Tuesday, February 5, 2008

An Organic Wave Worldwide Part 3


When we buy local sustainable foods we support a new food paradigm where local communities reap the benefits of trade, rather than a few multinational corporations. This doesn't mean we have to stop all food trade or no longer buy special foods from other regions of the world. But it does mean shifting our priorities so that we create a staple of local foods wherever possible. This way, food is only imported in places where local resources can't sustain the community.

Buy Fair-Trade and Organic Imports

It is important, when we buy food from other countries, particularly from the developing world, that we make sure the product was grown and harvested in an environmentally and socially ethical way—which means buying fair trade and organic as much as possible. When any of us eats from local, organic food sources, we are less likely to contribute to the exploitation of another country's people or precious natural resources. Not every region or community can or should produce all its food. But it doesn't make sense for poor, underdeveloped areas of the world to grow cash crops for other countries when their own people go hungry. Nor does it make sense for wealthy countries to import cash crops when they are already growing the same kinds of foods in abundance.

Diet Start

Drink Ethical Coffee

If you are a daily coffee drinker, like I am, then every morning you can do something to reduce your chemical exposure, support safe farming practices, and protect our tropical forests. For instance, by purchasing shade-grown coffee, you invest in a crop that was grown by a farmer under the umbrella of a rain forest—protecting the jungles and even migratory birds of the world. If it's not shade-grown, your coffee could very well be grown on a clear-cut, factory-style plantation, completely dependent on agrochemicals.

Shade-grown coffee requires less and sometimes no chemical fertilizers because the plants that are part of the forest's complex ecosystem naturally add nutrients to the soil. Even water irrigation isn't necessary because the canopy of trees provides enough shade to slow the water loss from evaporation. In Peru, a farmer who grows coffee in the shade of a forest can earn 30 percent of his income from other sales, such as firewood, fruits, and medicinal plants— all natural features of the shade system. If you want complete assurance no agrochemicals were used on the crops, then certified organic is the way to go.

Fair-trade coffee means that you invested in a system that pays growers a "fair price" for the coffee painstakingly grown. Shockingly, companies that don't practice fair trade pay the average coffee grower less than $3 a day. Imagine— each day farmers have to feed their families, educate their children, and maintain their homes and business with the same amount of money that the average Americans pays for a latte. If everyone were to insist on only drinking ethical coffee, we would help rural farmers retain their dignity as well as ownership of their land (keeping it out of corporate control). We would reduce the amount of chemicals polluting the planet. We'd protect the future of migratory birds. And we could preserve almost 25 million acres of rain forest a year.

One cup at a time we can help reverse the trend of forest destruction. Forests and woodlands can and will grow back in most cases—not immediately and not exactly as they were before—but nature is resilient and eternally creative. So each time you buy a bag of beans or sip a cup of coffee you can fully enjoy its roasted, aromatic pleasures, knowing that you are protecting the world's tropical farmers and their precious landscapes.

... andjoyohoxing