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Today’s Out of Sight Reading Group – Chapters 3 & 4 (Update)

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Rachel Carson

Loomis is around to take your questions and respond to comments on chapters 3 – Outsourcing Pollution and 4 – Hidden Food, Broken Workers.

(Update) Could you talk a little about the rift between unions and environmental groups? Are you seeing any signs of rapprochement there?

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After reading the chapters, I just have a random thought. It seems that corporations operating abroad and in the U.S. believe that best practices should include poisoning and maiming the current workforce while it cripples the children of those workers. I assume that if one area becomes so blighted that there isn’t a sufficient workforce, corporations will move to another area and start again. Or perhaps there will be more contracting out of indentured servitude and slavery. That seems to be very popular and worth the P.R. headaches when word does get out.

Also, thanks to this book I have another reason – besides the fact that is nasty – never to eat another Hershey’s “chocolate” product.

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  • After reading the chapters, I just have a random thought. It seems that corporations operating abroad and in the U.S. believe that best practices should include poisoning and maiming the current workforce while it cripples the children of those workers. I assume that if one area becomes so blighted that there isn’t a sufficient workforce, corporations will move to another area and start again. Or perhaps there will be more contracting out of indentured servitude and slavery. That seems to be very popular and worth the P.R. headaches when word does get out.

    While internal corporate documents might say this in different terms or not say it directly, essentially the answer is yes.

  • Linnaeus

    I actually like Hershey’s products, but it seems you can’t get any chocolate product that hasn’t produced in some way by screwing someone over.

    • It’s a horrible industry. But it doesn’t have to be horrible. I think that’s the point of the book. We don’t have to overthrow capitalism to have a reasonably just society. But we do have to tame corporations and the only way to do that is to hold them legally accountable for, say, any children harvesting their cacao. We’ve held corporations accountable for child labor before and we can do so again, but it does have to be on an international scale.

  • djb

    I’ve been trying to learn more about fair trade coffee, but I’m still trying to get a handle on the issue. This article, though dated, seems to indicate that there are problems with the system that range from incentivizing growers to sell their lower quality beans under the fair trade label, to the costs of getting fair trade certification, and even the types of growing operations that can be classified as fair trade.

    I must confess that I haven’t fully read the article (I am both lazy and busy), but I was hoping that you could shed some light on the subject.

    Would you say that fair trade regulations as they stand accomplish their goals? I’d like to be able to talk to my coffee roaster about making sure his products are ethically sourced, but the more that I look into things the more confused I get.

    • Couple of thoughts on this sort of thing.

      First, without legal ramifications, any system like free trade is going to be susceptible to problems like you describe. This is party of the reason that I strongly believe our solutions to national and international exploitation has to be enacted into legal codes. Long term, the courts are the closest thing to a guarantor of rights.

      So it’s entirely possible that the fair trade coffee isn’t really that great. On the other hand, a) if it’s not fair trade, it really probably isn’t good at all and b) we can also push for better monitoring systems and other forms of accountability outside of the legal codes I ultimately advocate for. So who is doing the monitoring? Is there one group that is better than others? Are there ways to influence this process? I’m not a coffee drinker so I don’t know too much about the details of the industry specifically. But generally, these are questions we can ask and act upon.

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