Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Put 5,000 Slaves On Standby

Aida!!! I love it. Best musical ever. Maybe 2nd only to the original Beauty and the Beast cast.

Taking place in 3000 BC Egypt, the pharaoh's ministry advisor opens by telling his son (the captain of the guard played by the talented Adam Pascal) to gain power and "put 5,000 slaves on standby - build another pyramid."

Humorous. Catchy. A little sad. Especially when you think about the probability that the slaves he was talking about were Israelites. But we'll skip over that for the tongue-in-cheek sarcasm put to perfectly timed melody and a firey orange back drop with a hint of fuschia in the morning sky.

The real point of this is how we encourage - yes, I said ENCOURAGE, not allow - the continuation of slavery today.

There are 2 huge share crops that promote the use of slavery IN and OUT of the USA. The one I'm most concerned with at the moment is coffee.

Understand upfront, I am a lover of coffee. My husband loves coffee. We drink it every morning and sometimes more than that! So don't think I'm going to start off on telling everyone to drink nothing but tap water. (Although I'm an advocate for that as well! Good use of natural resources and gives you the daily fluoride you need!)

A few facts about slavery and coffee:

1) The world market average for 1 pound of coffee beans is $0.60

2) The USA consumes 1/5th of the coffee in the world

3) Coffee prices are at an 8 year low for the farmers, however consumer prices are higher than ever leaving the farmers in poverty

4) Slave labor is used in the production of coffee including child labor

We can be smart about how we buy and drink coffee. And honestly it's easy. Fair Trade coffee is becoming more and more available to the consumer. What's Fair Trade?

Glad you asked.

Fair Trade was begun and approved by the UN in the late 1980's-90's in order to pay small farmers what they were worth. Currently, a fair trade farmer makes at minimum $1.26 per pond of coffee. Note this is more than double what the global average is currently. Small coffee farmers receive prices that are less than adequate for their product forcing them into a cycle of debt and poverty. Fair Trade takes out the middle man (the coffee trader between farmer and corporation) and requires adequate payment for products. It is a viable solution to this crisis and ensures consumers that the coffee they drink is being purchased under fair conditions. Keep in mind, the majority of the world live on less than $1 a day. You are in the top 12% of the world if you make $43,000 a year in your entire household.

So maybe you don't buy into the fact that slavery is very much still real. Try this: It's also good for the environment. Small farmers are the best stewards of the land. Fair Trade farmers don't have the capital input to clear forests, buy chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They generally grow small plots of mixed-crop, shade grown coffee organically.

Even if you don't get all warm and fuzzy about the polar bears and the oil covered ducks, I employ you to get righteously angry about using children to harvest your coffee. Especially when it costs you $5 to drink it.

Would you drink a cup of coffee if it was handed to you by a homeless child without shoes and a swollen belly? It sounds harsh, I know. But this has to be personal to us!! So would you take it? Or would you toss it and feed the child? I wouldn't ever drink it again. I would be sick at the site of it. I would never ever get over the fact of how selfish I am. But I beg of you to see, this is in fact what we're doing. Maybe the coffee you drink isn't harvested by that child. But it's harvested by his parents. Or his grandparents. Or his older caretaker sibling.

So here's how to get Fair Trade coffee. First, look for the Fair Trade symbol on the bag:


If it's not there, it's not Fair Trade. We purchase FT coffee at the grocery store. You can even buy it at Starbucks. They offer 2 types of FT coffee as whole bean bags. Please take note, the (RED) coffee from Africa is NOT FT!! Although it's supporting the AIDS initiative, it is reinforcing slavery.

PLEASE ask your local Starbucks BEFORE you order if they will brew your drink with Fair Trade coffee. They have a "yes" policy, so if it's in the store, they have to do it.

You can also order FT in bulk from www.larrysbeans.com. A friend just showed me Drink Coffee Do Good that you can purchase fair trade coffee from online. Duncan Donuts brews FT in the store and SOME of their bagged coffee is FT (although I've yet to find it for purchase). Some versions of Folgers and Millstone are FT but look for the symbol!! Here it is again!

Great websites to go to with more info on Fair Trade:

Global Exchange

Fair Trade Coffee

I know this sounds extreme, but this is personal to us. We WILL be held accountable for how we treat others even if we are ignorant of this. I am terrified to think what faces I'll see in heaven whom I refused to help for the sake of my own coffee indulgence.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone (in the usual Broadway song and dance style)

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