Travel writing of the kind featured in this issue transports you to places you dream of visiting. Who wouldn't want to venture into one of the jaguar's greatest strongholds, a reserve in Belize (see "Top Cat"), for a chancehowever remoteto see one of the Western Hemisphere's top predators? What a thrill it must be to stand in the Panama Canal Zone's uncut forests as Swainson's and broad-winged hawks move southbound at a rate of more than 40 per minute, nearly turning the sky black (see "The Route to Prosperity").
It may come as a surprise, but the Finca Irlanda coffee farm in southern Mexico is also a crucial refuge for birds and wildlife, because its crops grow beneath the rainforest's dense canopy. Hence a term you may have heard: "shade-grown" coffee. In winter, on a shade-grown-coffee farm, it's not unusual to be serenaded by the dozens of North American migratory species, from western tanagers to Baltimore orioles, that spend the season there. These birds wouldn't stand a chance on a conventional coffee farm. Today almost all of the world's crop is cultivated in full sun, on giant plantations that have been completely cleared of trees. This "intensive" production supports 94 percent to 97 percent fewer species than shade-grown-coffee farms.
In all honesty, until recently, my coffee habit was hastening the demise
of birds I love to watch and hear while they're in this country. Now that
I know better, I can never again drink another cup without considering
the consequences. Neither should you. Even if it's the only conservation
step you ever take, I urge you to switch to one of the many brands of
certified organic, shade-grown coffee and to demand your favorite retailers
do so as well. This is one righteous product. Write me a letter letting
me know how you like it. I'll forever sing your praisesas will that
American redstart in your backyard this summer.
© 2004 National Audubon Society
Sound off! Send a letter to the editor about this piece.
Enjoy Audubon on-line? Check out our print edition!