But wait, did someone say global warming stopped?

Temperatures rose from the 1970s to 1980s and stopped since then. So, did someone just scientifically say that global warming is a figment of our imagination? Something that I find hard believe as I traverse three continents as often as the wind blows and certainly see some anomalies.

Like all good things too good to be true, it is about interpretation of that seemingly funky data. Enviro-nerd-o-freaks like me love research reports like this which explain some meaning behind the ‘whoa-stop-wait’ graph that we see above.

Essentially, it looks at the tropical Pacific as a pivotal area where major changes occur in rainfall (aka what we see on cacao plantations in La Tolita and Babahoyo, Ecuador, and the upcoming wet season that we prepare for). It explains how cold winters in Europe (why I am currently reaching for my mega warm jacket in Munich) occurs when the Arctic heats up. And that the Arctic has actually heated more than expected because of the continental-scale waves which can come out of the funky tropical Pacific changes. Like everything in nature, stuff is connected and nothing occurs in isolation. I was chuffed to read this report and see that connection in my worlds – the cold Europe, the wet Ecuador, the dry Australia and figure out how they match up. For me, this puts el Niño, and la Niña in perspective. Check out the report, ‘Seasonal aspects of the recent pause in surface warming’ from smart guys, Trenberth, Fasullo, Branstator and Philllips.

http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v4/n10/full/nclimate2341.html

-30% + 50% chocolate, and it’s not about dark vs milk.

On the two cacao plantations in Ecuador that we monitor, we see about a 3 to 4 degrees centigrade increase in temperature, and a loss of cacao pod yield of about 30% in the recent years. Pretty much, a direct result of climate change (specifically: longer wet, earth quakes, still waters, mosquito born diseases being more dangerous for the farming families)

And then I read that half the earth’s wildlife has been lost since 1970 and the splat of commercial agriculture grew over half the world’s surface by now and suffocated essential eco systems. (see more here)

And then the doom and gloom of the UN Summit shows that we will have the worst C02 emissions *EVER* likely to increase temps more than 20 degrees in our children’s generation. Which, doesn’t take a genius to figure out that my family’s future in agriculture, unless we become land-grabbing monoliths, is as doomed as the next villager, or fisherman.

Not the greatest outlook. Which makes me just want to get to work harder. Which seems almost paradoxical because my industry is booming and we are consuming as if we think that ‘food just grows on trees’. Which if you’ve waltzed through a supermarket recently, you realise that stuff in packages *for sure* cannot have grown on trees. Nevertheless, as a chocolate company that DOES in fact have their fruit growing on trees I am met with commercial reports stating that we will need to INCREASE production by 50% by 2030, if we keep up with a 300% population growth.

I was never really very good at maths, but it seems like this to me when I count on both hands.

Does that sum up to you?

Be wise when you choose your chocolate this upcoming candy Halloween and Advent season, it might just be the last.

Small jars, big ChangeMaking

This little jar of our cacao is a summary of ChangeMaking in action – about resilience, energy, social equality, about biodiversity, phosphorous cycles, ocean acidification and health, about gender equality, food safety and love. Sometimes it’s the ‘little things’, that stand for big goals and visions.

Some like it hot

Some like it hot and in my little chat with Lukas from Sonntagmorgen Kaffee, we chat about the influence of roasting temperatures on taste of coffee, and chocolate. Check it out! It’s in denglish … so practice your language skills ☺.
1
Essentially there are different ROASTING temps for espresso and filter coffee, to bring forward to back the sour tastes of your favourite coffee notes. Also like in chocolate, which is why I gladly leave the bitter notes in the background with our amazing >50 degrees roasting temps. Find out why and how, here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbysBjBLEkM
Normally our masters of english assignments are in English, but hey, if we don’t keep mixing up the spice you will get bored! So get out your denglish dictionary and keep up. Of course, everything is available on www.BLYSSfullyYours.com for review.

