Greetings from the Valentine’s Day Scrooge

Roses are red, violets are blue

Chocolates are delicious

But here’s a wet blanket for you …

Cocoa farmers and child laborers in tropical Africa climb the Cacao tree and break off the large yellow pods with a machete. On the ground, they crack open the pods, again with the machete, scoop out the raw beans, ferment and dry them, then package them ready for shipping to the big chocolate making companies. For this hard and dangerous work, the average cocoa farmer in Ghana or Ivory Coast is paid less than $2 a day – about what we pay for a nice chocolate bar.

Roses are red, violets are blue

Diamonds are sparkly

But allow me to throw cold water on you …

Some of these gems, glittering at us from jewelry store windows are ‘blood’ or ‘conflict’ diamonds, mined in muddy, illegal open pits in West Africa to finance murderous insurgency groups fighting civil wars. Diamonds are certified now, but still it’s not always clear or disclosed which ones are legitimate and which are bloody. They all shine innocently.

Roses are red, violets are blue

Flowers smell lovely

But as Debbie Downer will tell you…

Fields in Colombia and Ecuador are striped with the bright colors of roses pink and carnations red, graceful orchids of all shades in greenhouses. But just as the appealing bloom belies the thorns below, the beauty and fragrance of this landscape hides insufficient wages, child labor, exposure to pesticides and agro-chemical runoff contaminating water sources in the flower growing areas.

Roses are red, violets are blue

Until Fair Trade* for all laborers everywhere is guaranteed

My ideal Valentine’s Day gift is just a kiss from you …

Okay, another, make it two.  


*The Fair Trade program guarantees compliance with rigorous environmental standards, and ensures that workers in developing nations receive fair wages, work under safe conditions, and receive education, childcare, paid maternity leave and vacation.


By Andrea Ehrgott


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