Wednesday, July 1, 2009

From Africa, To Africa

I bought some coffee from Starbucks today. It's called "From Africa, To Africa" and as the name implies it's an African coffee and revenue from the product goes back to African farmers. That's nice.

Jane told me about it and she was really excited about it - she doesn't tout it much, but she actually really cares about helping people, she's a lovely person - so I bought it. It's actually quite good, though I'm not a huge coffee drinker because I have a delicate stomach.

The whole (red) line finds itself on the end of a lot of criticism, a lot. I'll admit that I seem like I'd be in that camp, but I'm not. We live in a consumer based society and at the moment there isn't much we can do about it on a grand scale. Companies aren't required to give any profits to anyone other than the shareholders of that company, and many of them simply don't. Thanks to NAFTA and it's ilk, companies aren't required to practice fair trade, and many of them simply don't. Thanks to deregulation the food industry isn't required to use products not tainted by growth hormones, and many of them simply don't. Starbucks does. See here: charities (ones they don't tout, they just do), fair trade, unmodified milk. Yeah, they actually do what they claim to do. Do you? Yes, that's a general rule, if you're going to call someone on it, you better damn well do it yourself.

Could Starbucks do better? God yes. Everyone could, and unless you live in a mud brick house, grow your own food, and use the sun as your only source of light, so could you. We could all do better, but most of us don't even try, Starbucks does and they deserve credit for that. Remember, this is a company that isn't exactly doing well either, so it's not like they have money to spend on this type of thing.

I'm not saying don't pressure them, by all means, write them letters and ask them to be more Green. Please do. For instance, they could put solar panels on some of their roofs, that'd be a nice start. I'm not on Starbucks' side, but calling them out for actually doing stuff is a bit crass. Who cares if they market it, they actually did it and that's what matters.

Starbucks isn't the enemy. They do some less than desirable things, yes, but they also do a lot more good than many other companies. You want a company that destroys lives, jobs, health, and the environment? Look no further than Monsanto. Want to make a difference? Stop them, not Starbucks. Starbucks doesn't have the blood of an entire town on their hands, Monsanto does: meet Anniston, Alabama. There's also the whole Agent Orange and the blood of an entire nation thing as well.

I also have to say, the (red) campaign is to raise awareness of AIDS in Africa. Believe it or not, many Americans simply aren't aware of the scope of the problem. You can blame this on a number of things, mainly the public schools and their infatuation with test scores while ignoring issues of worldly concern. There's another thing you can rail on. It needs to be advertised, that's how you get people's attention in America. When they went on Oprah and talked about (red), that was a big moment, that got people's attention. The companies involved made that moment happen.

I'm not arguing against traditional charity, that's a wonderful, wonderful thing. If you do it. But if you don't do it, don't you dare mention it.

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