Reeperbahn Festival

I’m going to be head banging at the Reeperbahn Festival this week, and not just in the mosh pit. Thanks to Reeperbahn Festival, Hamburg Start Ups, Digital Media Women and the great ever-present sponsor of EY, I will be moderating two events at the festival.

The Startup Pitch and the Conference Predawn. You can see my schedule here

1

Life is colourful when you see all the ‘coincidences’ come together

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Independence Day in Papua New Guinea, my family’s home for 2 generations and the birth place of our social enterprise traditions. As an Australian citizen living sometimes in Germany, I always think my worlds are far apart. But they always come back together again in Papua New Guinea. You see in the late 19th century, the Germans laid claim to the north-eastern part of the island, and Britain managed the southern parts. As Australia peeked out from the Commonwealth apron of Aunty, it took a formal role in PNG from 1902, on behalf of the Brits and somehow the German and Australian (semi) cooperation continued until 1914 (well honestly, the history is a bit sketchy around World War One). Which were the years my grandpa Percy and his (German!) wife Gertrud went up to Mount Hagan and drew a line in the muddy soil with a well-weathered boot and called it Ilolo Estate on McDonalds Corner. So somehow, it was all sewn up before I was born, I was destined to bridge the German / Commonwealth gap, and for heck-sake I decided to throw Ecuador into the picture to bring in some salsa dancing (you didn’t expect me to march to family tradition without a little spice did you?). Many of you know, the time that my family left PNG was during the mid 1980s, as on September 16, 1975 Papua New Guinea became a complete republic. Free from everyone, my father commuted between Australia and PNG for 15 years to help hand over our plantations, and train various villages how to generate income from crops and businesses we had built over the last 70 years.

1So, today in memory of a long tradition of cultures and families coming together, and over generations moving apart again I raise my little heart to the footsteps of the past and opportunities of the future. Trying to remember all the stories I have been told from grandparents and reading their notes in transport ledgers (written in pencil back in the day!). Remembering that we are coalitions, and then we are independent. Of our cultures, political alliances and families. Revelling when I see pictures of our old house in PNG pop up in twitter as tourists now gather there to talk about family plantations that only belong in history books; but in my life, are my blueprint to my future.

2These days, the challenges of PNG are very real. As much as they are in the neoliberal economy that I see in Ecuador. Rapid population growth, road, air and sea ports bursting at the docks while schools, hospital and defence networks are growing, but well behind demand. I honestly do not know how to engage our PNG past, there are talks with coffee companies who are around where our old plantations were and my best link, my Daddy, is not here to help me figure it out. Before he passed, he wrote a dictionary. Translating the key native tongue, Motu, of the people he grew up with, into English. Maybe, that is the link. Maybe, I have the connecter sitting in my bookshelf. And maybe, next year, I will put that into more functional use.

3

For now, it’s the end of the dry season on cacao plantations that we are desperate to see some wonderful wet season springings from. It’s officially chocolate season in the northern hemisphere and I’ve got to get ready for a party this week.

Weeds in Business

Weeds weeds weeds. Everywhere I look there are weeds, not only on plantation, but a little bit in my heart. Some feelings of insecurity crept up into my heart over the last months as I just have such big visions for better chocolate industry and I have consulted some large companies with ways to improve their practice, even just getting better procurement standards on their chocolate and cacao-related ingredients. As the price of cacao keeps rising (due to increased demand from new chocolate demand economies like china and brazil) and reduced supply (farmers leaving plantation and climate change) we have an eternally wacky situation where buyers for chocolate ingredients are just dropping their standard during buying. From cookie manufacturer to baker to others I won’t mention but just walk along and kick the dust as I don’t believe that dropping standards for ingredients is the way to solve this problem.

