Rushmoor Fairtrade meeting

Fairtrade meeting Rushmoor

Fairtrade meeting Rushmoor

A film on Fairtrade, a brief presentation by schoolchildren on their work on Fairtrade, and a quiz.

The film showed tea pickers in Malawi, the difference Fairtrade made to their lives, a fairer price for their tea, and a premium to be paid for community projects.

The film begged more questions than it gave answers. Why was the focus not on food sovereignty? They should be growing food, cash crops for extras. Cash crops simply brings villagers into the cash economy, where they are the guaranteed losers, as it is global commodity market not workers that determine price. One of the workers said, she could barely afford maize (which is their staple diet). Why therefore were they not growing maize?

Fairtrade is now somewhat dated. Yes, it was useful for raising awareness, and yes it can be a useful big stick with which to beat the likes of Starbucks and Costa, but beyond that no.

Many coffee roasters I speak to will not touch Fairtrade. They find it adds to their overheads, is very bureaucratic, and the organisation is a nightmare to deal with.

Quality coffee roasters are interested in quality. It is what their reputation rests upon. They prefer to deal with the growers direct, determine the conditions, set higher standards than the minimum set by Fairtrade.

The schoolchildren have only been working on Fairtrade for four months, and already are looking at sourcing a Fairtrade top as part of their school uniform.

I had chat with them. I said a must organic cotton, as cotton a very dirty, water and chemical intensive crop, the cotton unbleached.

Where are the tops produced? Suggested check out Labour Behind the Label. Also industry regulator Fair Wear Foundation who are on the ground checking out the factories.

I mentioned Russell Brand and how he had had his fingers burnt, he sourced what he thought was ethical t-shirts and sweatshirts from Belgium-based  Stanley & Stella, only to be the subject of an expose in the Daily Mail, shock horror, Russell Brand exploiting Bangladeshi workers in their sweatshops to expand his evil clothing empire.

Slow fashion. Unbleached natural organic cotton, kinder on the environment, softer on the skin, looks good too. If dyes are to be used, then natural dyes.

Cotton is a very dirty crop. It uses vast amounts of water, huge amounts of chemicals. More water, more chemicals in the processing of the cotton. The clothes are usually made in Third World sweatshops.

Industrial cotton is one of the most environmentally damaging crops that Man grows. Organic cotton is much pleasanter to wear. Organic cotton is biodegradable and can easily be recycled.

Industrial cotton requires an enormous amount of pesticide to keep it viable. Each pound of product requires a third of a pound of pesticides, which adds up to 25 percent of all pesticides used in the US for 13 million acres of cotton. Many cotton pesticides are EPA toxicity class I, like the viciously effective insecticides Methomyl and Methyl Parathion. A study by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation revealed that pesticide usage per acre increased during the 1991 to 1995 period by 4.21 pounds to 14.15 pounds per acre. The reality in the Third World, where pesticide regulation is more relaxed, is much worse.

Commercial white cotton is by far the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world and a major global crop. Fifty-five countries rely upon cotton for a significant percent of GDP. Cotton processing also takes another toxic toll, as the use of chlorine bleaching agents, formaldehydes and phenols is quite dangerous to all life. Fabric dyes utilizing arsenic, lead, cadmium, cobalt, zinc, and chromium are also very problematic. All processing stages produce large amounts of toxic wastewater. Azo dyes are cheap and common, about 2,000 exist. Many are water based and possess highly carcinogenic material absorbed by the skin and accumulated in the body. Inhalation, aquatic exposure or simple skin contact can be harmful. The EU has banned import and usage of the more toxic versions containing arylamines, though these products are used elsewhere. Other acid dyes produce waste streams with pH values above 11 and with possible carcinogen content.

Organic cotton is good for the planet, good for ourselves.

Natural cotton does not have to be any colour so long as it is off-white. Cotton grows in varying hues from purple to brown. Cross-breeding programmes have selected cotton of red, blue, green. This eliminates the need for dyes.

Slow fashion would set a standard. Clothes that look good, clothes that last. Style not fashion. Fashion is consumer addiction.

The look of the top not good. There are better designs. Check out Stanley & Stella for their design of tops. They will find far better approval by the schoolchildren as far more stylish and looks good.

If people ask questions where their clothes come from, we would see an improvement.

Labour Behind the Label are the people to talk to about sweatshops.

The schoolchildren and the film reminded me of schoolgirl Martha Payne who raised the money for a school kitchen in Malawi.

The quiz went on for ever, far too long.

Money raised for Nepal earthquake victims. It will go to DEC, but I would question this. Red Cross had a bad reputation in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and an even worse reputation in Haiti following an earthquake. All of which does not bode well for Nepal.

It would be far far better the money goes direct to a local group working in Nepal.

When Abari arrived in Dhawa, they found the school they had built was one of the few buildings that has survived.

Abari is a socially and environmentally committed research, design and construction firm that examines, encourages, and celebrates the vernacular architectural tradition of Nepal. As Nepal posses sophisticated traditional knowledge of natural materials like adobes, bamboos, stones and reed, Abari as a research and design firm tries to promulgate these materials into contemporary design practices.

Abari has put all its projects on hold whilst it focuses on disaster relief, but they also show where the future lies.

There is a risk the money going through Abari, but it is a risk worth taking. Money on salaries, will go to local people, which is money going into the local economy at grass roots where it is most needed.

I sat through the meeting thinking, what was the point, why was I wasting my time.

Great, if you are a fan of pub quzzes (I am not).

What did the meeting achieve apart from raising a little bit of money for Nepal (which may or may not be wisely spent)? Not a lot.

I was surprised the meeting was packed, as there was no publicity. Nothing on Rushmoor website, nothing on Triangle facebook page.

There are trade issues, and there is serious campaigning and lobbying needed.

TTIP is an affront to democracy, power transferred to global corporations, the ability in secret trade courts to quash environmental and labour laws if impinges on profit.

UK Aid is financing a carve up of Africa by Big Business.

85 people have as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population.

Films to show.

Black Gold, a look at the coffee trade through the eyes of an Ethiopian farmer.

The True Cost looks at the fashion industry.

Read No Logo and This Changes Everything both by Naomi KleinRevolution by Russell Brand and The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho.

Any future Fairtrade meetings need to be far better publicized, bring people in off the street, make the meetings interesting, discuss real issues. Every decision we make should be an ethical one, if we buy something, do we really need it, or are we as Pope Francis would say, adding to a pile of filth?

The Fairtrade meeting, tinkering at the edges, a distraction, people buying a few Fairtrade biscuits, going way with the false impression they have done their bit.

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One Response to “Rushmoor Fairtrade meeting”

  1. keithpp Says:

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