Ethical consumption-A A +A
Friday, October 26, 2012
PSYCHOLOGIST David G. Myers wrote in 2004 that today’s young adults have grown up with much more affluence, yet experience slightly less happiness and much greater risk of depression and assorted social pathology.
Myer’s conclusions: “Our becoming much better off over the last four decades has not been accompanied by one iota of increased subjective well-being.”
Myer’s findings emerge at a time when the consumer culture has reached a fever pitch, comments Myers, also the author of “The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty.”
Although Myer’s reported that the least materialistic people get the most life satisfaction, some studies indicate that materialists can be almost as contented if they’ve got the money and their acquisitive lifestyle doesn’t conflict with more “soul-satisfying pursuits.”
The concept of “shop till you drop” brings fleeting happiness until the next buy.
Perhaps a compromise between “soul-satisfying pursuits” and consumerism can go hand-in-hand for most last pursuit of happiness. Such shopping can drop poverty in poor communities.
My development colleague Edwin “Ted” Marthine López, executive director of the Alter Trade Foundation Inc., sent me materials on “ethical consumption” that created the Fairtrade market worldwide where the bottomline is not just profits and more profits but ecological sustainability and strengthens social relationships.
Ted talks of the 650 households of agrarian reform beneficiaries who shifted to organic farming for muscovado processing for the fairtrade organic muscovado market. They earn from the organic and fair-trade premiums, aside from the usual market prices.
To invest in cane fields is very costly. These ARB producers use their additional fair trade income to stay in cane, and to send kids to school and prevent migration of relatives to cities or foreign countries as there are no alternative other sources of employment in many of the sugar countries.
Outstanding rural entrepreneurs include the farm workers of the Minuro Isabel Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association (Miarba) Hacienda Isabel, Barangay Sag-ang in La Castellana.
Miarba members earn double premiums from their certified organic and fair labels. With these green and social profits, they are able to pay 100 percent of their micro credits loans. Their social enterprises enabled several teens to graduate from college.
Their collective assets have reached P4.2 million in 2012 composed of two Massey-Ferguson tractors with farm implements, a postharvest hauling truck, 12 HP irrigation pump; livestock production (swine fattening and breeding), welding machine, livestock feed mill, rice solar dryer, and warehouses.
Processed sugarcane cane can produce by-products such as molasses, rum, alcohol for the cosmetic industry that can be exported or reused such as bagasse to generate electricity for the mills that serve as semi-processed raw materials to industrialize and diversify the Negros economy.
Yet these farmers who earn more than those producing centrifugal conventional sugar are drops in the bucket of traditional product of 79 percent of Negros sugar producers having farms of five hectares and below.
I’ve seen the fair trade markets from the ultimate consumers’ perspective in Switzerland. Last year in Lucerne, the Swiss Development Cooperation provided us with fair trade and/or organic juices and food.
Indeed, has caught the Swiss imagination: they are the world champions in the consumption of fair trade products. A Swiss consumer spends on average SFr32.75 ($31.9) per year on such items, way ahead of their nearest rivals, the British, who spend the equivalent of SFr18 and the Danes, who spend SFr11.30.
Shop till you drop? Sure. Just make sure you buy fair trade products.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on October 26, 2012.