Thursday, February 07, 2008

V-Day Q&A

Q: What are the most common Valentine's Day gifts?

Let's look at Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. West Africa is the number one cocoa producing location in the world. The production of cocoa is a very arduous process. Currently, cocoa-producing nations get paid roughly a dollar per pound. However, cocoa distributors charge around $17/lb. Quite a pricing disparity. This is made more complicated by the IMF's involvement through structural adjustment policies. Both of the top cocoa-producing countries have loans through the IMF. What happens when a country is indebted, is that the IMF examines their economic structure. This usually means subsistence crops meant to feed communities are cut or eliminated. Then funding is cut for social services. This then attracts foreign investment dollars. Great, right? Or wait, maybe not. The money people are making from cocoa production, which is not much, is earmarked to repay loans. There are fewer resources for subsistence and money-making that way. There are few or no social service supports remaining in tact. As well, the money flowing from foreign investments only benefits those dollars' countries of origin. So, while Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana are top-producing nations, they are likely to get stuck in a cycle of extreme poverty with few options. Higglers are beginning to change the bleak economic outlook, but it may not be enough.
So, give the gift of global economic exploitation with chocolates!

Stuffed animals:
Maybe I'm a humbug, but I cannot see a reason to give the gift of a stuffed animal. Anyone care to help me out? They are great for children and babies. They bring great joy to little ones who hopefully bring joy to others. But giving the gift of a stuffed bear to a grown person seems to be consistent with a trend of infantilization. As well as poor use of resources and the global assembly line. If I am going to be guilty of exploiting the labor of underpaid women, I do not want it to be for an animal that gets shoved in the closet to be forgotten forever.
This year give the gift of exploited wage labor. Look at my snuggly stuffed Maquilladora worker!

I happen to be of the school of thought that does not believe every kiss begins with "Kay." Why are we ripping rocks out of the ground for vanity's sake? Mining is one of the planet's leading polluters, and is threatening some of the world's most ecologically fragile regions. The environmental impact from diamond mining is much like any other open pit mine, the problems stem from waste disposal,leeching and ground water pollution. Once vegetation and soil is stripped away, salts, irons and other nutrients are not naturally filtered as water seeps into the ground. This allows organisms, nutrients, plus oil and other machine related waste, to enter ground water. Species and habitat loss would change dramatically from site to site and continent to continent, but would always be present.
This year, give the gift of contaminated drinking water! I only drink coke, anyway.

Above all else, enjoy your consumer holiday! Not doing so would be short-sided.