Coffee and Global Warming


I adored James Burke's late 70's show Connections, (not the cheap 90's knockoffs for TLC) where he "took an interdisciplinary approach to the history of science and invention and demonstrates how various discoveries, scientific achievements, and historical world events built off one another in an interconnected way to bring about particular aspects of modern technology." He would be proud of Craig Mackintosh of Celsias for making the following connections between caffeine and global warming.

Craig starts with National Geographic on Coffee: It’s hardly a coincidence that coffee and tea caught on in Europe just as the first factories were ushering in the industrial revolution. The widespread use of caffeinated drinks—replacing the ubiquitous beer—facilitated the great transformation of human economic endeavor from the farm to the factory. Boiling water to make coffee or tea helped decrease the incidence of disease among workers in crowded cities. And the caffeine in their systems kept them from falling asleep over the machinery. In a sense, caffeine is the drug that made the modern world possible. And the more modern our world gets, the more we seem to need it. Without that useful jolt of coffee—or Diet Coke or Red Bull—to get us out of bed and back to work, the 24-hour society of the developed world couldn’t exist.
Craig continues:

If caffeine was an essential ingredient to bring about the Industrial Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution brought about global warming, then… that’s it… caffeine is bringing us to the brink of disaster!

Electricity, combined with caffeine, keeps us up late at night - when in pre-industrial times it would have been lights out hours ago. We’re no longer ‘burning the candle at both ends’, but rather the coal-fired power station that lights our homes and powers our televisions through the sunless hours.

And the next day - how does the day begin for most of us? Out of our beds we emerge like the walking dead from a B-grade zombie movie, until we reach for our kick-start-in-a-cup, and begin the cycle again."

Comparing us to factory farmed animals, he suggests that: We’re bending our body’s biological clock to fit a schedule dictated by a mechanical clock on the wall, and we’re the only creatures on the planet to do so. Recent studies are proving that our bodies know best.

To reverse global warming, won’t we need to slow down?

Brilliant connections by Craig Mackintosh at ::Celsias. Meanwhile, I am going back to bed.

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