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The World could run out of chocolate – and it’s our fault!

The World could run out of chocolate – and it’s our fault!

Chocolate has been a favourite treat since the ancient civilisations of the Olmec, Maya and Aztecs of Latin America first started using it as a form of currency around 1000BC.  Its popularity rose in the 1500s when Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes brought it back to Europe.  As well as currency, chocolate has been used as medicine since it was discovered (we knew chocolate was good for us!).  It has also been used in marriage ceremonies and to this day, is often given as a gift.  However, there is a very real danger that chocolate could become extinct in as little as 30 years from now.

The World could run out of chocolate – and it’s our fault!  How?  Global Warming and Climate Change.  Global Warming is real and is causing significant changes in our climate.  This is affecting the growth of cocoa trees.  Cocoa trees only grow within 10 degrees of either side of the equator.  They need stable temperatures, high humidity and rainfall.  As the globe warms, the effect on the climate needed for growing cocoa trees changes.  Rising temperatures mean less humidity which means less rainfall.  In the West African Cacao Belt, temperatures have risen and rainfall is now 30% less than it was just 50 years ago.

A cacao tree takes 4-5 years to mature enough to produce fruit.  A mature cacao tree will produce around 600 flowers but only makes approximately 20 pods per tree.  Each pod contains between 30-40 beans and it takes a whole pod to make an average 40g chocolate bar.  So a whole tree only produces enough beans to make around 20 bars of chocolate.

Many of the farmers who grow the cocoa trees are amongst the most poor in the World.  Slave-like conditions and child labour are common and millions of acres of precious rainforest have been destroyed so that cocoa trees can grow.  Destroying these valuable eco-systems has contributed to the increased temperatures we are seeing now and destroyed the habitats of many species – all so that we can eat chocolate.  Current projections estimate that if global warming continues to change our climate at the current rate, cacao crops could disappear by the year 2050.

Schemes like Fair Trade are trying to tackle the problem head on.  And big corporations are beginning to see the wider consequences of using fossil fuels and producing greenhouse gasses and they are starting to take steps to tackle the effects.  But we as individuals must also take steps to reduce our carbon footprints too – it may seem only a little thing to do, but in the wider context all these little things will add up.  We need to stop our home from warming up any further and keep climate change in check before we lose some of our most favourite things and kill the precious eco-systems that keep us alive.

To put this into perspective: If current predictions are correct and if we say our average lifespan is 80 years, anyone currently under the age of 50 will experience a world where chocolate is no longer a daily treat, but a rare and expensive commodity.


Ethical Gift Shop Blog
by Ellie Turner
16 February 2019

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