The Fundamentals. Coffee Anyone?

In the spirit of sports detente, let’s ramp down the Cowboy hate for a minute so I can make a worthwhile point. Back in 1989, Jimmy Johnson took over for Tom Landry as only the second coach in Cowboy’s franchise history. In his first interview, Coach Johnson preached the fundamentals of football. Running. Tackling. And holding onto the ball. Standard fare for those of us steeped in the game. However, his message was a snoozer for the media in attendance. Not surprisingly, they eviscerated him.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson tries to get the officials to see his point of view during the Cowboy’s 38-6 loss to the Detroit Lions in the 1991 NFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 5, 1992, at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac Michigan. (Photo by Betsy Peabody Rowe/Getty Images)

As a former player on the cusp of being a professional, I appreciated the simplicity of coach Johnson’s words. Obviously, his message still resonates with me many years later.

We should never lose sight of the fundamentals.

In the throes of writing the book Behind the Hype: “What we really want out of life”, I am reminded of how Coach Johnson cut through the media noise of his first press conference. What do we really want out of life? Let’s dial it back to the raw fundamentals. First and foremost, we want to survive. Our priority to survive is hardcoded into our DNA with software like our fight or flight instinct. What does survival look like?

I am flight, dive, and jump certified. Add to that the US Army trained me to survive and thrive under harsh conditions, consequently, I have a shortlist of true needs. Food, air, and water are non-negotiable. First, air is the most critical of the mix, as the average person cannot hold their breath for more than a few minutes. Second, a healthy person can only last a day or two without water. Lastly, it’s estimated, we can survive three weeks without food, but a lot of variables go into that calculation. Where am I going with this story?

Thinking in rudimentary survival terms, not in advanced “climate change” modeling, I am struck but the lack of discussion surrounding the ever-expanding droughts and the scarcity of freshwater. Water is critical to our survival. Below is a drought monitor for the last 52 weeks from NDMC.

The University of Nebraska – National Drought Mitigation Center (2021)

Looking out a few years, the drought picture gets darker and murkier. The west coast, specifically California, is shackled with the most problematic water security issues. The NOAA partnered projections for 2050 on the map below are troubling.

Drought areas are represented by the darkened portions of the map.

Why does this matter to me? I don’t live on the west coast. Unfortunately, what happens in California, doesn’t stay in California. The state accounts for 13.52% of our US agriculture. Almost double #2 Iowa’s 7.43% contribution. Drought means crops dying and less food for you and me.

Let me put the situation in starkly personal terms. Your morning cup of joe (coffee) is about to go up in price. Brazil, the country with the most freshwater resources in the world, has lost 15% of its surface water over the last three decades. In 2021, coffee producers estimate that almost half a million acres of coffee crops were hit by the worst frost in three decades. Accompanying the frost came the drought. Potential losses from the drought could affect half of Brazil’s coffee crops next year, according to soft commodities expert Judith Ganes. She said it was hard to determine how badly Brazil’s Arabica beans were hit, but “there will be a major failure.”  

The price of your morning caffeine fix is on its way up. Look at the 80% rise in coffee futures this year depicted below. It’s a supply-demand dynamic. Less supply with the same demand means higher prices.

Coffee Futures Continuous Contact November 2021tradingview.com

Sensing blood in the water, the sharks have entered the fray. “Scarce clean water is the resource defining this century, like oil and gas defined the last,” says Matthew Diserio, the president of Water Asset Management, an investment manager of both physical water assets and water equities.

On the west coast, the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index tracks the spot price of water in the region’s groundwater basins. It’s an actively traded market. A lack of snowmelt on the Sierra Nevada forced prices up, from $529.58 per acre-foot (the volume of water covering one acre of land to the depth of a foot) in March to $813.60 by October.

Given the projections for drought in California, crops will die. Food prices will likely rise. The identical supply-demand dynamic as experienced in Brazil over coffee with longer, more dire implications.

I won’t deny the realities of climate change. But I wonder if we shouldn’t be more focused on the pressing and immediate needs of freshwater preservation, along with water, and food security. I am harkened back to Coach Johnson’s laser-like focus on the fundamentals. Johnson’s focus on the fundamentals produced three Super Bowl teams in four years in one of the most competitive sports leagues on the planet.

What do we really want? We want to survive. We ensure our survival by making certain we have nailed down the fundamentals before moving on to other more complex priorities. Our “focus on the fundamentals” becomes a process metaphor for every worthwhile pursuit in our lives.

Published by Robert Q Watson

During my first six decades on this earth, I lived life at great heights often on the razor’s edge. Consequently, I have enjoyed incredible successes and endured mind-numbing failures. Truthfully, I have had a hell of a view.

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