American Apparel Adventure

May 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

It was only a few months ago that I discovered American Apparel is a sweatshop-free, made in America clothing line (hence the name American Apparel). Before that, I’d passed it many times but never went in – it seemed like the same sort of clothing you could find at Old Navy or Banana Republic. But upon discovering their merchandise is not produced in sweatshops, I decided it was worth checking out.

Turns out I was completely wrong about it being a generic clothing store. There are many pieces in fashion now that are eighties revival that I like, some that I sort of understand, some that I would never wear but think might look trendy on a few brave souls. But I could only describe their line as Denise Huxtable whacked out totally eighties-style clothing. I actually stood confused at the front of the store for a few minutes  because I felt like I’d walked into the wrong decade.

After looking around a bit, I found a shirt that I actually liked and ended up buying. That was a lucky find though because I’m neither ‘trendy’ enough nor brave enough to wear most of the clothing in the store. They do have undergarments and nice accessories which I think would be worth a trip there a few times a year. But otherwise, I was pretty disappointed. Maybe the solution is for me to be more daring in my clothing choices? Maybe not.

CNN: ‘We take risks, others pay the price’ Naomi Klein

May 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

TED: ‘Addicted to Risk’

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CNN: ‘We take risks, others pay the price’
By Naomi Klein, Special to CNN
February 20, 2011

(CNN) — When I met George Awudi, a leader of Friends of the Earth Ghana, he was wearing a bright red T-shirt that said “Do Not Incinerate Africa.” We were both attending the World Social Forum, a sprawling gathering of tens of thousands of activists held earlier this month in Dakar, Senegal.

Amid that political free-for-all — with mini-protests breaking out against everything from Arab despots to education cuts — I assumed that Awudi’s T-shirt referred to some local environmental struggle I hadn’t heard of, perhaps a dirty incinerator in Ghana.

He set me straight: “No, it’s about climate change.” Specifically, the combative slogan refers to the refusal of industrialized nations to commit to deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Since the hottest and poorest countries on the planet are being hit first and hardest by rising temperatures, that refusal will mean, according to Awudi, that large parts of Africa “will be incinerated.”

He was quick to clarify that he did not think that people from wealthy countries actively want Africa to “burn” — it’s just that they want “to hold on to their interests,” including “interests of profit-making.”

But there is something deeper at play too, Awudi said. “It’s a mentality that they have imported from the colonial days. A mentality of looking down upon people” from Africa. It is that mentality, he argued, that makes it possible to barrel ahead with economic policies that carry growing and glaring risks.

I decided to focus my TED talk on the psychology of reckless risk-taking, because I see that impulse at work behind so many of the catastrophes of recent years: the BP disaster, the invasion of Iraq, the financial sector collapse, and the ongoing refusal to take meaningful action in the face of climate change.

Again and again, policymakers ignore mountains of evidence warning of catastrophe, opting instead to roll the dice and hope for the best.

There are all kinds of explanations for what drives this sort of short-term decision-making, with greed and hubris cited most frequently. Less discussed, but possibly more important, is the phenomenon that Awudi referenced: that the people taking the risks often feel distinctly distant from, if not outright superior to, the people most endangered by their decisions.

Many of our greatest risk-takers are also convinced that they personally will be spared from the worst consequences should things go terribly wrong.

In most cases, this is not an irrational assumption. The U.S. government’s decision to invade Iraq was disastrous for Iraqis, whose country spiraled out of control, but in large parts of the U.S., that war is virtually invisible.

Multinational oil and gas companies are so hypermobile that a disaster in one part of the world just means concentrating on new “energy plays” somewhere else. And then there are the bankers who caused the 2008 collapse. Billions around the world have paid the price for their recklessness, but the financial sector itself has been largely insulated from all but the most token reprimands.

With climate change, the gap between those who created the crisis and those who pay the price is widest of all.

