need to look with different eyes to discover what’s already there.

Global warming presents the biggest opportunity ever for social and economic development and innovation. That opportunity is often overlooked amidst the depression and apathy that the ongoing dire climate change forecasts spread, and the desperate “fighting” by activists to reverse global warming. However, if history is any guide, we may have some confidence that human ingenuity can overcome this big challenge.

Scientists are clear that we have all the technology we need to create the clean and sustainable planet we, and our children, need. There’s enough money too. It is often argued that political will is the scarcest resource. That’s where you come in. It is time to activate awareness and excitement about the enormous opportunity that global warming presents. Many of us dream of a more sustainable, more just, better world. If you do, climate change is your chance: we need to shift the conversation from doom to solutions.

The best news is that we can have it all: economic growth, social justice and sustainable development. We only need to open our eyes and change our mindsets. Here’s a good example: Most of us drink coffee every day. Coffee is the biggest commodity in the world after oil. The world’s annual coffee harvest is some 210 million tons from nearly 100 countries. However, this is a sobering fact: the espressos and cappuccinos that we drink contain only 0.2 percent of the coffee bean. That means that 99.8 percent of the harvest is wasted. In the best cases, that biomass is composted while emitting CO2

If we only use 0.2 percent of the harvest that nature so generously provides, we can create a 500-fold improvement. That can look like this: Most coffee farmers are women. These women can grow mushrooms on the waste of the coffee plants. Mushrooms provide welcome additional plant protein for them and their families as well as a new source of income. More income for women means more empowerment, means more education of girls, means better family planning, means more sustainable development. In fact, the single biggest solution to reverse global warming, according to Project Drawdown, is the empowerment of women smallholders and the education of girls. After harvesting the mushrooms, we can still digest the remaining biomass to generate energy and more income.

There are literally dozens and dozens of such solutions. The simple summary of all these opportunities is “doing more with what nature already provides.” Extraordinarily, coffee does 100 percent better than tea … we only use 0.1 percent of the tea harvest. The residues are, again, simply wasted. The story for cocoa, citrus, palm oil and many other crops is similar. It has been estimated that from the biomass the earth is producing, the present economic system hardly ever values more than 10 percent of it, and the average is hovering around 2 to 3 percent.

In other words: The current model to produce food and energy is highly inefficient and it stands in the way of economic and social development. At the same time, nature is doing what it does best. We don’t need new technology or more fertilizers and pesticides. We only need to look with different eyes to discover what’s already there. Here’s an overview of some of these exciting opportunities. And please join the Climate Solutions Summit in June this year where many of these solutions will be presented by the leaders of the climate change conversation.

The natural and organic industry is poised to take a lead in the exploration of profitable climate change solutions. The pioneers of this industry already know that sustainability can be a highly successful business model. The challenge is to widen the definition of that business model incorporating multiple cash flows. Coffee farmers need to learn that they can be mushroom farmers and energy producers as well. Natural food entrepreneurs will also discover that they can be more successful, and contribute more to social, environmental and economic progress, when they succeed in incorporating more of nature’s abundance in their business models.

When we discover and implement the abundant opportunities that lie in front of us, we can stop the destruction of our planet and reverse global warming. Not to do so would be stupidity which—in the words of America’s energy guru Amory Lovins—is, of course, an “abundant resource.”

Jurriaan Kamp is the founder of The Optimist (formerly Ode Magazine). His new media initiative, KAMP Solutions, produces video interviews, KAMP magazine, and online summits such as Climate Solutions Summit.

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