Oct 30, 2010

Pure chocolate

How good is good enough? At what point do we activists risk settling for what's attainable instead of what really should happen, and at what point do we go the opposite way and not get anything accomplished because of high ideals?

The spark for this musing is a lovely YES Magazine article on activist trick-or-treating, in which children go door-to-door GIVING fair-trade chocolate to people along with educational materials about the evils of the normal chocolate trade.

A friend for whom I have immense respect responded, "I would entertain this idea if and only if the chocolates were made with unrefined whole sugar. Many (if not most) fairly traded chocolate products that I see around are made with refined sugar, under one of its fancy marketing names - organic sugar, cane juice, raw sugar, sucanat, and others. Refined sugar, in my view unsustainable in the human body, is hardly an activist symbol I'd want my child to be promoting. (And then we'd have to talk about the milk powder in so many organic/fair trade chocolates.)"

I agree with her, and yet also hear myself saying that tired refrain, "We can never be perfect, so let's take this not-so-small step first." To push the idealism even further, I would add to the list that the chocolate should only be locally produced to minimize carbon footprint. Then add that we shouldn't be eating it anyways. But that would be a whole different and ultimately doomed campaign.

But we can win small battles. Look at the awareness and behavior change around fair-trade coffee. I don't support the industry at all, don't think people should be encouraged in this massive carbon-footprint emitting, money-wasting, time-wasting, body-weakening, dependency-forming global drug addiction. But at least the women and men and children producing the drug are finally being paid a living wage, a closer-to-fair cut in the whole racket. That's significant, as watered down as it is.

So given that North America is addicted to chocolate, the most important and most achievable first step is the fair trade and organic issue. We've done it with coffee, why not chocolate? We can afford it, the world's farmers can supply it. Let's create a will to make it happen. And what better ambassadors for chocolate and child labour than children?

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