Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On chocolate. And then some.

I took on quite the research project for today's "Topical Tuesday" post over at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash. It started out as a new perspective on Valentine's Day (as if we didn't have enough of that last week, right..?), inspired by my surprise at the Japanese version of the Western holiday (they do so love to adopt holidays over here). But then I discovered a whole new story within the story, which led me to read up on African politics, specifically that of the Ivory Coast (or Côte d'Ivoire, as I've now learned it's supposed to be - though I am not sure why the French name reminding them of the colonial past is better than the English version meaning the exact same thing..).

As usual, you'll have to go over there to read the full post. This is just a teaser, and an outlet for all the things I didn't manage to fit into the post at BB&B. For instance the demoralizing statistics on fair-trade chocolate versus definitely-not-fair-at-all-trade chocolate (the fair-trade one only accounted for about 1% of the market share in 2005, the most recent number I could find). The latter often uses child labour, many of which are the victims of human trafficking and slavery.

As if this was not enough, cocoa production also contributes to deforestation, as the coca trees often compete with rain forests for space. The cocoa tree itself is also a fragile plant, which holds an important part in the ecosystem. With deforestation, the cocoa tree is endangered too, and farmers will constantly need to chop down new areas of forest to plant new cocoa trees. Thus it is a vicious cycle.

All this reading made me want to stop eating chocolate and go hug a tree (if it hadn't been for the fact that I once heard that trees were actually hurt by hugging...). Instead I wrote a blog post (or two, actually, since this one probably also counts with all its depressing facts) about it - so maybe you can find the inspiration to stop eating chocolate and (not) hug a tree.

No. I'm not pointing any proverbial fingers (not even the middle one, though the cruelty in cocoa production does seem to warrant it). I bought a packet of chocolate myself today (though in my defense, it was before all the researching took place...), and there isn't as much as a hint of any fair-trade emblems or rain forest frogs on it. Thus I am pretty sure I would be tossing cocoa beans in a glass house...

We should all be buying only fair-trade. We should all recycle, and while we're at it, we should floss our teeth and make our bed every morning. It is when I realize I fail on most of the above I wonder if I'm a faux idealist - if I am not willing to change myself, then how can I expect the world to change?


At least I can advertise. Buy fair-trade! 

And if you see this little guy on your products, you can be sure it didn't kill any trees.


If you want to read more, I found this pretty cool blog - The Frog Blog - which is where the Rainforest Alliance shares info about new initiatives. One of them, the REDD+ is a UN programme to reduce emissions in developing countries by providing a financial initiative (so there is environment and development). As for fair-trade, you find lots of useful info on both the Fairtrade International and World Fair Trade Organization. For instance, you can here see lists of products that are fair-trade, so that the next time you go chocolate shopping, you have a choice.

11 comments:

Kal said...

First blood diamonds and free trade chocolate. I have a feeling that I got diabetes just at the right time. I don't want anyone hurt so that I can have a Twix bar. Is silver bad? I only wear silver jewelery but that is only because of all the damn werewolves around.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You've been doing some serious research! Promise I won't eat any chocolate all week.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I havven't eaten chocolate in years ......mainly to loose weight. but I do enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.

Loved the post.

Yvonne.

The Golden Eagle said...

When I read things like this, I'm glad I don't like chocolate.

Deb and Barbara said...

Excellent post (although I do love me some chocolate). Have found fair trade chocolate in my hood, but it's hard to come by. Will try harder :)

(so great seeing in our neck of the woods today!)
B
The Middle Ages

The Words Crafter said...

Wow! Another reason to just dump chocolate!

Thanks for the information and for stopping by my blog today!

Kal said...

I thought you might like this product.

http://www.neatoshop.com/product/Giraffe-Couture-Baby-Coat

Jemi Fraser said...

I didn't realize there was so much child labour involved in the chocolate industry - that makes me so sad for so many reasons. Thanks for the info

Cruella Collett said...

Kal - that is one way of looking at it, I guess. I had no idea diabetics could not eat diamonds, though.
And to my knowledge, silver is still not bad. Neither is garlic or wooden stakes.

Alex - the worst part is that I didn't keep that promise myself, since I just served about a ton (or so) of chocolate, an unavoidably ate some myself... Oh, no!

Yvonne - you've got more self-control than most, then! I think you should allow yourself the treat of the hot chocolate every now and then, though :)

TGE - you? Don't? LIKE? Chocolate?!? I've heard of people having allergies, but I think this is the first time I've heard of someone not liking it!

Barbara - I know, right - fair trade is hard to find, often expensive, and it STILL contains those pesky calories... But I'm glad you're trying (I will too!)

TWC - so true. (And yet so hard!)

Kal - I adore it! Too cute :)

Jemi - I know, it is awful. There is a horrible world out there :(

Georgina Dollface said...

Great post, and an important one too. Indeed, it uncomfortable to find out that the things we enjoy actually hurt other people, but its our responsibility to be aware of these things. Once we are aware, we can no longer please ignorance. We can at least start to make more aware choices and who knows, with even an incremental amounts of change, perhaps we really can start to reverse some of these oppressive trade practices. I'm guessing that coffee, sugar and tea also come with the same trade problems. Any crop or resource that comes from a place originally colonized to pillage that resource, is bound to be problematic. Thanks for writing this. - G

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, man--this really stinks. I completely didn't know the child labor or deforestation stuff... I suppose it's good I know now... I love chocolate, but don't eat a ton of it, so I can probably manage to find the fair trade stuff.

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