May 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
Congrats to UBC for leading the way. Hope to see this on other campuses across Canada!!
UBC named Canada’s first Fair Trade Campus
By: Kendall Walters, ctvbc.ca
Date: Thursday May. 5, 2011 5:07 PM PT
There’s something different about the way the University of British Columbia wakes up and smells the coffee in the morning – the steaming caffeine poured into warm mugs across campus is fair trade.
UBC just became the first Fair Trade Campus in Canada. The Fair Trade Canada designation follows Vancouver’s recognition as a Fair Trade City this time last year.
Coffee, tea and chocolate bars sold at UBC and student society AMS-run eateries are ethically purchased and provide equitable compensation to farmers for their product.
The commitment does not include campus franchises – Starbucks, Tim Hortons and White Spot.
Kaan Williams is the director of fair trade with the UBC chapter of Engineers Without Borders. He was instrumental in pushing the designation initiative forward.
“It’s not just a recognition of past activity at UBC,” he said. “It’s also a commitment to retain the momentum that UBC has.”
The campus had already put into effect many policies fitting with Fair Trade Canada’s designation requirements. UBC has offered fair trade coffee for the past decade; the campus sold nearly 1.5 million cups of fair trade coffee in the last year alone.
“All the reactions I’ve heard so far were enthusiastic and excited,” Williams said. “People are excited to see some recognition for what’s going on here at UBC.”
Only a few extra steps had to be put in place to meet designation restrictions.
The campus dedicated itself to using fair trade products whenever possible, Williams said. That’s why it’s gone beyond the minimum requirements of the designation.
Fair Trade Canada asks that Fair Trade Campuses sell only fair trade coffee and offer at least three fair trade teas and one fair trade chocolate bar option.
Nearly all of the teas offered at UBC are fair trade and campus eateries are also selling fair trade tropical fruit such as bananas.
“We’re always looking for new things to use as well,” Williams said.
The designation has already fueled action by local businesses.
Vancouver-based coffee companies Milano and Ethical Bean have jumped on board. Milano produced its first fair-trade certified blend of coffee for UBC.
And there’s buzz in the air of fair trade designation hopes at several other Canadian universities. Williams has already been contacted by other institutions interested in following UBC’s example.
Andrew Parr is the managing director of UBC student housing and hospitality services. He was closely involved in the designation.
He said the campus wasn’t aiming to be the first fair-trade certified in Canada, but he said he thinks it’s a nice message to other institutions.
“This is something that is feasible and doable and worth doing,” Parr said.
The initiative is a matter of educating students on something more than the subject matter they study in the classroom, Parr said, adding he hopes the move can help UBC students become more socially-conscious citizens.
“That’s a nice way that we as an institution are able to make an influence in a broader community,” he said.
UBC joins 100 global universities that have already made the commitment.
May 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
(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.
February 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement on Feb 1st on recent events in Egypt:
“Following President Mubarak’s announcement today that he will not seek re-election, Canada reiterates its support for the Egyptian people as they transition to new leadership and a promising future.
“Canada supports universal values – including freedom, democracy and justice – and the right to the freedom of assembly, speech and information. As Egypt moves towards new leadership, we encourage all parties to work together to ensure an orderly transition toward a free and vibrant society in which all Egyptians are able to enjoy these rights and freedoms – not a transition that leads to violence, instability and extremism.
“We commend the many groups, such as the Egyptian military, who have worked hard to support freedom of assembly and to minimize violence during recent demonstrations. We stand by the people of Egypt, young Egyptians in particular, for their steadfast support for the fundamental values that Canadians profoundly share with them.
“We also extend our condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed or injured during recent events.
“We urge all parties in Egypt to renounce violence and allow peaceful and meaningful dialogue between the people and government to address political, economic and social concerns. This dialogue should lead to free and fair elections and a government that supports universal values.”
I sent a letter to the PM concerning his statement:
Dear Prime Minister Stephen Harper,
While I applaud your support for the demands of the Egyptian people, I am greatly disappointed that the Canadian government has not expressed greater concern for the Egyptian government’s actions against its citizens.
