Thursday, May 11, 2006

World Fair Trade Day

It's not today; it's this Saturday. But this Saturday, I'm going to be knee-deep in graduations and grandmas. Hold me. So, this post is your official heads-up. It may be the last one you ever get; I could decide that sitting in a corner sucking my thumb for the rest of the weekend is the highest and best use of my time.

OK, probably not.

Fair Trade is a trading partnership based on transparency and respect. The idea is to secure and improve trading and working conditions for marginalized producers. It turns out to be a lot more complicated than that in implementation, though. Not all organizations that trade fairly are official "fair trade organizations". Not all organizations that claim to trade fairly actually do. And I'm deeply suspicious of governmental and NGO programs that seem to equate human potential with economic progress.

But, and this is a very big but, let's start at the beginning. People have to eat and wear clothes and shelter themselves. Marginalized people, frequently but not always in the southern hemisphere, typically have a cash crop or some sort of cash-generating enterprise in order to secure the commodities they can't produce themselves. They ought to get a fair return on their labor, and frequently -usually- that isn't the case. So whether or not economic development is the be all and end all of social policy, it helps to secure some measure of equity for people in need. Much more information can be found here: World Fair Trade Day official site.

And to buy fair trade products, you don't need to buy clothes made of organically grown straw -or whatever. (But what's wrong with my wardrobe, anyway???) You could start with fair trade coffee. In principle, you can get the Cafe Estima beans at Starbucks, but I have a terrible time actually finding them there. In town, you will have better luck going to Duck Soup Coop and getting Equal Exchange coffee. It's hardly more expensive than non-fair-trade coffee, and if you remember to re-use your bag, they give you a 15 cent discount. Once you've got fair trade coffee ingrained as a habit, you can move on to fair trade beer. And, as always, I'm open to other suggestions.

Can one fairly trade grandmas? I suppose not.

No comments: