Wednesday, October 24, 2007

5 Million Dollar Mindset


The winner of the Mo Ibrahim prize for achievement in African leadership has finally been announced this week. Mo Ibrahim is a Sudanese billionaire who sponsored the prize to award the most impressive African leader who left office peacefully in the past three years. The running included 13 former heads of state, though according to the BBC, six of them took power through coups. The winner of the prize is to receive $500,000 per year for the next ten years plus $200,000 for every year after that, as well as up to $200,000 per year for projects to improve social welfare. The prize was conceived by Ibrahim as a way to dissuade leaders from corruption and to reward an individual who has dedicated their his or her life to responsible public service. Judges for the prize included former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, Nigerian minister Ngozi-Okonjo Iweala (posted about as a TED speaker below), and former prime minister of Tanzania/secretary general of the Organization of African Unity (OAU-now AU) Salim Ahmed Salim among others.


The winner of the Mo Ibrahim prize, as announced Monday by Kofi Annan, is Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique. Mr. Chissano is credited with ending Mozambique's brutal civil war that raged from independence in 1975 to 1992, as well as voluntarily leaving office after two presidential terms. Mr. Chissano brought multi-party democracy to Mozambique in 1994 and encouraged women to participate in the political scene giving Mozambique the tenth highest ranking of all countries in the world in terms of percentage of women in national legislative bodies (parliament/congress) according to recent figures. Female participation in Mozambique is more than double that of the United States. Based on all the information I have read, Mr. Chissano seems like a very deserving choice for this extraordinary prize. I'm sure he has his faults, but regardless, his record stands as very impressive. I like Mr. Ibrahim's attempt to change our mindset about news concerning Africa. This is a strong effort to focus on the positive progress that has been made in Africa and the potential for additional improvement in the future. Not everything is about disease and war.

My favorite part about this whole affair is that when the winner was announced, Mr. Chissano was unable to comment because he didn't know he had won. He was in northern Uganda serving as a United Nations special envoy, helping to broker an end to the violence that has been occurring there for the past two decades. Now that is a man dedicated to peace and reconciliation.

Here is coverage of the prize, including an interview with Kofi Annan by Aljazeera

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Little+A Little=A Lot

I've come across a couple websites in the past few days that are worthy of mentioning. For both of them, the general concept is that if many people each contributes a little, everyone will achieve a lot.


The first is blackle.com, a black search engine powered by the media giant Google. Blackle was conceived when a blogger posted that Google could save an estimated 750 megawatt hours of energy per year by making their website black. Technically speaking black screens consume less energy than white screen, 74 watts for white and 59 watts for black. Blackle keeps track of the energy it has saved right on the webpage and so far the number is over 267,000 watt hours since the page's launch in January 2007 (there are 1,000,000 watt hours in a megawatt hour). I understand that few of us can decipher that technical jargon including myself, but I'm under the impression that were talking about some serious numbers here. Blackle also has other tips for conserving energy that you may find interesting as well. I have made blackle.com, my homepage because it functions just like google.com (my previous homepage) while actively saving energy. I encourage you to do that same. If you have a different homepage, then simply substitute blackle for the search engine you typically use. Of course if you have your own webpage it would help to make that black as well, though I imagine using blackle saves the most energy overall because it gets more web traffic than most pages, including this nice little black website known as Afro-Photo.


The other hotspot I urge you to explore is freerice.com This site is unique in that you can view it in two separate, yet intertwined, ways. It is a tool that can help you improve your vocabulary and it also is a place where you can donate rice for free through the United Nations World Food Programme to people living in extreme poverty. The website works by showing you a word and asking you to pick the best synonym from four other words. For every question you answer correctly, 10 grains of rice will be donated by sponsors of the program (you can seem them being added to a digital bowl). The site automatically adjusts the difficulty of the words based on how many you get right. In the past two days I've donated over 3,000 grains of rice and I've significantly developed my lexicon at the same time. The amount of rice may not seem like a lot, but first of all it is donated at no charge and secondly when many people play the game it adds up. On the 22nd of October, 2007 26,881,930 grains of rice were donated and that number is sure to increase as the site gains recognition and popularity (it has only been up about two weeks). So go check it out and see if you can best define the word:

madrigal

The choices are:

polyphonic song

money-lender

streamer

twilight

What do you think? If you know the answer to this one I'm sure you'll find some words that you've never seen before at freerice.com and if you have no idea you'd better go there and practice. Either way, go donate some rice, it's free.
(The answer to the above question is polyphonic song.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thanks TED for the Talking

Time for a little analysis of a few TED Talks. Remember TED, which stands for Technology|Entertainment|Design, is a group that brings together innovative thinkers to give short speeches about really important ideas. If you have the time to sit down and absorb one, or a couple of the 20 minute speeches there is the potential to learn quite a bit from experts in their respective fields who have probably dedicated their lives to the subject they are speaking about. I'm going to embed some of the talks that I've found most interesting so far, though there are plenty more videos regarding a variety of domains from speakers everyone will recognize like Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Al Gore (a recent Nobel Peace Prize Winner), and Bono.

Let me begin with James Nachtwey, probably the most respected photojournalist in the world. James specializes in conflict/social issue photography and has traveled the world photographing the most horrible events of the last few decades. His images are truly remarkable and many of them were taken before the advent of digital technology. He has the courage to capture the conditions that destroy communities, sharing his images with the world. James has seen disease, famine and war in nearly every corner of the world but his humble view of people as equals drives him to document their lives just the same. Most every photojournalist loves to do documentary projects that will allow them to take a journey for the sake of photographing a certain issue or cultural event. Unfortunately the opportunity to pursue such projects is rare, though James Nachtwey is one of the few photographers that is able to base his career on such assignments because of the prestige that goes with his work. He has worked in Bosnia, Kosovo, the West Bank, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Guatemala, Sudan, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Brazil and South Africa too name a diverse few. In South Africa he worked with and befriended Joao Silva, profiled in an earlier post, and the rest of the so-called "Bang Bang Club." If you want to be shocked by the power of his images, I suggest you go to your local library and browse his monsterous book titled "Inferno." The book is an uncensored collection of his most vivid work that will bring out your most guarded emotions. James Nachtwey is and will continue to be a Witness.



The next talk is about Design. William McDonough speaks about creating innovative designs that will benefit "all children, of all species, for all time. Co-author of the book Cradle to Cradle with Michael Braungart, William's talk follows the same themes of the book. The idea is that it is not enough to eco-efficient, designs must be eco-effective. Eco-efficient designs are ones that minimize the harmful effects a product or system has on people and the environment. An example of that is recycling paper. The problem with recycling paper is that you are just delaying the inevitable transformation of the paper into waste, as the more times the paper is recycled the weaker it becomes. An ideal eco-effective design involves no waste whatsoever. Every aspect of the product or system of an eco-effective design creates byproducts that benefit the world we live in in the form of compost or is infinitely recyclable without losing quality. Because of the industrial and technological revolutions we have participated in, the average contemporary process of design involves plenty of waste. Intelligent designers (no religious connotations) need to find materials that will be safe throughout the lifespan of their creations. As we become more conscious of greener design that takes many of its cues from Mother Nature herself, we will move towards William's goal of designing for all children for all time.



The final two talks cover the important debate surrounding the controversy of relying on aid for development. Both speakers gave their talks at the Global TED Conference 2007 in Arusha, Tanzania this year. Andrew Mwenda and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala both make excellent points about the issue. They have fairly different views, but can come to some agreement on certain aspects of the debate. Both of them end up stressing aid is alright, but only if it ends up being used on projects that will have a positive and lasing impact. Contrary to the theories of aid advocates like Bono (what are his credentials again?), Mr. Mwenda suggests that doubling aid arbitrarily or pouring aid into the administrations of developing countries is not a good idea. These leaders are often corrupt and manage the money poorly to say the least. In addition, when services are paid for by aid money it causes domestic populations to be less creative and entrepreneurial because solutions are being imposed from the outside. Ms. Okonjo-Iweala counters by arguing when you live in poverty, you do not care whether the doctor that saves the life of a relative is paid with aid money or not. Aid can save lives and aid can build infrastructure that can lead to increased incomes. Overall, the debate is quite enlightening and the conclusion clearly is that aid can be used for good, but is often wasted. Feedback is essential and not all aid projects are beneficial.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Should We Tell Africa?

I'm always amazed at how so many people know so little about the world they live in. While it would be quite the feat to be familiar with the cultures of every corner of the globe, many people simply don't care what goes on outside of their own lives. This global lack of a human connection really bothers me and it prevents humanity from working together to solve the world's problems.

To highlight this point, I have included a couple short clips from The Onion News Network, a collection of videos based on the satirical Onion Newspaper, started in my home town Madison, Wisconsin. Represent. America's finest news source always knows how to put things into perspective.


In The Know: Is Our Wealth Hurting Africa2019s Feelings?

In The Know: Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex

Kind of sad, but hopefully kind of inspiring.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Better Than Bad, It's...


Simple, elegant, good, it caught my eye not once but twice. It, was the magazine called GOOD and once I actually read it, I was hooked. GOOD is a relatively new publication about ideas. Or as they put it, "through a magazine, feature and documentary films, original multimedia content and local events, GOOD is providing a platform for the ideas, people, and businesses that are driving change in the world."

GOOD publishes articles about the realities of life and how people are making life better. You can discover new products and services like a power strip that cuts power to appliances that are switched off, preventing the unnecessary use of standby energy, saving you money and helping the environment. In Brooklyn there is a smoothie bar where you can save a dollar on your smoothie if you blend it yourself with a bicycle-powered blender. Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles works with gang members to keep them off, drugs, remove their tattoos and help find them jobs.

The writing in GOOD is excellent/superb and it reminds me of the alternative magazine at Colorado College, The Cipher. GOOD is probably what the Cipher would love to be, if you take the Cipher's obsession with hipsterishness out of the equation.

GOOD also gives a plethora of interesting statistics like 75 percent of pesticides sprayed from crop dusters blow away rather than reach their intended field. And:


The magazine comes out every two months so you know the issues will be packed with worthwhile features and many of their articles as well as other intriguing musings like videos and such can be found on that website, goodmagazine.com. Some of the videos are quite well constructed design-wise and the music is usually unique and fancy-tickling. Here are a couple of my favorites including one whose relevance to my life will grow in the coming months:





Another one of the funkilicious reasons to like GOOD is that if you subscribe through certain venues, they will donate 100% of the price to organizations working towards a better world, including Ashoka, the group featured in the book "How to Change the World" that I've written about below. So far GOOD has raised over $38,000 for Ashoka alone.

If I was ever to dabble in the media world I would look for a place like GOOD. Hopefully I'd be GOOD enough.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Human Renaissance Part One-Biofuels


The age of fossil fuels has ended. The time of mindless consumption is over. We've all been lazy. But now its time to redeem ourselves. It may take extra time, effort and money to live and design with more sustainability, but isn't our planet worth it?

One solution is to promote research and development in the field of biofuels. It's quite sad that the word "biofuel" is still a misspelling in Microsoft Word. It should be part of our everyday vocabulary. In an effort to appease the oil companies, the Bush Administration, while finally acknowledging climate change, has allowed the oil giants to overemphasize the benefits of their primary biofuel - corn ethanol. In reality, it is clear that ethanol will not be the solution to our massive problems.


Corn ethanol is actually quite pathetic compared to other potential and viable biofuels. Ethanol is not worth the energy that it takes to create. In an amazing article (the cover story "Growing Fuel") in National Geographic this month, the magazine reports that for every 1 unit of energy consumed to produce ethanol, the result is only 1.3 units of fuel, fuel that is weaker than conventional gasoline. While we encourage an unprecedented level of corn production domestically and overseas where farmers have replaced some food crops with corn (risky business if prices fall), other natural materials exist that are actually worth pursuing.


Brazil has been producing ethanol for years, but it's sticky liquid is of another variety. Brazilians use sugarcane to make their ethanol with amazing results. For 1 unit of energy used to make cane ethanol the result is 8 units of fuel. Cane also emits 56% less greenhouse gases than gasoline and yields twice as many gallons of fuel per acre as corn ethanol. In Brazil, cane ethanol is even cheaper than gas. While the climate of the United States is far from conducive to growing sugarcane, cane ethanol is an example of a biofuel that is actually worth investing in.


For Americans the answers could be found in further developing the technology to harvest fuels from plant cellulose and algae. Cellulose are the sugar molecules that form plant cell walls. And if the processes can be developed to make ethanol from this material, that means that the typical agricultural byproducts - stalks, leaves, grasses, and sawdust - could be utilized to produce up to 36 units of energy with the input of 1 energy unit, all with 91% less greenhouse gas emissions. The drawback at this point is cost, but it sounds worth pursuing. Wired magazine also ran a nice feature this month on cellulose called Switch., as in switch grass, one of the crops that could be a major fuel source. Algae is the plant with the most potential. It grows in wastewater and needs little sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow. Under the right conditions algae can double in mass in hours. Algae produces starch which can be processed into ethanol. The research is far from complete in terms of actually mass producing algae biofuel, but while an acre of corn can equal 300 gallons of ethanol per year, preliminary numbers suggest algae could yield over 5,000 gallons.


For developing countries that rely on agriculture while not possessing the most ideally arable soil, there exists a crop of increasing popularity that could produce biofuel in sub-par conditions while not drastically affecting food crops. It is called jatropha and it has been reported on in the New York Times and New Agriculturalist. Jatropha, traditionally considered a weed in some areas, can grow in dry dusty climates with little water. The jatropha seeds are what are eventually produced into biofuel. It's tenacious disposition and the fact that it can be grown along rows of food crops makes it ideal for much of the developing world, especially northern Africa where it has seen some success in Mali. Though subsistence African farmers shouldn't spend all their incomes on jatropha seeds quite yet, studies have demonstrated that its cost and energy output seem reasonable. Who knows whether the promise of these alternative biofuels will come to fruition, but hey I'd give 'em a shot.

In my research surrounding biofuels, I've concluded that until further pro-biofuel research has been published, the best thing the average consumer can do is vote for change politically and vote with their dollars. Support candidates that aren't tied down to huge influences like the oil companies and buy products that are socially and environmentally conscious. People talk about what the best gas stations to fill up their tanks are, but I've found that there are none. All the companies have poor human rights and environmental records. I propose you drive less or carpool and pay attention to new technologies as they mature. To truly reverse the damage we have caused to our planet all of us need to get involved, not just some of us. Let others know how they can consume less or consume more responsibly. The costs of acting now may seem high, but they will be nothing compared to the burden we (and future generations) will experience if we don't act. Pay attention. Inform yourself.

Photos by Candace Feit, Dan Winters

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Photographer Until Death

I was navigating through the New York Times website this evening when I came to an incredible photograph. Naturally I looked to the bottom right hand corner of the photo to check the credit and I wasn't surprised with what I found.

The image was taken by Joao Silva, a South African photojournalist and co-author of the book "The Bang Bang Club" written with Greg Marinovich. The "Bang Bang Club" details the hectic lives of four up and coming photojournalist in South Africa covering the brutal urban conflicts characterized by tribal violence known as the Hostel War in the years (the early 1990's) leading up to a democratic South African Administration. The four main photojournalists/friends unofficially known as the Bang Bang Club by their peers risked their lives on a daily basis to capture the horrific violence happening in the urban slums of Johannesburg.


Two of the four ended up winning Pulitzer Prizes for Photography, the highest honor in the field of photojournalism. Two of the four also ended up dead as a result of their high stakes career, Ken Oosterbroek was shot and killed covering the Hostel War and Kevin Carter committed suicide based on the twisted ethics of conflict photography. Silva and Marinovich wrote the book to shine light on the dangers of photography and to immortalize the lives of their lost friends.

Today Joao carries on the legacy of the Bang Bang Club as he continues to work in conflict zones all over the world. Now that is dedication. Joao is determined to document human-initiated atrocities for all to see to ensure that no deadly event is ignored or forgotten. These blemishes of humanity must be displayed and addressed so theoretically fewer will suffer needlessly in the future and justice will be served.

Here is Joao's photograph depicting the chaos he seeks to capture and that of his own tortured past. This photo is of Iraq. If you like the image, check out Joao's website as well as his book, "The Bang Bang Club."


