Christmas Lists & Justice…

23 Dec

A question I’ve been thinking about this season… should my desire to buy a gift for every friend & family member trump my conviction to buy ethically made, sourced and produced products?  After all – it is easier to pick up the ‘latest & greatest’ thing without looking into its journey before making its way under the tree.

Here are some thoughts on the topic from Kaytee  this week:

Its Christmas time again and many of us are in full speed panic mode trying to find the newest and coolest gadget, shoes or DVD to buy for your loved one.
The music started playing in early November in the stores and the tinsel and garland seemed to appear out of now where.

I’ll admit this year is one of the first years in a long while that I’ve understood the whole spirit of giving around the season. As gift giving is one of my love languages I have always enjoyed giving and receiving; however, these past few years I’ve opted mostly for home made goods (like canned peaches or crocheting)

or bought from ethically conscious outfitters like Ten Thousand Villages or the Better Good, which can often be more of a financial commitment than previously but which means that I really have to think about the purchase before hand.

Previously most of my socially conscious decision making has been around the buying and selling of fair trade products from ethically sound companies (or at least the ones who claim to be). These are the ones who have the fair trade logo on their products making the statement that their products are traded at a fair market price and that the company/farmer exercises fair business practices like following minimum wage laws

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and this label is owned by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation International who is responsible for setting and maintaining fair-trade standards that apply to producers and sellers. Check out fairtrade.net to learn more about the standards around fair trade.

This year I was introduced to the reality that there are no internationally recognised standards like fairtrade for mining companies who do business in other countries. This means that my IPOD and Toshiba computer (both given to me as gifts) are just as capable of having been produced with little or no regard for those who mined the minerals found in them or those who produced it.
The existing fair trade standard excludes the mining industry opening it up to the same unequal economic relationship that once plagued the coffee industry.

In November I had the opportunity to go to New York City with MCC Canada to take part in a student seminar on Mining Justice and Christian peace advocacy. At the seminar we heard from many speakers from all parts of the world: Belgium, America, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, each one with their own stories about conflict mineral mining and civil society engagement. (See video on Congo minerals)

This seminar brought to light the complexity of the issue of mining in other countries and the need for a universally accepted agreement to protect the rights of the people working for the companies and to ensure corporate social responsibility.

Something like this exists already for the Diamond industry, known as the Kimberly Process which engraves every diamond with an inscription which allows for purchasers to follow the diamond from the place of extraction to the seller. Check out this link for more information on this process.

What I learned from this conference is that there needs to be a similar process in place for minerals like, Cobalt, Copper and the three t`s found in almost every electronic device made (Tungsten, tin and tantalum). As of yet, even guaranteeing that Canadian Mining companies are practicing best environmental and business practices has been difficult with the dissolution of Bill C-300 in November, which proposed ”to promote environmental best practices and ensure the protection and promotion of international human rights standards` in regards to Canadian International mining, oil and gas development”.


Ultimately the development of a process for transparency seems far off, but hope remains, once enough people begin to realise that this is an issue that needs to be addressed we can move forward. A great web resource for this topic is enoughproject and you can also look at MCC Canada`s recent mining justice campaign and their Documentary film, La Mina to learn about the situation in Honduras and Guatemala.

I find when I hear about issues like this I want to know the practical ways in which I can put my convictions into action and for a topic like this it is simpler than we realise.

Learn More and tell others.
Show La Mina at community gatherings, develop initiatives in your community to tell others about this.

I encourage you to look at more of the information on the websites provided and see for yourself how mining and the extraction industry are endangering thousands of lives every day and displacing millions.
And then, encourage some friends to do the same.
The goal I think is to eventually have the same criteria on our electronic devices as on our produce and coffee which will help the consumer to make ethically responsible choices.

Thank you and as we go into the Holiday Season l pray that we can encourage one another in our combined efforts to leave this world a better place than we found it.

Peace and Love
Kaytee Edwards

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