SPIRITUALITY, FAIR TRADE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
The New Conscious Consumer: Expanding Economic Justice Through Fair Trade
RE: The New Conscious Consumer: Expanding Economic Justice Through Fair Tradein Post / Views Tue Sep 10, 2013 6:08 am
by Shannon McKenna • 1 Post
“The New Conscious Consumer: Expanding Economic Justice Through Fair Trade”
The first part of the reading that really stood out to me was the text that described Deuteronomu 15:7-11. This text describes an event in 2005 in which partners from Just Trade put together boxes filled with Fair Trade good to sell. The church that sold them made a profit from the sales and was hoping they would be able to buy the artisans something they really needed. When they were able to get in contact with the artisans, the artisans asked if the funds could be donated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the United States. The artisans felt honored they were able to give money to Americans because they themselves had been the victims for so long.
I was really impressed by this story because it helped me to see how a fair trade relationship really benefits both parties. Often, I feel that relationships end up so out of balance because one is always giving more than they are getting. It’s not that I feel both parties deserve to constantly be getting, but when there is a balance, the relationship seems more valuable because there is not a constant feeling of something being owed to the giving party. I also found it really impressive that the artisans were willing to give back to the United States when we have so many organizations within our own country that were supporting the Hurricane Katrina disaster efforts. In many of the countries where fair trade efforts are focused, there was no inside support from the government or wealthier people of the country. Many of these people solely depend on support from the United States and wealthier countries to support them. The fact that the artisans were willing to look past the fact that the disaster from Hurricane Katrina would be fixed in due time when their own lives would remain very difficult for years to come is truly inspiring.
The second part of the reading that really stood out to me is the text following Acts 16:13-15. In this passage there is one quote in particular that really stands out to me, “we can look up at our husbands and they have to look back at us with full respect.” This section describes how the women in Huayanay have been able to support their families by learning how to weave. For these women, this was an incredible opportunity because they were never given an opportunity to work and were therefore seen as lesser than the men.
The fact that there are countries where women are not given the same opportunities as men is simply baffling to me. Here in the United States, women and men have all of the same opportunities; we can get the same education, play the same supports, and hold the same jobs. Women are no longer expected to stay home and serve as a housewife, in fact in April it was reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that 59% of US households had two working parents. As a female entering the work force in the very near future, I could never imagine not having the opportunity to become educated and enter the work force. At 21, I feel I have a sense of independence and am looking forward to taking time to work and support myself before settling down and starting a family. This is a privilege that I most certainly take for granted each and every day. Reading this article reminded me that I am lucky to have this privilege but also helped me to realize just how much fair trade efforts are helping others to slowly gain privileges.
RE: The New Conscious Consumer: Expanding Economic Justice Through Fair Tradein Post / Views Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:50 am
by ninajanel • 1 Post
Since learning about Handcrafting Justice last class, I have been curious about the gender roles that go into Fair Trade and how big of an impact Fair Trade plays in changing the lives on women in particular. That being said, when I read the following lines from this week’s reading I became very interested. “Women are rarely highlighted in the Bible. Lydia, like Fair Trade business women, attracted attention and set an example.” “We would consider it a spiritual benefit because we can lift out heads and be looked upon with dignity. Because we can look up at our husbands and they have to look back at us with full respect.”
If I were to make a list for rules to live by in my future, remaining financially independent, especially from a future spouse, is very important to me. It isn't even something that I would have to remind myself of because it’s such a given, perhaps because it is so attainable. Admittedly, while reading “The New Conscious Consumer: Expanding Economic Justice Through Fair Trade” and learning much more than I ever knew about Fair Trade, enabling the Fair Trade workers to escape poverty and provide for their families was all I seemed to think the goal of Fair Trade was. Of course, that is no small goal. However, until I read the aforementioned section I did not think about the gender barriers that these women face as well, and how important and probably how rare it is that they, as women, be supporting themselves and their families financially in this way. It is important that women in fortunate enough places such as America, who are working hard to erase gender barriers, take advantage of every opportunity given to them. However, it is SO important that we do not forget that the struggle continues in many other areas of the world even as ours diminish. This concept applies to all struggles, and that is what Fair Trade is all about.
