Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Being Green for the Planet AND the People

"Ridiculous can’t you just leave the poor children alone to enjoy a holiday?? Just more ecoguilt where you think you can throw money at the problem to fix your conscience."
The above quote is a comment I received to a post I wrote on Eat.Drink.Better a few weeks ago about fair trade Halloween candy. Here is an excerpt from the post.

What is so special about Fair Trade chocolate? For chocolate to be Fair Trade Certified, the farmers who grow the cocoa beans must be paid a fair wage for their crop. Some of the other criteria for Fair Trade Certification include using sustainable growing practices, providing workers with safe and healthy working conditions, and making sure that no abuse of child labor occurs.

It’s this last condition that I find so important when considering buying Halloween candy. In the past, I never thought about how the candy that I bought to hand out for Halloween came to be. But now, I feel it’s right to think about the fact that there could be children in other countries who work in unhealthy conditions on the farms that supply the cocoa beans for a lot of the mainstream Halloween candy that is sold in the U.S.
I also wrote in the post that I decided to participate in a program called Reverse Trick or Treat, where my children will hand out some Fair Trade Chocolate to some neighbors to educate them a little.

Apparently, the commenter believed I was ruining Halloween for the "poor" children. I resonded
which poor children are you talking about? The American children who come home with bags and bags full of candy? They aren’t poor.

It’s the poor children in other countries who end up being taken advantage of so that we can have $1.99 bags of mini chocolate bars that we need to have in mind. This isn’t eco-guilt. This is plain old loving your neighbor, following the golden rule, doing unto others stuff that most of us were taught when we were two years old.

My children will enjoy their holiday just as much this way as they would have minus the fair trade chocolate.
Of course, like many commenters who attack a post, he never responded.

Like those $1.99 bags of mini-candies, many of the consumer choices that we make here in America have devastating consequences for the poor around the world. We want inexpensive hamburgers from a drive thru window; the corporations that supply the meat for those hamburgers chop down millions of acres of rain forest in South America to make room for the cattle needed for our wants; the moisture from those rain forests that previously was carried across the ocean to Africa is no longer there; Africa experiences a drought and the impoverished in that country become poorer.

We need little trinkets to put in the goody bags for our children's birthday parties, but we don't want to spend too much on them. So we go to the dollar store to stock up on little plastic toys that will most likely end up in the trash in about a week filling our landfills with toxins. Those little plastic toys are often made in factories in other countries where workers work for long hours in unhealthy conditions for wages that keep them in poverty.

While I do believe that we need to be taking care of the earth for the earth's sake, this is God's creation that he gave to us to be caretakers of, I believe it's equally as important to take care of the earth and make wise consumer choices so that we don't make it more difficult for those who live in poverty to climb out of that poverty.

It's the beginning of the holiday buying season. There will be many consumers choices for us to make in the upcoming months. I urge you to think about the choices that you make, and how they can help or hurt, the poor.

Today is Blog Action Day. All over the blogosphere, bloggers are writing about this year's topic - poverty.

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