Red-Tails in Coffins
When I first visited the Bay Area more than 25 years ago, my future husband, a San Francisco native, took me around to the sacred spots. There was the site of the Mabuhay Gardens, several Chinese restaurants, Land’s End and Ocean Beach. In Berkeley, there was the university itself, and the sanctum sanctorum….the original Peet’s Coffee. I am from New York but I had never dreamed of such a taste. That coffee epitomized the Bay Area: organic in the sense of rising naturally from the cultured and good intentions of the singular inhabitants here. REALLY GOOD. Now it looks like I’ll be switching my brand.
Peet’s is on-line to be acquired by Joh A. Benkiser (JAB), which among many other holdings has a 10% stake in Reckitt-Benkiser, the maker of D-Con. D-Con is an anticoagulant rodenticide the EPA has been trying to get off the market. Among other ill effects, EPA asserts that between 1999 and 2003, more than 25,000 children under six had poisoning symptoms after exposure to D-Con.
Peet’s says there is no substantive connection between JAB and D-Con. The company asserts its commitment to the environmental and social health of the communities in which it operates. Peet’s asks those concerned to take their issue directly to Reckitt-Benkiser, with which it claims to have absolutely no ties.
Rats that eat D-Con experience induced internal bleeding, and can eat up to ten times the lethal dose. Larger animals higher up the food chain, including dogs and cats, eat the rats and are felled by the concentrated poison. Hawks and other raptors, which can help keep rodent populations in check naturally, also die from D-Con. Casualties thus far include the mate and several offspring of Pale Male, the Central Park Red-tailed Hawk immortalized by Marie Winn in her wonderful book, Red-Tails in Love.
The chain of connection evidenced by nature and the food web has another green corollary: the money trail running from big company down to medium company down to new acquisition. Money flows from Reckitt-Benkiser to JAB and now to Peet’s. Where does the money come from? Partly, from D-Con. Profits from dead rats are helping to fuel its big pay day. Trickle down is about money and it’s also about poison percolating through the intimate and inevitable connections of nature long after the rat has been killed. What on Earth is Peet’s talking about, “no connection”? Have they been drinking D-Con?
When Peet’s was founded, there was nothing like it. Now there are many options for drinking delicious, sustainably grown coffee, brought to us by businesspeople who see that there is no separating the twin green connectors, money, and nature, from our overall health and well-being. If Peet’s steps away from this issue, we must step away from the barrista.