3

It’s not the manufacturer fault, it is the big picture. For bakers and manufactures to survive they have three options – take our ingredients and increase their sale price, reduce their product size or reduce quality. I am sure you know of some brands which have done some of these in the last years. If the global market continues to increase by 2% every year, by 2020 we will need another million tonnes of cacao beans. This is the equivalent of another Ivory Coast, which is the largest cacao producing country and riddled with slave labour, child labour and fraud.

Efficiency and sustainability are the big topics. The more that larger manufacturers get us little guys in to advise, from the ‘ground’ about how to manage ingredient volumes, recipe influences and quality, there ARE creative ways to resolve this little gap while the bigger picture works on efficiently sustainable practices. We can’t fix the whole machine at once. It’s so overwhelming, I won’t tell you how many nights I toss in my bed thinking about the entire supply chain and places we can improve a few tweaks and get a better running system. The easiest place to start is to know what taste and flavour of cacao really is, and to re-engineer recipes from the base. Using less, better quality cacao is a classic quality-rich, resourceful way of influencing the tipping point. Demanding better means looking at the chocolate muffin we snarfed in that last meeting room, about looking at chocolate coatings on things, chocolate – flavoured products and looking for the familiar nuances you have learned (through our friendship!) about what cacao should taste and smell like. Demand better. Ask for source, not just of chocolate companies but those who keep us imprisoned in price wars, efficiency panics and delivery pressure.

Delivery pressure directly impacts farmers, like the guys I have the honour to work with, like my father, and his father. In Central America, severe drought has wiped out more than three million farmer families who face insolvency and an inability to harvest in the next 6 months. Teenagers are leaving the farm and going into industrialised jobs in cities to support their families, who under the impact of price pressure are fighting drought, seed safety (genetic manipulation of seeds causing land to rot etc) and unable to access financial assistance to see themselves through the next steps. Direct results of this are the signs of farms closing, malnutrition, crop hoarding, mistrust and kids either being shipped to schools elsewhere without their families, or not even getting close to an education. Strange choices by large financial institutions who back grain grants for crops that are mono-cultured and farmed, often not even food crops, in places they don’t belong because of incentives ensures that native seeds and fertility is robbed from the earth and any sense of balance will not be able to be restored. In both cacao and coffee we see disease and pest epidemics reminiscent of what my family saw in New Guinea in the 1970s (which shut down their coffee crop for some years).

Oh yeah, those grains and displaced crops are often involved in that big bakery craze of wheats and corns. Again, look beyond the packet. Beyond ‘organic’ and into what does this all taste like. How did it get here and who did it almost kill to occur.

It is when you just spend a moment, think about where and how you are consuming ‘food’ you will help us. It’s not just lunch. It is our livelihoods, passions, and families.

You do have the power. With the choice of where and how you shop. What and who you question. Thanks for considering.

Weeds

Weeds. Would you believe, we have a weeds problem. There are many ways to think about weeds, and chemicals are not in my vernacular. I have many memories of my Dad telling me stories of when the first agri-chemicals came to Papua New Guinea in the 1950s-1960s and how tempted he was to work with them.

1

My dad was street smart, not formally educated as he grew up in the highlands jungle. He had no understanding of what this ‘wunder-substance’ from America and Singapore/Malaysia was, but he knew it was viscous. Agri-chemicals ruin everything up and downwind from the earth to the people who work on it. His stories ring in my ears every time I hear about the weed problem around the blessed cacao trees in Ecuador.

2

There are many WONDERFUL solutions, and one we are looking to extend is to plant beans around the base area. Beans are amazing because they are a natural sun protector for the soil (as you know, we have hotter temps so we need any natural cooling!) and don’t detract from the tree. What types of beans? I am a fan of the chocho (picture above the lupinus mutabilis), mostly because I like eating them, but also because they are pretty standard in around the regions we work and have a great relatively ok value to also harvest and on-sell (like we do with the physalis and amazon nut). The tides are turning, the moon is moving and it’s time to get into summer/wet season modus as the temps will heat up.

 

an open love letter to chocolate.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 114 other followers

%d bloggers like this: