Ten years ago, Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, aired. The goal of the film was to raise the public’s awareness of the dangers of global warming. It was a call to action, a call for change, and an effective tool for beginning conversations about climate change, global warming, and sustaining the planet.
In fact, in the first few years after the film, once mainstream media realized they could make money on fear-fed stories regarding global warming and climate change, they stopped trying to deny the existence of it and began reporting on rising sea levels. This at least continued the conversation, and global warming and climate change became household terminology.
Continued exposure to the issue allowed people to transition their thinking from this as an overwhelming unsolvable problem to a real, right-in-front-of-you problem that we could take action against.
In September 2015, the UN adopted a resolution for sustainable development that had the ambitious task of targeting 17 sustainable development goals by 2030. Overall the goals were established to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all”1.
We understand that climate change is a global issue. However, we cannot address it all equally, as many parts of the effected world live far below the basic level of human existence. Ending global poverty and hunger while offering good health and education to the planet’s peoples is critical to the success of global sustainability. By raising people up to a sustainable level, we will be better suited as a population to address the sustainability of the planet.
AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY: Sustaining the Lifeline of Connectivity
Many areas of the world are without access to modern electricity. In fact, roughly three billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste for heating and cooking.2 Energy is the lifeline of connectivity on the issue of global sustainability.
It is critical that we understand that access to energy is pivotal to a sustainable economy. Think about all the times throughout your day that you use electricity. On the job, in your home, at the supermarket. Then expand that beyond you. What energy is needed to grow the global food supply and transport it to your local supermarket? How does energy or the lack of it effect production of goods and services?
Without access to energy, the quality of life drops to the level of mere existence, rather than flourishing new opportunities. Without electricity, individuals must gather wood or animal waste for much of the day to maintain the family’s heating and cooking source. Drought, climate change, and population growth have affected the availability of fuel sources, and it takes longer and longer each day to obtain enough energy sources to sustain the family’s daily need.
More often, it is the women and daughters that are sent out in search of fuel, limiting their access to education or opportunities, and decreasing a family’s chances for income and economic gain.
ENDING POVERTY: A Woman’s Issue
Ending poverty on the planet must walk hand-in-hand with gender equality—they are absolutely connected. Women represent over 50% of today’s population, and gender inequality deteriorates the fabric of social and economic advancement. Without equal opportunity to education, training, and equal-paying jobs, women are unable to sustain their families, and communities slide further into poverty and generational decline.
Moreover, adding women to the supply chain has proven to be a profitable business strategy with economically sustainable results. Women tend to keep the money in the community, reinvesting in community food and health programs, with a focus on building strong families.
GLOBAL CHANGE ON A SMALL SCALE: Being Inconvenienced
How do we bring this large-scale issue back home and to the forefront of our everyday lives? By accepting that our consumer convenience is the driving demand in over-production of goods and services. By committing to reducing personal energy usage in every aspect of your day. By buying and/or growing food locally and eating with the seasons. Sustainability of our world starts at home, and it starts with being a little inconvenienced.
TAKING SMALL STEPS TOWARD A MORE SUSTAINABLE HOME
I. Reduce your product purchases and decrease overall global production.
By eating less meat during the week, reusing glass jars for food storage instead of plastic bags, or buying second-hand clothing instead of new, you are decreasing the usage of:
C. Carbon dioxide
If we can reduce the overall demand for products, especially those coming from around the globe, it will have a tremendous impact on reducing our carbon footprint on the planet.
II. Reduce energy usage within your home and office.
Use power strips for small appliances and switch them off when not in use.
Hang clothes to dry—an indoor drying rack is easy to rig.
Use task lighting in your office with CFL or LED low-wattage light bulbs.
Shorten your showers—and skip the blow dryer.
Sustainable development must be achieved peaceably or our social and economic panorama of people will only continue to decline worldwide. Already we have conflicts arising due to drought, land rights, and the fight to control natural resources at home and certainly abroad. This is larger than one industry or community. However, the coffee community is in a unique position, as we are a global industry relying on an agriculture crop, and global warming has a direct effect on our ability to sustain the industry we love. By helping farmers with access to clean water and working together to help reduce the effects of global warming, we can help to ensure that farms and the craft of coffee continue to be passed down to the next generation and their children yet to come.