Guest Column: Fair trade issue affects everyone
Manuel Perea is correct when he states that, "As university students, we are often within arms length of campus information, news reports and the latest on world issues." ("Students for Fair Trade need new focus," Opinion, Friday).
Sure, we have this accessibility, but that by no means guarantees that students are using it to view data on world poverty. For instance, one might walk into the M.D. Anderson Library right now and see more people browsing the latest on Britney Spears or who won last night’s football game. In other words, "Knowing a great deal is not the same as being smart; intelligence is not information alone but also judgment, the manner in which information is collected and used," as noted scientist Carl Sagan once said.
It is interesting that you have decided that the attention that fair trade has received lately, particularly in The Daily Cougar is irrelevant or unwarranted. Your overarching question is this, "I applaud their efforts to voice their concern over oppressive exchange practices and poverty in developing nations, but as a UH student, and one speaking directly to SFT, what does this have to do with me?
" This has nothing to do with you if you do not use the campus bathrooms, walk on the sidewalks kept clear of debris by UH lawn maintenance, sit at clean desks, eat or drink anything from campus vendors, park at UH parking lots, walk on mopped floors nor look through windows that have been washed.
You mentioned the surrounding areas of campus as if fair trade issues do not directly or indirectly impact these neighborhoods as well. Perhaps you and the other 29 percent of the students on campus in The Daily Cougar’s informal online poll who don’t want the University to pay a meager annual fee of roughly $1,000 or don’t care about what the University does do not understand how poverty and fair trade affect people on a global scale, including areas around our campus. The fair trade issues do not lie solely in the process of cross-border trade but also what happens within the United States. When you state that the Third Ward community that surrounds UH is ignored, you are mistaken. There are ongoing projects such as Project Row Houses, the Third Ward Community Bike Center and Third Ward to Main Street Connectivity Project.
You also brought up the consequences of a capitalist economy, and you said that more than just coffee should be an issue touched upon by fair trade activists. We live in a capitalist society, thus we should continue supporting slave labor? This sort of mentality would have been welcomed by slaveholders in early America. The high-profit coffee industry is not the only issue being addressed. My question to you is this: Are you familiar with the issues fair trade is trying to bring light to, or have you just decided to rant about that which you do not understand?
From your argument it seems as though the latter might be closer to your objective. If you believe that fair trade issues are not relevant to "our campus community," as you have implied, perhaps you and UH Interim President John Rudley should look closer at the issues highlighted at transfairusa.org. Or, just get involved.
Wilson, an anthropology and political science senior, can be reached via [email protected]