Fair trade and eco-friendly movements clearly intersect, yet few people seem to push toward both consumer alternatives with equal enthusiasm. There are a number of highly informative blogs on eco-alternatives, and that’s great, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to ensure earth’s fruitfulness when thousands of people aren’t provided the human rights to enjoy the positive change.
That being said, I think Style Wise has the obligation to discuss both issues, to acknowledge that we must resolve not only to give people basic liberties but to give them good food, safe water, and non-toxic products. I feel a moral obligation to prioritize humane treatment over eco options (as in, I’d purchase a non-organic item that was produced ethically over an eco-friendly one that wasn’t – except, perhaps, when it comes to food). But I’d like to strive to achieve both changes on both personal and social levels.
There is perhaps no better illustration for this intersection than the use of agricultural pesticides. My husband watched the documentary, The Thin Green Line, last week, on the numerous ways in which climate change and pollution are destroying frog populations globally. Atrazine, a commonly used pesticide, weakens the frogs’ immune systems leaving them vulnerable to parasites and other infections, and altering their reproductive organs, according to National Geographic. Pesticides run off farms, eventually making their way into ponds and infecting ground water, which makes its way into our homes. Although the EPA has set a maximum contaminant level to prevent the likelihood of adverse reactions in humans, it clarifies that reproductive and cardiovascular problems are likely if one is routinely exposed to Atrazine in drinking water (or otherwise, presumably).
Organic farming matters because it decreases the likelihood of long term degradation of farmlands and surrounding habitats, but also because it reduces human exposure to harmful pollutants. Farm workers are inherently given better treatment because they aren’t obligated to put themselves at risk of overexposure to toxins.
Of course, we must always be wary of the human tendency toward false advertising and labor exploitation. According to Andrea Blum of Common Ground, the comparably high cost of organic farming has led many organic farms to the same exploitative fate as their non-organic counterparts.
We must always be aware. We must always be intentional about our choices and stay informed. It’s frustrating that we live among beings of our own kind who exploit workers, destroy vital natural resources, and mislead consumers. But their transgressions cannot be our excuse.
I live my life by the philosophy that I’m obligated to care. If we don’t keep reading, looking, improving, exposing – seeking truth – what’s the point of it all?