Thursday, November 20, 2003

[31.1] FAIR (TRADE) POINT...

T.S. Eliot once observed that the the grand contours of the world are actually shaped by those 'minute particulars' that make up much of the fabric of our daily lives. So forgive what might appear a trivial observation in the midst of global events...

This morning I was picking up a coffee on the way to work; the fuel of a caffeine lifestyle in the metropolis, I fear. The person serving me got the order wrong, and when I pointed the mistake out he instantly rectified it. He then poured the 'wrong' cup of coffee straight down the drain -- before I had any chance to say, "Well, if it's going to waste, the fact that I ordered latte rather than cappuccino really doesn't matter." But the truth is, that waste is legislated. Staff (underpaid as it is) aren't allowed to drink surplus coffee it or give it away. Commercial logic says that it's better to throw something out than use it. Just a fleeting microcosm of the values we live by in advanced consumer societies. And I'm talking about me, not just the corporations.

Of course if I hadn't been patronising a multinational coffee oulet in the first place... and so on. Ah, the contradictions. (For those indulging an occasional high street caffeine fix, the Costa chain use fair -- or at least, marginally fairer -- trade beans; though the lion's share of the profit still goes to them, of course.)

We can take small steps to promote not just Fair Trade but also just practice. See Ethical Junction and, from the radical US Christian magazine / network, SojoBlend. The churches in the UK are involved heavily in the Trade Justice Movement, too. Action is only a click or two away.

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