Tuesday, February 14, 2012

When It Rains...

A barge floats by the Morinaga factory in Yokohama
When it rains it pours cocoa in Temple Valley. It’s one of the benefits of lying in the shadow of a monstrous Morinaga chocolate factory. On clear days the air is thick with chocolate. Its pungent fragrance fills every fiber of clothing left to dry on the laundry lines that hang in every yard and balcony across the valley.* Wherever you go, this smell of home lingers on in whatever you're wearing. When the sun disappears into dusk, the blazing neon Morinaga trademark, an angel, that sits atop the factory burns brightly through the night like a shining beacon on a hill for all to see.

There's probably no place on earth that could use more light than the chocolate trade. In 2010 BBC investigative reporter, Paul Kenyon, working undercover in West Africa, shed new light on widespread child slave labor and other abuses despite Fairtrade certifications. While one way to ensure you don't consume chocolate produced with slave labor might be to go cold turkey, some organizations, like Food Is Power, suggest a little less drastic approach. They urge consumers to avoid buying chocolate sourced from West African countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast and to instead buy chocolate made entirely from cocoa grown in South America and other places where slavery is not an issue. Licking the problems of slavery, child labor and more in the chocolate trade ultimately depends on how hungry consumers are for justice. If they don't demand more from global industry giants like Nestles and their poorer regional cousins like Morinaga, no one will.

Today is Valentine's day and the angelic light of the Cupid-like angel who sits a top the Morinaga chocolate factory will fill the valley as usual. It will likely be the inspiration that helps fuel the flight of an assortment of chocolate candies from off the shelves of every supermarket and convenience store in sight. If you happen to be among the inspired, listen to the better angel of your nature and do your best to make a choice that won't leave a bitter aftertaste behind.

*Unless the wind is blowing northeast, then we’re stuck with the smell of burning garbage emanating from Old Lady (not her real name) Suzuki ’s place. 

More food for thought: By the People (Tree) for the people...

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