Tag: fair trade

This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Umesh Bhuju, owner of Zumi’s Espresso in Ipswich, Massachusetts, about how a business model based on selling nothing but fair-trade products can thrive in a world driven by profit. He describes his early experiences in his homeland of Nepal, where he witnessed child labor, and how that has shaped his pursuit of the American dream. Over the past 20 years, through his successful business, he’s been educating Americans about just how far their dollar can go – paying farmers respectable wages, reducing environmental impact, and supporting developing economies; as well as how businesses can catalyze social progress. In this episode, Umesh shares how he has extended his activism to fighting for the rights of immigrants, preserving local habitats, and combatting food insecurity during the pandemic, even as his own business has battled the downturn.

Guest:

Crystals the Color of Sweat and Blood

 

I was a minor rock hound — a rock pup, if you will — in my youth. Nothing serious, a small collection, only a few spectacular finds of my own, the rest either dull or store-bought. I liked crystals. But not as “wellness” aids. The folklore surrounding minerals, including their medicinal use, is part of their history. Still, I found myself mildly disappointed by the degree to which even geology shops treated the folklore as true.

Apparently, “wellness” claims for rocks have only gotten worse — er, I mean, more popular — since I was a young rock hound. Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, has gifted the world with Goop, like crystal-enhanced water bottles! Yoni eggs! (Warning: these eggs NSFW.) Rose quartz, with its soft pink hue, is particularly popular for “wellness.” Fair-trade certification, which is supposed to guarantee humane treatment of workers, is also popular in wellness products. But — and it’s a big but — most “wellness” crystals are far from fair trade. That pretty rose quartz is the color of sweat and blood.

Poor folk paid pennies to mine, in cramped, dangerous conditions, rocks that richer folk will sell for hundreds of dollars doesn’t shock me. Terrible as these mining jobs are, people choose these jobs over the other available alternatives. But then, I’m usually of the attitude that there’s no reason why bad conditions couldn’t get worse, and that’s not an attitude I’d expect the “wellness” crowd, which believes in “wellness,” after all, to share. Even someone resigned, or callously indifferent, to human suffering might balk at the environmental damage wreaked by humanity’s current appetite for crystalline “wellness.” I have a rare stone in my wedding ring, but it’s lab-created: I didn’t find it appealing to molest tons of extra earth for one small pebble, not even for a wedding ring — especially when a better-quality version of the same crystal can be easily made in the lab. Natural and environmentally-friendly aren’t always the same thing.

An Expat in Favor of Rattling the Cages of Countries with Large USA Trade Surpluses

 

Here are some observations from a retired Texan living in Switzerland, a land of free enterprise, and many small … and some large … manufacturers that export over half of what they make. This is a country with really solid primary and secondary schools that graduate literate young citizens; trade schools for the 80% and universities for the 20%; and a land where if you’re here illegally and you are not a true and registered refugee, you will be caught and unceremoniously deported. (Switzerland’s unfortunate decision to be coerced into the Schengen Agreement has led to complications with migrants first passing through EU countries.)

When a country like the United States signs trade deals such that most of its manufacturing is lost on the altar of “Free Trade” (i.e., that which was employing millions of skilled citizens making average incomes, and such that the R&D that heretofore went into improving the products from those now non-existent plants also was replaced), then you have what you have throughout the Midwest and Southeastern United States: many shutdown factories and towns with crumbling infrastructures; and, stagnant numbers of young American technical graduates.