Global warming could be great for brewers and distillers in one sense. After all, why not try to reclaim some normalcy with a cool, tasty beverage? Escapism will only get us so far, of course, but confronting the issue can actually lead us to more hope.
Producers of alcoholic drinks could be leaders in the fight against climate change. That's one possibility raised by ecologists at Ireland's Trinity College. Specifically, these researchers looked into different ways to produce gin. Traditionally, gin begins as a grain-based ethanol, much like vodka; it's then distilled again and infused with juniper berries, along with other flavors. Thanks to the emissions and agricultural requirements of growing base grains like wheat, gin's carbon footprint is pretty significant.
"In terms of climate change impact," said lead author Theophile Lienhardt, "sipping a large measure of gin is similar to ... driving one kilometer in a petrol car."
People are nothing if not inventive, though. It turns out you can make excellent gin with peas instead of wheat. Peas not only have a far smaller carbon footprint, but their waste products make good animal feed and may create production chains that reduce deforestation in places like the Amazon.
This is just the latest in a new trend of adventuresome craft liquors, and it's fully at home in a time when consumers even want their good times to be sustainable. There could be more changes to our global cuisine and food systems, some more surprising than others. If we do things right, we could give ourselves and the planet more of a fighting chance.