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.

Making Do in a Throw-Away World

In three days, my car will be 44 years old. It has never had another owner. I have never had another car. Despite people telling me I need to get rid of such an unsafe vehicle and upgrade to a modern car with all sorts of safety features unheard of four decades ago, my VW bug still runs. And with its new engine, it should keep going another 100,000 miles or so. Someday, I am sure, I will have to get a new car, but meantime, the two of us keep chugging along, unsafe or not.

And I never upgraded to DVD or Blue Ray or any of the other modern movie machines. I still have my 20-year-old VCR. Still have a collection of VHS movies I inherited from my deceased life mate/soul deskmate. I see no reason to upgrade because the stories are still the same no matter what machinery is used. Besides, watching those tapes — the tapes we watched together — makes the experience special in a personal way. If ever the tapes are destroyed (and since they are stored in a non-controlled environment, it’s entirely possible), I will get rid of my VCR but will not upgrade to a DVD. (Though come to think of it, I do have DVD player I have never used — it belonged to my parents. But it is packed away, as is my 20-year-old television.)

So, it should come as no surprise if I tell you I have an aged computer, though the idea of an eight-and-a-half-year-old machine being obsolete boggles my mind. The PC is still shiny new. Still works as fast as it ever did. Still does what I ask of it. Still gives me great pleasure just to contemplate its arrival in my life. (It was a gift, unbelievable and unbelievably awesome.)

But now its very life is threatened.

I must be one of the very few who like Vista, the operating system that was new when I got the machine. I loved the ease of operation, the graphics, the feeling of power beneath the hood. (Most of that power lies dormant. It was supposed to be able to tie all sorts of media together, and I only used it as a word and photo processer, a means of browsing the internet, and a portal to my blog.) Microsoft will only support Vista until April of 2017, and already the ramifications of that non-support are showing. Internet Explorer can no longer be updated. The most recent manifestation I have available is IE9, and WordPress as well as a few other treasured sites no longer work with IE9. Most recently, Google has announced that as of April 2016, Chrome will no longer support Vista, which means that Vista machines using Chrome will be exceedingly vulnerable. I can still use Firefox (though I never did see the greatness that others do), but then . . . ?

I suppose then I’ll have to get a new machine, though I really don’t want to. By next year, Windows 10 will itself be aging, so I won’t have the full lifespan of the system. And if by chance Windows 11 is available, well . . . I don’t look forward to using an untried system. Mostly, though, I don’t like being penalized for taking care of my machine. Don’t like that it has arbitrarily become obsolete.

And especially I don’t like feeling that my most cherished values — conserve, use up, make do, leave a light footprint upon the earth — are also obsolete.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)