Nitpicking radical fundamentalism

Am I becoming a nitpicking radical fundamentalist? And if so, is that a bad thing?

Last week I wrote about a dream I have to eventually no need a computer at home because I can't justify the social and environmental costs. Yesterday I wrote about giving up coffee. This was because I can't logically justify spending money on it considering that I am not sure where the cafe I frequent gets their coffee. Although I am not sure, I can take a good guess at

A simple cup of coffee seems like such a small thing. Why nit-pick? Especially when I am only about 60% confident that I really mean what I wrote. The other 40% was just trying on a new idea, trying to imagine would my life would be like without coffee, checking to see if it was bearable, if I really need the coffee, and if I can think of any alternatives.

But come on, why can't I have a cup of coffee? Is it really that bad? Is it worse than other things that I eat or drink? Probably not, but I suppose one reason it makes it on my black-list is that I know the story behind coffee in general and, being a pessimist, I assume that the coffee at the local cafe is no different. If I knew the same thing about the nacho chips I eat sometimes (truth be told, I can be pretty dang sure they are no friend of the environment either), I suppose I would have to stop that too.

But I'm getting off topic. If I was a reasonable, moderate person, I would say "Some coffee is OK. After all, I can't just drop out of society". But then the fundamentalist in me says "Hey, you idiot! That's the kind of thinking that got us where we are today... thinking that we are all entitled to destroy the earth and other people's lives 'a little bit', because a little bit doesn't matter. But listen here Kevin! It does matter when in addition to you, there are billions of other people destroying the earth as well. Even if it is 'just a little bit.'"

The fundamentalist in me knows that it is physically impossible for the earth to support everyones "right" to drink a cup of coffee transported by fossil fuels from mono-culture plantations on the other side of the earth, plantations which are systematically replacing some of the most biodiverse areas in the world, and polluting the soil and water with poisonous chemicals, all in an effort to support the growing market of people like me who think it is OK if we only do it a "little bit".

The fundamentalist in me knows that any dollar spent supporting the exploitation of less fortunate people is a dollar spent on keeping the status quo. It doesn't make any sense to the fundamentalist in me to sit in the cafe and spend brain power on one cause while my money is working against me.

So, what to do? Just give up coffee? Never leave my apartment? That's one option I suppose. Of course, I can't really handle that psychologically, so I suppose I will have to compromise between the radical fundamentalist and the moderate and make a plan B.

  1. I can ask the cafe where their coffee comes from. Is it organic? Is it shade-grown to protect the biodiversity? Is it forcing poor farmers to compromise their and their family's well being? If it is not, or if they don't know, I can
  2. Look around town for a cafe that does have coffee I can feel OK to drink. But, even if I find one, what about the fact that coffee is not a locally grown crop? They still have to ship it here, and the oil used for that raises all the same issues... exploitation of people and the environment. So, I guess the best thing I can do is to
  3. Look for an alternative. What need is being filled by my filling up with coffee? Can I fill that need in another way? Of course, this means I have to research where tea comes from, and see if it is any better, but maybe I can even go further than just switching to tea. Maybe I can fill the same needs in some totally different way, something that doesn't even involve going to the cafe. Maybe my thesis group and I can have our next meeting as we walk through the forest rather than sitting downtown. Maybe... maybe....

Ahhh... So many possibilities if I just spend the time to think about it. And it's pretty exciting to think about. Problem solving and using my imagination is so much more gratifying than any cup of coffee. I just wish that I didn't have such an urge to do my problem solving and imagining at the cafe with a cup of coffee.

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