It is the historical emissions from the industrialized world that are responsible for the dangerous accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere. Yet in North America and Europe, where we have the infrastructure to deal with extreme weather (just don’t mention New Orleans), many of us feel we have the luxury to debate whether the phenomenon is even happening.

Meanwhile, African nations like Ghana, that contributed least to the crisis, are already facing crippling droughts and devastating floods, without the tools to cope.

All of this has led me to conclude that the central challenge of our time is tackling deep inequality, and changing the stories that we tell ourselves to justify our enormous privilege.

In a deeply divided world like ours, there is simply too much distance between the people with unchecked power to make grave mistakes and those who have to suffer the effects.

Only when we feel that our fates are genuinely intertwined will we understand that a fire that starts in Africa will eventually incinerate us all.

The Guardian: Apple’s Chinese workers treated ‘inhumanely, like machines’

May 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Guardian UK

Gethin Chamberlain
Saturday 30 April 2011

Investigation finds evidence of draconian rules and excessive overtime to meet western demand for iPhones and iPads

An investigation into the conditions of Chinese workers has revealed the shocking human cost of producing the must-have Apple iPhones and iPads that are now ubiquitous in the west.

The research, carried out by two NGOs, has revealed disturbing allegations of excessive working hours and draconian workplace rules at two major plants in southern China. It has also uncovered an “anti-suicide” pledge that workers at the two plants have been urged to sign, after a series of employee deaths last year.

The investigation gives a detailed picture of life for the 500,000 workers at the Shenzhen and Chengdu factories owned by Foxconn, which produces millions of Apple products each year. The report accuses Foxconn of treating workers “inhumanely, like machines”.

Among the allegations made by workers interviewed by the NGOs – the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations and Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom) – are claims that:

■ Excessive overtime is routine, despite a legal limit of 36 hours a month. One payslip, seen by the Observer, indicated that the worker had performed 98 hours of overtime in a month.

■ Workers attempting to meet the huge demand for the first iPad were sometimes pressured to take only one day off in 13.

■ In some factories badly performing workers are required to be publicly humiliated in front of colleagues.

■ Crowded workers’ dormitories can sleep up to 24 and are subject to strict rules. One worker told the NGO investigators that he was forced to sign a “confession letter” after illicitly using a hairdryer. In the letter he wrote: “It is my fault. I will never blow my hair inside my room. I have done something wrong. I will never do it again.”

■ In the wake of a spate of suicides at Foxconn factories last summer, workers were asked to sign a statement promising not to kill themselves and pledging to “treasure their lives”.

Foxconn produced its first iPad at Chengdu last November and expects to produce 100m a year by 2013. Last year Apple sold more than 15m iPads worldwide and has already sold close to five million this year.

When the allegations were put to Foxconn by the Observer, manager Louis Woo confirmed that workers sometimes worked more than the statutory overtime limit to meet demand from western consumers, but claimed that all the extra hours were voluntary. Workers claim that, if they turn down excessive demands for overtime, they will be forced to rely on their basic wage: workers in Chengdu are paid only 1,350 yuan (£125) a month for a basic 48-hour week, equivalent to about 65p an hour.

Asked about the suicides that have led to anti-suicide netting being fitted beneath the windows of workers’ dormitories, Woo said: “Suicides were not connected to bad working conditions. There was a copy effect. If one commits suicide, then others will follow.”

In a statement, Apple said: “Apple is committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply base. Apple requires suppliers to commit to our comprehensive supplier code of conduct as a condition of their contracts with us. We drive compliance with the code through a rigorous monitoring programme, including factory audits, corrective action plans and verification measures.”