Calling for an end to violence on both sides does not send the right message to Egypt, the world, and concerned Canadians. The Canadian government should be expressing outrage for the Egyptian government’s use of violence used against protesters, the loss of Egyptian lives, the shutting down of the internet, and the control of communication. We stand for the values of freedom of speech and assembly, and support the spread of democracy. We in the West supported these values when it came to the people of Tunisia. But when it comes to the dictator Mubarak, we are weak in sending the same message due to his support of Western interests in the Middle East.
People of the world perceive this hypocrisy in Western governments. Canada should be a leader in speaking up for Egyptian rights, and speaking against the repressive Mubarak regime.
You can email the PM at: firstname.lastname@example.org
November 29, 2010 § 2 Comments
Since I determined in the summer that I would try my best to buy clothing made in Canada, the USA and other countries that have protective labour laws, I’ve avoided buying much. I did end up at H&M because I’d been given gift certificate for my birthday. I’m not sure how I feel about shopping at H&M. Their website has a whole section devoted to corporate responsibility that explains the steps they are taking to make the company more sustainable, as well as their involvement in improving worker conditions using the company’s financial power and influence. I’m still pretty skeptical about H&M’s claims, but I wasn’t going to let the gift certificate go to waste!
Other than that, I’ve avoided buying clothing. One reason for this is the realization that I have way too much stuff already. The other reason is that I was afraid of the commitment I had made. I made the commitment in the first place not only because supporting companies that avoid sweatshop labour (like American Apparel) is important, but for me simply knowing that the clothing on my back was not made by a woman or child who was abused and exploited while working in slave-like conditions is important for my mental and spiritual well-being. My purchasing power may not change the world, but like I’ve written in earlier posts, I do believe that all of this goes back to my responsibility to God, the Judge of all things. However, although I’m not a big shopper, I do love nice clothes and I’ve been afraid of entering the mall only to fall in love with clothes that were off limits to me because of my resolution. Therefore, I’ve simply stayed away. It has been a good thing so far because I’ve saved money I’ve earned and thought a lot more about my consumption.
Then winter hit. I have a winter coat but it’s not warm enough for the dropping temperatures. I couldn’t put it off any longer; it was time for a trip to the mall. I know that God blesses good intentions, so I set my intention to do something good, and put my trust in Him that he would guide me to what I needed. I then laid out a plan in my head: I would only shop at the stores that had items that were made in Canada, and if I couldn’t find anything there, I’d go to H&M as a last resort. I knew three stores, Le Chateau, Tristan, and Jacob, manufacture some items in Canada so that’s where I would start.
I made the mistake of going to the mall on Saturday, the day after Black Friday (the official beginning of Christmas shopping season) and people had come out in droves for the Christmas shopping pilgrimage. I became frustrated within minutes of entering the building, but knew I had to get this coat or freeze this winter. I first went to Le Chateau and was surprised to find that half of their large winter coat selection was made in Canada. I tried things on, but didn’t like anything I tried on. It frustrated me because I couldn’t believe that I would be this superficial as to pass up these coats for the sake of fashion! I decided then to check out the other stores and return later to resolving this internal dilemma if need be. The other stores didn’t in fact have any ‘made in Canada’ coats, and I couldn’t even find anything I liked at H&M. I was ready to (temporarily) give up on my resolution at this point and get a coat from any other store.
But I realized I was being stupid, and that it would be better to go back to Le Chateau and just pick something; my principles are so much more important than fashion! This time a store clerk helped me, and suggested I try a particular coat. He told me he really liked how it looked on me, and then it dawned on me that it was the first coat I’d tried on when I got to the mall. It did look good, I don’t know what had prevented me from seeing that earlier. Before I could change my mind again, I purchased the coat and headed home.
I wondered about this frustrating trip and thought to myself, “If I had just bought a coat at Le Chateau in the first place it would have saved me a lot of trouble.” My experience may seem like no big deal, but it’s important to me because I learned a few things about sticking to my principles. I was also so proud of myself because, while others at the mall lost themselves in the race to buy the latest products that are commonly mistaken as the keys to happiness and fulfillment, I had set myself apart by setting out only to buy something I needed that was manufactured by workers that were fairly paid for the items they made. I also didn’t fail by buying another coat I liked a lot better (I did like other coats a whole lot better than the one I purchased, but they were made in China) resisting my own mental slavery to fashion.
I know that the One sees into my heart and I pray that His witnessing the good I tried to do will lead to my happiness in His happiness with me.