I respect Joao Silva immensely.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Free Kristof, Kristof for Free


Its about time. The New York Times online finally ended their silly Timeselect subscription feature that locked certain articles, columist blogs and limited how far back readers could access articles in their database. Now the casual news browser can read an opinion column and then check out the blog of the author and see what other items of interest have been posted online by them.

Nick Kristof has been my favorite New York Times writer for a while now and it has been a treat to read what thoughts he has to share online that never are seen in print. On his blog called "On the Ground," Nick often includes video features on his blog from his travels to Africa (including Darfur), China and the Middle East. He highlights stories of struggle and stories of success. Right now however, his blog is better than ever and Nick hasn't posted in weeks.


Nick is currently writing a book about the rise of China and has thus taken some time off from his gig at the Times. To fill the void however, Nick asked a few friends to post articles in his absence, resulting an interesting mix of opinions and subject matter from African development to engaging lower income students in schools. The website has actually gotten better not worse without Nick (no offense). Here is a list of the writers and an impressive one at that:

Kurt Campbell is an expert on Asia and security issues who is now chief executive of the Center for a New American Security.

Will Okun is a Chicago school teacher who traveled with Nick Kristof in June to central Africa, on his win-a-trip contest.

Josh Ruxin is a Columbia University expert on public health who has spent the last couple of years living in Rwanda. He’s an unusual mix of academic expert and mud-between-the-toes aid worker.

Steve Radelet is a development expert who has lived for many years in Africa and Asia, taught at Harvard, and worked at the U.S. Treasury. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington and economic advisor for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is an international lawyer and the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Anne-Marie is the author of “The Idea that is America,” and she is spending this academic year in Shanghai.

Joseph Stiglitz is a Nobel-winning economist who has written incisively about the costs of our involvement in Iraq.

Naka Nathaniel is a NYTimes.com multimedia journalist and he frequently travels with Nick Kristof.

Not bad. It is also great to see the comments from other readers that show up in response to each post. Hope any curious New York Times reader will find something worthwhile at Nick's site. If not, there's always Fox News.


Photos by Will Okun and Ian Christmann

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

To Buy African? -Have Your Say


There is another really interesting BBC Have Your Say question this week I just had to highlight it, especially because it relates to the fair trade debate from the last post. This week's multi-part question is:

When you go shopping, do you consider where what you buy comes from, or do you just look at the price?

Do we do enough to support African farmers, suppliers and companies or is it more prestigious to buy western products?

African countries are currently negotiating a new trade deal with the European Union which could possibly lead to African markets being fully open to foreign produce.

Could Africa withstand such competition or does it still need some form of protective trade barrier?


After researching fair trade for the last post, I was able to clearly explain the benefits of buying fair trade today in the produce section where I work. I recommended a fair trade South African navel orange over a non-fair trade organic valencia. The customer really did care that the African farmer was treated well and received a fair price. That being said, I'll share a few of the posts at the BBC forum that really characterize the trade issue:

"You see, African goods are mostly farm products and raw produce. In Africa there is the mentality that if you have a European, American or Japanese goods you are better off than some one else. This is an economic taste of the poor. African consumers preference is guided by taste."

Obwota Omwony, Magwi, Sudan

"If people really want to help Africa, they should boycott buying their products which would send a clear message to the corrupt African governments that they should make their people's welfare a priority instead of relying on the rest of the world to constantly bail them out. This may sound rather cold - but when handful of men live in total luxury while the rest of country starves..."

Russ Higgins, Leamington Spa, United Kingdom

"With so many of us surviving on nothing (never mind the usual nonsensical reference to $1 a day), how many of us actually have the means to buy anything, home-made or imported? This is yet another attempt to divert critical attention from the real issue: our rulers' inability or unwillingness to create the basic institutions and infrastructure, without which we can never be in a position to engage in any sustainable economic activity."

