Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Chocolate matters

April 4, 2007

I watched an article on Newsnight last week about the exploitation of child labour on the cocoa farms of the Ivory coast. The BBC web site recently posted a similar article about how child Cocoa workers are still exploited. The likelihood is that the chocolate we eat day-to-day is made at least in part from cocoa beans grown on farms where children are slaves.

Frankly this is shocking – that thousands of children are still being forced to work as slaves so that one luxury product for us can be a few pence cheaper. As always the issues are complex, and need the government’s involvement, are greatly exacerbated by corruption, are ultimately caused by extreme poverty and will not be easily solved. But my heart goes out to these children who face grave risks and are forced to work with no reward for what reason? Surely more can be done?

Fortunately there is some chocolate that is guaranteed to be ‘traffik free’, such as fair trade chocolate – see the Stop The Traffik website for more details. I’m often a bit lethargic about campaigns, but I just can’t rest in my heart in being lethargic about this. I think we should all refuse to buy any chocolate that might be produced as a result of child labour. Effectively this limits us to buying fair trade chocolate and fair trade chocolate products.

This involves some sacrifice. Only buying fair trade chcoclate bars isn’t so hard – they’re a bit more expensive, but usually taste nicer! But I also like food with chocolate in it. Shortly after seeing this news item I went to Tesco for the weekly shop – great they have some Value plain chocolate digestives I thought! Then I thought, oh no, it’s not traffik-free chocolate. In fact there are far fewer fair trade chocolate products. In the end I had to buy biscuits without any chocolate in them. I can tell you that they’re getting eaten a lot slower. But sometimes we need to do something, no matter how simple or small it is, in the hope that this one day may make a difference. If I don’t, what will I be able to say to my Lord – and the child slave’s Lord too.


March 1, 2007

Just before leaving for Spain I watched an article on the BBC news describing the perilous 1000 mile sea journey that many Senegalese people were making, aiming to reach the Canary islands with the hope of a new life in Spain. The article made quite an impact on me. On one hand, you couldn’t help be angry at the exploitation of desperate people, with gangs demanding exhorbitant fees for smuggling them across the ocean in a way that would mean the death of many at sea. But also I was quite moved by the testimony of some who had taken, or were about to take, such a journey. They did not want to leave their country or family members but felt that they had ‘no other choice’.

When we were in Spain, we were in reality immigrants ourselves for 6 weeks, and this experience gave me an even greater sense of admiration for these ‘illegal immigrants’. Despite the fact that both the UK and Spain are developed European countries, and hence fairly similar, and even though I spoke a reasonable level of Spanish I was quite culture shocked for the first week there. Everything was just a bit different and all the familiarity of knowing how to do every little thing in your own country is suddenly stripped away. And I found it really frustrating just not quite being able to communicate what I wanted to, or understand enough of what people were saying to me. This shock must be far greater if you speak nothing of the language, come from a far more distinct culture and are not about to go home again in 6 weeks. It just made me realise how desperate the poverty of people must be that they are willing to face potential death, family separation, and all this for just the hope of something better somewhere else in a strange land.

The whole issue of migration is a difficult one. No a country cannot practically open its borders to everybody who may wish to enter it. So while there is more concern for those refugees who are fleeing for their lives, there is often little sympathy for the economic migrants. While this is understandable, I don’t think it’s right. It doesn’t seem likely to me that the decision to move to a new country in search of work is one that will made lightly, easily or at little personal cost for anyone. While we do need to find solutions to the problems of migration I think we’d be better off looking at ways of solving the dreadful poverty that pushes people to leave their own, friendly lands, rather than just trying to find ways of stopping them coming in, or getting rid of them once they’ve arrived.

Climate change – why bother …?

November 29, 2006

The EU set new limits for the second phase of its carbon trading scheme today. The allowances set are to an average of 7% below the figures proposed by member states – which is a welcome strengthening of the commitment to cut carbon emissions. James Cameron suggested that today’s decision could be “one the most important decisions about the planet’s future for years to come”.

But others have commented that the cuts as they stand, which only affect some of the heavy carbon producing industries in only some EU countries, will have little impact in the face of the steadily increasing global carbon emissions. And if the cuts are too severe then UK and other EU industries will suffer, become uncompetitive, and lose out to their global competitors who don’t have such strict environmental legislation. So why bother?

You have to recognise that this is a valid argument. But then why should we bother with anything if we have to take the lead and suffer for it in some small way? It would be perfectly reasonable to only make a move when you could enjoy an immediate benefit, or when all the pain has been borne by the others who did make the first move. But if everyone kept to this logic, what would we be without? And if we keep to it about climate change, we could well be without a reasonably habitable world before long. As a Christian I believe that God did ‘bother’ about us, and I’m so glad he did.

But enough pointing fingers at others. What about me? – and you! I also watched ‘Newsnight’ the other day, where a reported explained how he had ‘given up’ the family car for 6 months at his producer’s insistence. In these 6 months he discovered they didn’t actually need it except for a few weeks of family holidays each year. Although having no car caused some inconvenience, they generally didn’t miss it. Combining this with a commitment to only fly rarely, they reduced their family’s ‘carbon emissions’ by over 70% I think. And change for environmental good isn’t the only area where ‘why bother?’ comes in. What areas are there where I feel I can’t be bothered because, well what difference will my action make in the grand scheme of things? And it’s just too inconvenient. Will I bother …?

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