One of the struggles between political parties in America at the moment has to do with social programs and what the right (meaning both ethical and effective) thing to do about the very low standard of living among an abundance of the population is. Do we raise minimum wage? Do we tax the rich even more? Though this is not the space to go into that discussion, I did find a statement in the reading “The New Conscious Consumer: Expanding Economic Justice Through Fair Trade” to be very interesting, and perhaps present a system (Fair Trade) that shows that there is a solution to this problem if we all work hard and work together. “Fair Trade is not about give and take; it’s not about handouts. It is about mutuality and respect because we need each other.” “Fair trade encourages artisans to work together rather than compete with one another. Groups have to do their own quality control. When one helps another become more skilled, one strengthens the group.”
These statements are so incredibly inspiring to me. They make me think that it is possible that with the growth of Fair Trade will not only come the intended outcomes within developing countries that are involved but lessons learned amongst already developed countries who think they even know what poverty is. I have the following questions that perhaps will be answered as the school year progresses. I am certainly aware that I am not the first person to ask these questions and recognize that I am currently ignorant in this subject: In what ways can “Fair Trade” become a term that people in developed countries all know the meaning of and understand the added bonus fairly easily? In what ways will, God willing, the expansion of Fair Trade and hopefully one day even Fair Trade becoming the norm effect how developed nations conduct businesses and deal with social issues like those that exist in America right now. Finally, from a totally business perspective, I have been wondering how these products can be marketed in a way that attracts people who are simply looking for beautiful toys or well-made beach bags, with the added bonus of being Fair Trade products, instead of searching directly for Fair Trade as their first priority. I would imagine that the former would be much more popular and effective for the time being while Fair Trade as a concept is still an unknown for many people.
RE: The New Conscious Consumer: Expanding Economic Justice Through Fair Tradein Post / Views Wed Sep 11, 2013 3:24 am
by Ryan Ennis • 4 Posts
"Fair Trade Using our Purchasing Power for Justice and Hope" was a very enlightening article. My main concern about fair trade before Professor Combellick's class started was that fair trade could in some ways create an unbalanced lazy market however when I read the foot note that Fair Trade isn't charity it was very assuring. The fact that it's a holistic approach geared towards creating an honest fair market that doesn't empower corporations and rich individuals. I completely agree with empowering and helping to develop developing countries that don't have enough resources to support the world. I think every spirtuality or religion is centered around service and unselfishness. I feel it is our duty as privileged college students to use our resources to not only better ourselves but also others.
The other section of the article that stood out to me was Psalm 104 and how it asks us to view what God has created as a celebration and to refresh ourselves with the memory of God's grace. This is so true as it pertains to the current state of America. I think in some ways we live in the entitlement generation that feels as though a house and dinner on the table is a given and not a gift. I think we need to take time out of our day to realize how awesome our life is and how lucky we are to have it. Some of the happiest people in the world are the poorest because they respect and value the little things that we take for granted.
RE: The New Conscious Consumer: Expanding Economic Justice Through Fair Tradein Post / Views Mon Sep 16, 2013 8:12 am
by Stacie Schwartz • 5 Posts
I think I posted this in the wrong place last week... it looks like we all accidentally used the "blog" link at the top. I'm just pasting it in to keep the topics together:
Early on in "Using our Purchasing Power for Justice & Hope" the authors make the point that we, the consumers, vote with our dollars. This concept is the perfect counter-argument to the fiduciary duty that corporations hold to their shareholders - usually a large corporation would argue that they have to run the business as cheaply as possible in order to maximize shareholder wealth. What if, instead of keeping consumers in the dark about their pipelines, consumers were aware of where their products came from and demanded a living wage paid to the producers? Then, couldn't it become possible that consumers turn away from anything less, and the corporation would benefit (financially) from doing the right thing? A well informed consumer is a powerful tool for change.
I found it startling that producers of coffee, for example, generally receive 1-5% of a final sale price. There either must be a lot of middle-men, or a tremendous final sale margin. Either way, the fair trade practice of paying 20-30% seems a lot better. I couldn't imagine embarking on any project, or opening any company, if all I could ever hope to realize was 1-5% of final sale price. It would take tremendous sales volume to make any 1-5% endeavor worthwhile, far more than a farmer could ever produce.
I also found it startling that working harder often results in less return on investment, for a farmer. The more a farmer works the land, the harder it becomes for other crops to grow, and the land (along with their way of life) erodes away. That flies in the face of the typical "talking head" maxim that people can fix anything, including their living situation, just by "working harder."
One of the most important points from this selection was the concept of working with dignity. There is something that personally reverberates with me about a person being proud of what they do, the goods they produce, that it is sold in the U.S., that they are paid well for their work, etc. The need to do good and feel good about your work is universally understandable, not confined to a corporate job or American lifestyle.
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