Come, Apocalypse: Now It’s Peak Coffee

(Photo by Stepheye/Flickr)

Wait a minute. I have accustomed myself to the prospects that, approaching and after the Fall, I will have to give up gasoline, electricity, lettuce in the winter, thermostats, my cell phone, 20-minute showers and even — sob! — the Internet. I can handle that. I can stay home, tend my solar panels, grow my own food and cut wood for heat until I’m too hot and tired to take a shower. But Peak Coffee? It’s too much.

It turns out that industrializing coffee has the same inevitable consequences as industrializing everything else; first swelling supply, then falling prices, followed by total collapse. And consumers who expect their coffee to be within reach 24/7/365 — that would be me — are heading for the same roundup as those who expect their February lettuce to be grown in some irrigated desert in California and flown to their winter table in New York. For pennies. I’m way too smart to buy into that, but I’m going to have to do all five stages of grief over the coffee thing. I was blindsided. I’m still in Number 1 — Isolation and Denial.

But, really, who could have known? A commodity used by most men, women and children in the country (who consume a disproportionate share of the world’s supply), which cannot be produced in the country (with the exception of Hawaii, which as we now know is not really American), which is experiencing rapid and steady increases in demand from the emerging masses of China and India, whose major producers (Brazil is the Saudi Arabia of Arabica) have been unable to keep up with demand, and have, in fact, been unable to stave off actual declines in their production — who could have seen a problem there? Oh, wait….

Another thing. The left-wing New York Times is blaming “global warming,” a concept that has not yet been approved by the Congress of the United States. In fact, simply uttering the words may in the foreseeable future become a federal crime; Virginia’s attorney general is still trying to get a climate scientist at the University of Virginia indicted for saying them.

Still, you can’t argue with a free market, especially one that depends on slave labor, and the price of coffee is spiking worldwide — rapidly approaching that incredible $5 per gallon mark at which, it is widely assumed (in this room) civilization will fall.

Why Peak Coffee? It turns out coffee does not come in cans but, like money, grows on trees. And these trees not only take their own sweet time growing up — four years from planting to brewing — but are unbelievably finicky. Like some hothouse lily, they need exactly the right temperatures and exactly the right rainfall — at exactly the right times, for crying out loud — or they get as bitter as an ex-wife missing an alimony check. And, according to liberal Democrats, temperatures have been rising and rainfall has become more intense and unpredictable in all the coffee growing regions of the world. So far, there is no actual evidence of this (excuse me a minute, the damn tornado sirens are going off again).

We probably should not worry. The industry’s genetic engineers are about to release a new version of the coffee tree that will grow under water, and their chemists have already launched new compounds to battle the warm-weather pests and fungi that are eating our lunch coffee. Like General Petraeus in Afghanistan, they see real progress at hand.

And there is this key difference between coffee and oil: you can get addicted to coffee and not suffer ostracisation, people just laugh when you tell them. No, that’s not the key difference, it’s the other one: you can grow coffee. So you can relocate the plantations, and the tribes or prisoners or whoever works on them, and eventually catch up with demand, maybe. But by that time — Peak Oil.

I think I’ll go straight to Number 4 — Depression. And stay there.

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One Response to Come, Apocalypse: Now It’s Peak Coffee

  1. Gail Zawacki says:

    Not peak coffee. Coffee plants are dying back like all other vegetation from air pollution.

    It’s like we’ve put trees on a decades-long forced smoking habit and now they all have cancer.