When we are enjoying our morning cup, or anything we eat or drink for that matter, most of us do not think much about how it got to us. And yet, if we knew that the item came to us at a cost far beyond what we paid like the mistreatment of others or the destruction of the earth, would we think twice about our purchase? Many people do everyday, when it comes to their coffee at least, by looking at the story behind their cup of coffee and seeking out certifications like fair trade, direct trade or rainforest alliance.
The ethics of coffee is a hotly debated topic and as a result ends up in the news on a daily basis. An article on the AFP Newswire called “Ethical Coffee Helps Save Peruvian Rainforest” says that the Rainforest Alliance stamp in the case of Peruvian farmers is working. “My parents systematically deforested in order to plant more coffee plants. Now we know that this was a mistake," said Evangelino Condori Rojas who has a small plantation near Quillabamba in the east of the country.” This generation of farmers has returned to more traditional ways of farming and their methods have been approved by The Rainforest Alliance. According to the Rainforest Alliance’s website, “Our independent seal of approval ensures that goods and services were produced in compliance with strict guidelines protecting the environment, wildlife, workers and local communities.”
Another author talks about Fair Trade being rubbish. Gene Callahan, an adjunct scholar at The Foundation for Economic Education, writes in his article “Fair-trade coffee: not worth a hill of beans”, “The intention is noble enough, but the impact on human lives is tragic. Instead of lifting exploited farmers out of debt and poverty, fair trade tends to diminish their prospects and hurt overall economic development.” I am sure that many would disagree with this view.
Whether you agree with Fair Trade, Direct Trade or the Rainforest Alliance certifications or not the question remains: Can we really save the world through ethical coffee? We do what we can because doing nothing is not an option. In keeping the issues alive and demanding that something be done, we are raising the consciousness of the world. Until we care about the issues of all people and treasure and value our planet, we run the risk of destroying ourselves.