The Sad Story of Chocolate

I try to stay away from current issues because — well, they are current, and my focus is more on timeless topics, such as being, connecting to the world, creating meaning. But today I read something that irritated me so much that here I am.

According to the article, global warming will cause the extinction of chocolate in the next thirty or forty years because it’s getting too hot to grow cacao plants.

Um, no. I’ve known about the chocolate demise practically my whole life, long before the term “climate change” was ever coined. The threat to chocolate is that cacao trees need the shade of the rain forest to grow seedlings, the soil of the rain forest to nourish them, and full sun to grow. So chocolate farming is done on the edge of rain forests on cleared rain forest land. And rain forests are geared to go extinct in about forty years. So, no more rain forests, no more chocolate.

As a citizen of the United States, I am not one to talk about clearing forests. The land here used to be covered with vast forests, but the first thing any settler did as they moved west was clear the land. In fact, so many of the stories in our readers as schoolchildren were about those great folks and their great work ethic as they chopped down the great trees to build this great country. Cutting down trees has for hundreds of years been considered a good thing to do. It would be hypocritical of me, as one who has enjoyed the “benefits” of that destroyed primeval forest, to castigate others for doing the exact same thing.

But the truth is, half the world’s rainforests have been cleared in the past one hundred years, and at the rate they are continuing to be cleared — every year an area the size of England and Wales is gone — the rain forests will be erased in forty years.

If the rain forests were only cleared to grow chocolate, that would be one thing because the demise of the forests would be quite slow, but it’s a huge business — not just for the trees themselves, but the land for palm oil, soy, rubber, cattle. Not only does a percentage of the carbon dioxide emissions come from the downed forests — 12% — the forests themselves help clear human made pollution from the atmosphere. And with no rain forest, the pollution builds.

By the time the rain forests are gone, the population of Earth will be way over nine billion folks. (Hopefully, minus one — me.) What interests me is how few people talk about overpopulation anymore. Such an unpopular topic! How dare anyone suggest that people limit their reproduction or, horrors, not reproduce at all. But then, no one really wants zero population growth because zero population growth also means zero corporation growth. No growth, no profits.

Still, when I was young, I made the decision to ignore my own ticking biological clock and listen instead to the world’s ticking biological clock. And so I have no children. My footprint on this earth ends at my death. I met a woman my age recently who has more than sixty-five grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What could I possibly do to the earth in my lifetime that would equal even one tenth the effect this one woman has? Even if I never did anything to conserve, to recycle (recycle in the old use of the term meaning to use up and wear out), I would have done my part, but I walk very softly on this earth. I don’t need governments to try to change the climate for me, don’t need pundits to scare me with worst case scenarios, don’t need reactionaries to tell me how best to live my life. I’m doing everything I can for the world as it is.

Well, except for chocolate. I do sometimes eat chocolate.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.