Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Fair Trade: It's not just for coffee any more

How many times have you walked into Starbucks, ordered a "Fair Trade" latte and felt all proud of yourself for supporting small coffee farmers in Central America? Virtuous, even? A lot of times, I would bet. But exactly how many times have you also walked into a computer store or a jewelry store or a grocery store or a sporting goods store and said, "Hey, I'm looking to purchase one of those Fair Trade diamond rings," or "I need to buy a Fair Trade MP-3 player." Almost never.

Heck, how many times have we even driven into our local Shell or Arco or Exxon station and ordered up ten gallons of Fair Trade gas? Definitely never. But guess what? Perhaps it's time that we did.

Fair Trade isn't just for coffee any more.

It's high time for consumers to follow the Fair Trade coffee example and also start forcing big-business international monopolies and cartels to instigate Fair Trade practices on a lot more than just coffee. It's also now time to offer Fair Trade options to all those dirt-poor miners and workers who now bring us tin, gold, tantalum, tungsten, diamonds, coal, gasoline and oil at an enormous personal cost to themselves, and who risk their very lives daily for peanuts -- so that global corporatistas can turn around and gouge out higher prices from you and me, and make outrageously obscenely high profits off of someone else's blood, sweat and tears.

Without our coffee in the morning, we'd merely have a bit more trouble waking up. But without highly-important minerals such as the tin, gold, tantalum, tungsten, diamonds and coal that make our individual worlds work, there would be no computers, no gold tooth fillings, no traditional wedding rings, no cell phones, no durable drill bits and nothing for joggers to listen to as they run through the park.

Without our coffee, sure, we'd be grumpy. But without our gasoline, we'd be faced with starvation -- or at least faced with having to live mostly by what we can grow in our victory gardens or whatever we could haul in on wagons. But, hey, that might not be such a bad thing after all. Improvising in order to avoid starvation seems to be, in the long run, a far better solution than dying from carbon-dioxide poisoning and its resultant fires and floods. But then that's just me.

Fair Trade oil? That would mean giving individual Iraqis, Iranians, Nigerians, Sudanese and even Californians and Texans a piece of the action -- just like they now do in Alaska. I've been to Iraq. I've seen dirt-poor villagers with no shoes on their feet standing upon oil-rich land worth billions to anyone but them.

Fair Trade!

In Africa, where so many of our strategic minerals come from, miners can't even imagine what Fair Trade might look like. They might even live a few years longer maybe, or have shoes on their feet or learn how to read. Who knows? How about giving them the same breaks that we now give to coffee farmers?

PS: In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Sudan, many so-called "conflict minerals" are taken out of the ground and then sold in order to buy more guns for bad guys -- and so the SEC has been working on methods that will allow buyers to trace the origins of the metals they buy, thus making it harder for gun runners and human traffickers to make a profit from selling ill-gotten gains.

Nordic Sun http://www.nordicsw.com/ has recently developed a cute little hand-held mineral-assessing thingie that allows perspective buyers to trace their mineral purchases back to untainted sources. However, no one seems to be in any big hurry to buy this cute little app. Why mess with a sure-fire profit maximizer -- buying conflict minerals with no provenance -- even though such purchases lead to supporting devastating blood-wars and completely screwing over poor miners working their fingers to the bone?

All across the world, people who care about the future of our planet helped to organize a wonderful Fair Trade movement to protect coffee farmers. Good for them! And now it's time for us to get together and organize a Fair Trade movement for conflict-mineral miners as well -- and then also a Fair Trade movement to protect all the rest of us workers too, especially those of us here at home. "We have nothing to lose but our chains."

In these enlightened times, a society that creates only billionaires and match girls no longer works.

PPS: I recently went on a virtual tour of an oil magnate's house. Actually, I think it was only his secondary vacation home. Set on ten acres of valuable urban real estate, it had fifteen bedrooms, a kitchen with five (5) work stations, a spare baggage room for racks of last year's Chanel gowns, a Rolls Royce in the driveway, a huge swimming pool, a vineyard and even a freaking TOPIARY garden.

Now compare that super-deluxe massive mansion to the homes of those poor villagers I saw in Iraq or the homes of poor miners in the DRC or even the homes of all us poor California taxpayers who get nothing back from the oil giants who are currently making off with OUR black gold. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qM1syI0UA3Y.

PPPS: I'm trying to leave for Uganda in July so I can witness all this stuff for myself and report back regarding the corporate exploitation of miners, human trafficking and the plight of child soldiers -- as well as to, hopefully, also report back on any and all progress being made toward establishing Fair Trade in Africa too.

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