Islamic Relief: An Islamic Perspective on Fair Trade

April 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

The international relief and development organization Islamic Relief has published an in-depth analysis on fair trade according to Islamic principles:

An Islamic Perspective on Fair Trade

The growth of international trade has brought about significant economic benefits and prosperity to many. However, small-scale producers in many poor countries, particularly those whose livelihoods depend upon the farming of a single crop, are unable to compete in a world market controlled by large multinational companies and distorted by the subsidies provided by rich countries to their producers. As a consequence, farmers in poor countries have few options for generating an income and many live in poverty often unable to meet even their most basic needs. Fair trade is a response to these conditions.

European and North American Fairtrade labelling bodies, non-governmental organisations and various faith-based organisations have all been instrumental in promoting fair trade. Indeed, for ethical and moral reasons, many Christian faith-based organisations have adopted a clear and unequivocal position in support of fair trade. Is an Islamic perspective on fair trade also supportive? Do Islamic principles and teachings encourage Muslim organisations to be equally active? And does an Islamic perspective provide additional insights? In order to address these questions, this paper presents an Islamic perspective on fair trade. It does this by outlining the key principles upon which fair trade is based, such as sustainability, fairness, equity, and workers rights, and examines relevant Islamic teachings.

This investigation finds that the principles of Islam are not silent on issues of fair trade and trade justice. Indeed, there is a rich heritage in Islam of high moral standards, ethics, values and norms of behaviour, which govern personal, professional and business life. In the area of business and commerce Islam obliges buyers, sellers and consumers to act honestly, fairly and with integrity in their daily business practices – for business is not something that can be treated separately from all other aspects of social life. Islam also obliges workers to be treated fairly, and with dignity and respect. Since the fair trade movement is primarily concerned with fairness, equity and justice, it seems that the principles of fair trade and the teachings of Islam are entirely congruent. With references from the Qur’an and ahadith this analysis demonstrates that, from an Islamic perspective, there are indeed strong and clear faith-based reasons for supporting fair trade initiatives. Through supporting fair trade, Muslims can ensure that producers receive a fair price that guarantees a living income and decent working conditions with longer-term contracts that provide greater security and ensure more sustainable development.

Read full article: http://www.islamic-relief.com/InDepth/downloads/Islam_and_Fairtrade.pdf

H&M’s New Conscious Collection

April 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

H&M has launched a new collection that they claim is made with more sustainable materials and with social consideration (i.e. made fairly). Check out the video on the new collection:

http://www.hm.com/ca/conscious-collection#conscious

Statement made by John Lewis on the Resignation of Mubarak

February 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Rep. John Lewis, an icon of the American Civil Rights Movement made this statement after hearing news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt:

“What we have witnessed in Egypt today is nothing short of a non-violent revolution. The peacefulness of this transition on the streets of Cairo is a testament to the people of Egypt–to the discipline of the protestors and the military–who resisted any temptation to descend into brutality.  They demonstrated so eloquently the power of peace to persistently broadcast their message of change.

 “As a nation and as a people, especially this nation which found its own beginnings in a revolutionary movement, we must always try to find ourselves on the just side of budding movements of non-violent change.  We must always give credence to any effort that leads to a more truly democratic world society that values the dignity and the worth of every human being.  We must always nurture and empower movements which respect freedom of the press, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, and the inalienable right to dissent.”

The Egyptian Revolution: The Fall of the Pharaoh February 11, 2011

February 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mabrook Ya Masr!

Congratualtions to the people of Egypt for achieving their aim of overthrowing their dictator Hosni Mubarak. After 18 long days of protest, you have shown the world that peaceful (peaceful on the side of pro-democracy protesters) protests, and a nation standing together united with one voice for a better future can change the face of a nation and make history. Others in the world promote war for the sake of such endeavors (toppling dictators) and have caused mass suffering and destruction, but we see today what a nation’s own citizens can do when they have the will and determination to take a principled and peaceful stand against injustice. Your bravery has inspired the world as we watched you stand, day after day, in the face of violence, arrest, and even death, for the sake of the rights we in the West take for granted.

We pray for you, and for a better future for Egypt. We pray for those who died.

May God bless all of your efforts.