There are so many things I find annoying about this video on Upworthy, posted below from youtube.
1) this isn’t even real science. The video tries to examine the amount of water used in production for various commodities but doesn’t actually do it. I have a hard time believing coffee, milk, sugar all just happen to use the same amount of water in their complex production chains. Not even taking into account the variants in water depending on where each of these is grown, by which producer, method of transportation. Was the coffee bean roasted in the United States after being grown in Colombia? Does this take more or less water? How much water does it actually take, even being environmentally conscious as possible to grow coffee? Considering the vast amount of water it takes to not only grow coffee, but transport, roast, etc., I think 50 gallons is a pretty small number in consideration. This isn’t even going into milk, and a dairy cow’s lifespan. It would be interesting. This video is just lacking any real scientific data, which undercuts their message.
2) The title references coffee, but the video is about a latte. I do use half and half and sugar in my drip coffee that I make at home, which this video could have been all-encompassing in its critique, but it wasn’t. But don’t try to tell me I need to be more conscious and aware of the facts as a coffee drinker, and then clearly be talking about ordering a latte at Starbucks.
3) The conclusions are stupid: We can change the way we farm coffee. Really. What are they proposing? Don’t water the trees? Don’t let your cows drink water?? I don’t get what they want to change. Not to say there isn’t a valid critique here, for example, growing commodities around the world instead of local. Maybe we should be concerned about shipping a pineapple across the ocean. Or of pesticides on our foods when they are grown out of season. Or of GMO’s. But the message isn’t ‘buy local’ it’s ‘change the way we farm to use less water’.
They say they don’t want to take away your morning java, but short of changing international supply chains for one of the most sold commodities, this isn’t going to happen. I like consumer awareness, but this one adds to the problem. No solution, and no clear identification of the problem. People are left with the feeling that they should be doing something different, but don’t know what, so they end up not doing anything. And truthfully, with coffee – there isn’t much you can do without making major and serious changes to international trade policy.
4) The message of the video is to be a conscious consumer. Which, aside from all the things wrong already mentioned above is not a bad message. But why focus on coffee drinkers while ignoring everything else? I’m not arguing that one can only focus on The Worst issue, just that it doesn’t quite make sense to me. In modern society, unless you sew your own jeans from the cotton you grew, make your own house from the tree you chopped in your own backyard and get all your food from a 50 mile radius you can’t be the kind of conscious consumer they want you to be. The computer they used to post the video and the wireless internet used far more energy than probably a million lattes. I think it’s more effective to focus on changes that people can actually make, or things that would make a difference. Even if you forewent coffee, but drank tea, your water impact would pretty much be the same.
5) This video makes no mention of people and labor rights. I think environmental concerns play a vital role in people’s lives, and this is not a one or the other type of issue. But the frame from many US environmental groups I have noticed completely ignores the role of people: the overwhelming poverty among coffee growers; the push for dignity, and a living wage; the issue of child labor being used in making your morning java. What if we used less water, but it was made unethically. Would that still be ok? Activists should not be ignorant of the human aspect and concerns and fight for ethical coffee drinking if they are trying so hard to get people to be aware about water usage.