AKPAN, Kent, UK/Nigeria

"The west is beginning to address the problems of Africa now; by re-addressing the unfair trade barriers between Africa and the EU. It is about time, the EU consumer, put their money where their mouth it; by actually buying "made in Africa" instead of the local produce, to help eradicate poverty and improve developments in Africa. Buy African produce instead of attending the so called " make poverty history" concerts with no African artist on the list!. I know which one I will go for."

modupe, London

"African goods should always come first. If we Africans fails to patronise our own, who else is going to? By buying our own products, we are keeping the money in the continent, creating job and boosting our economy. We Africans need to cultivate the habit of patronising our own first before going to the West or East. It is time for the West to open up their market for inflow of African products. Tit for tat is fair play."

Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA


Alright, now time for my comment:

"With the subsidies that European states are able to pay their producers, removing trade barriers would hurt African producers significantly. Even food "aid" from the United States ends up competing with African goods. African producers have it hard enough already and they can use all the help they can get. I say if you can, buy African. The nature of the world market is incredibly flawed and must be changed, but in the meantime let's make it as fair as it can be."

My comment was informed by a New York Times article about the Aid organization called CARE. CARE turned down millions in federal funding for food aid this year because the distribution system is designed mostly to benefit American companies as opposed to feeding the hungry, and highly subsidize American goods could compete with goods produced domestically in Africa. I admire CARE's stance in opposing the food aid system and I hope they get more support from it. When it comes down to it, the realm of development could use a lot development itself in actually becoming useful for raising standards of living and lifting people out of poverty.

As I took a break from working, near the end of my shift tonight I sipped on a pomegranate and goji berry tea made by Honest Tea with fair trade rooibos from South Africa (red tea) and damn did it taste good. African products can be delicious, I just wish they didn't all come from South Africa.

Photos by Evelyn Hockstein/New York Times

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Fair Trade Debate


Working in a market where we sell fair trade products I wanted to know more about this rising certification. The Fair Trade label is has been spreading rapidly as of late and it cannot be ignored anymore. In principle the idea of leveling the market playing field with fair trade is a good one, but not everyone thinks so.

Fair Trade principles include:

-Fair prices: Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farmer organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.

-Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.

-Direct trade: With Fair Trade, importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace.

-Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers decide democratically how to invest Fair Trade revenues.

-Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification.

-Environmental sustainability: Harmful agrochemicals and GMOs are strictly prohibited in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations.


Fair Trade is currently the main answer the question of whether the market is fair. But is Fair Trade the only answer and are there other questions we should be asking? Please watch this short film promoting fair trade made by Transfair, the only United States Fair Trade certifier.

Find more videos like this on EQ CONNECT

The idea seems glamorous enough and I agree with all the principles, especially the idea of ending child labor by ensuring children go to schools with scholarships, but there has been some debate that has arisen as to whether this is the right way to deal with market failures that perpetuate poverty.


One argument is that establishing price floors for goods such as coffee will encourage many more producers to go fair trade and this will lead to oversupply and lower prices for producers. In reality fair trade currently represents only a small percentage of world trade and there is significant room for additional demand. In addition, Producers in developing countries may deserve to earn more because their goods are undervalued. Fair trade also represent only a niche in each individual market and doesn't threaten to take over industries.

Others argue similarly that when more people join the fair trade sector and produce, prices could fall hurting non fair trade producers. To counter that argument, evidence suggests that fair trade raises prices across the board by improving infrastructure and distribution systems which lower the costs for distributors and allows them to pay more. I'm not quite sure about either of these perspectives at this point. I think more research will have to be completed as fair trade increases in popularity to witness the effects on non fair trade producers.

Another opposition is that fair trade typically only deals with cooperatives of small farms and ignores plantations or large individual farms. The counterargument to this would seem to me to be that the individuals that need to be most educated about about working conditions, agricultural chemicals and trade would be the small producers. Maybe in the future the programs could expand to include farms of various sizes granted they were admitted to the cooperatives. The cooperatives are essential in being the educating body.

As you can see, a full length research paper could be written about the controversy surrounding fair trade, but there is one more essential argument that I need to bring up, though countless other questions remain (Why only one US certifier? Which countries can be fair trade?). Fair trade does not fully address the true cause of the unfair market which is the establishment of huge farming subsidies in the United States and Europe. This question unfortunately has no answer at the moment, but in my opinion this is what really needs to be focused on. I think fair trade is an acceptable short term solution until the world economy is ready to be restructured enough to allow for legitimate equal competition.


Images from Transfair.