Heaven And Hell In A Coffee Cup

The pavement outside the coffeeshop shimmers in waves of early heat. The congested traffic, vibrating streets, and rows of bland, uniform cement buildings multiply the rising temperatures.   It is only 9:00 am and already a hot wind is blowing withered leaves off the lines of wilting, scorched trees. A hellish version of autumn in July.

The Delta variant of Covid, chased by Lambda, is burning through both Red and Blue states and, the world. It has little concern for political or mental borders. Like justice, it is blind.

We live in strange times. Uncertain days. Zenlike, we are compelled to live in the “Now” moment. The future is no longer predictable or assumed. Today has divorced tomorrow.

Social media flickers endlessly in the corner of our eyes. Luring us, word by word, down divergent paths.  Deep dark or fake bright. Neutral is not a choice. My screen begs me to scream.

Jazz plays in the background. Nostalgic, mellow saxophone melodies releasing memories of blurred, happier years.  Spiced coffee steams beside me. Customers drift in seeking a caffeinated taste of normal life. We drink in hope.

Coffee is my drug of choice. I sip mine with milk and spices thereby firmly convincing myself it is a meal in a cup. Self-delusion is an acceptable form of coping in these curiously biblical times.

But. How long can we afford to dream while living in a nightmare? The 2021 Climate Summit is a fascinating event of political evasion and delusion.  President Biden’s, Session 1; “Raising our Climate Ambition” bears little relationship to our current crisis. At 79, there is little chance he will face the responsibility of a 2030 world.  Acknowledging there is a “need”  and “intention” does not translate to needed, immediate action. We are past the luxury of “ambition”.

Social media’s favoured child: “High Tech”, happily neglects addressing the colossal environmental damage resulting from mining rare earth minerals. Wall Street loves them, that’s enough. Securing one ton of rare earth elements produces over 2,000 tons of toxic waste including a high concentration of radioactive residue.  New Tech Metals (NTM) recently acquired an additional 4,000 hectares near La Escondida, Mexico. China currently accounts for approximately 95% of the worlds’ rare earth production, to date. (Which explains some of the consumer-driven, political spates). Bayan-Obo, its largest production site has been operational for over four decades. ASX-listed Lynas Corporation, currently owns the richest rare earth deposit in the world.  A recent report noted that a half-century of rare earth mining and processing has “severely damaged surface vegetation, caused severe soil erosion, pollution, acidification and reduced or even eliminated food crop output” in some regions.

It’s all blah-blah-blah until that last sentence. Tied to the California drought cutting off water to farms, reading “eliminated food crop” frankly, makes me freak out.  How can we rate tech needs higher than- food production?

The recent G20 meeting in Rome not only failed to address this issue, but illustrated again a generational blindness to the current, urgent environment crisis and draconian future of our children.

I need more coffee. Brief comfort for these hard realities. A moment of respite from pure terror.

Yet even the spiced taste on my tongue cannot take away the bitterness of these truths. A major drought in Brazil has pushed coffee prices to their highest level in years. Flooding has washed away wheat crops and productive farmlands. Since February, the cost of fruit and vegetables has risen more than 2%. Many restaurants across the US are no longer offering seafood as cost prices rose over 11%. Poultry production has fallen by 4%, pushing prices to double normal.  $15.00 per hour wages already cannot compensate for sky-rocketing rents and food costs. Let’s get Real and cut the political crap.  The actual cost of living is historically so far out of line of wages (less tax) that it would take an immediate jump to $25.oo to try and buy milk, toilet paper and pay the rent all on the same day.

This is not the time to nod from a litany of percentages. Not for old politicians or, us. Nor is this the time for “journalists” to regurgitate endless lists of outdated“ best companies to work for” or, “best HR practices”.  What has happened to journalism? Has fear of our current reality become so overwhelming we are allowing sales and marketing to drive our truths?

I grasp my cup with hands that shake. Looking up, I urgently want to believe that we can, as a world, unite in understanding that “we are all in this together”.  I want to relax into the smooth, crooning voice of Louis Armstrong singing;” What a wonderful world”.  Faced with harsh reality, my mind cracks with the need to believe we can and will, together, find a way to a better future.

If not us, then who?


Karin vonKrenner
Karin vonKrenner
Karin vonKrenner is a journalist and photographer. She has worked globally for over 20 years, in times of peace and conflict. Karin directs her pen and lens to document the contrasting narratives of the human experience. Her work invites you to engage the world from new perspectives.

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  1. The emotions here are very raw, and I have been writing along the same lines for a couple of years now. But the nail on the head, so to speak, is getting the world to act as one. But the reality is that the hurdles to jump for that to happen are virtually insurmountable. We used to be called cynical when we said things like that 5 years ago when we all started to see the writing on the wall. Now we’re being called pragmatists. When it all finally goes to hell there is cold comfort in the fact that we will be called prophets. There is a low frequency worry that we all must be feeling these days, because I can’t believe there is anyone who is unaware of what’s happening. Only those who refuse to see it. I won’t tell you that this was a great piece, because it was hard to read. But it was very honest, and frankly necessary. Keep pushing.