United Students, United Cause

I’ve just gotten back from a fair trade event put on by the United Students for Fair Trade. It was a convergence of eager and progressive students from around the country, and dedicated fair trade advocates from Equal Exchange, Catholic Relief Services, the Fair Trade Federation, and the Fair Trade Resource Network, among others. The discussions centered on the future of fair trade at a crossroads. How do we continue in a movement that is being increasingly co-opted and diluted by corporate influence?

Apart from these folks and from this discussion, there were workshops led by Food & Water Watch and the National Family Farm Coalition to name a few. We talked about the farm bill, about getting ‘Real Food’ onto our University campuses and about how we can source sweatshop-free apparel.

So, in this respect, it was a varied crowd offering ideas on some of the important social issues of our time. Food, water, labor, and trade: how can we possibly work towards progressive change in all of these areas? Trying to sort it all out makes my mind want to explode…

Having all of these people together at a conference supposedly about Fair Trade made me realize how much all of these issues are connected. The reasons for trade policies that further marginalize and persecute the poor, schools filled with unhealthy food and clothing made by under-paid and over-worked laborers are all related.

And so what a beautiful thing: people from all over, seemingly fighting for different things, are really just lifting up whatever part of our common burden that they can. We will continue lift our part by promoting justice and environmental responsibility in trade. Drink Deep folks.

- Michael

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