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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

4-1 Fair Trade

The term fair trade implies that the producers of products that we purchase receive a living wage for their efforts. The income that they generate enables them to meet their needs for housing, food, health and education. Fair trade cooperatives are springing up the world over in communities that have faced the meager economic prospects of extraction and the oppressive conditions foisted upon them by multi-national corporations. Understanding cradle to grave where each of our consumer goods comes from and where it goes after leaving our hands is an important first step in understanding the full impact of spending our dollars, euros, yuan, etc. Keeping in mind that money is really just a stand in to represent time, we need to give generously to those who make the things we enjoy possible. A decade ago, about 1/2 of 1% of the world markets were fair trade, but the slow and steady increase in the availability of certified products and consumer desire for purchasing of these goods has made them a steady growth sector. One thing that has also come about is as more money flows into the hands of workers and certification agencies, the biggest players are mounting an all out assault on the idea of workers, especially in third world nations, being cheated by outsiders, exactly the same behavior that they have practiced for decades. check the wikipedia page and you will see a litany of sources willing to claim that paying fair wages destabilizes the economy, harms farmers surrounding the co-ops and that the ability to free oneself from abject poverty is somehow exposing local communities to hazard. I have belonged to over a dozen cooperatives over the course of my life and none of them impacted my life negatively. Most often they made it easier to feed myself healthy food for less money. That can never be bad. Trusting that we are doing our fellow humans a good turn by allowing them to earn a decent living from their labor can never be a bad thing. as far as I know there are no fair trade certified weapons manufacturers or drug manufacturing facilities, but who would question whether or not those employees deserve to make a comfortable living from their efforts? My own standard for Fair Trade is even higher than most of the certification agencies. I want to see the Earth considered, as part of a three legged stool, supported by the planet, her people and profit. Without consideration and respect for all three of these aspects, a business fails my test for being fair. That means that I do not want to trade with them.

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