Wednesday, 7 May 2008

fair enough

Just about the best we can manage here in Canada on Saturday will be to drink a smug cup of didn't-I-do-the-right-thing tea, because in the world of fair trade, we're a bit behind. Notwithstanding Ten Thousand Villages, of course; they are the bestest, but otherwise we're poor performers in fair trade terms.

New Zealand ramps it up on us a bit with TradeAid. In Rotorua, they're practically next door to the bookstore, which meant that during my Time Of Woe in the wet midwinter (that is now of course fast approaching again), I bought and ate a chocolate bar from them every. Single. Day. Every day. TradeAid, my sanity thanks you, and I miss you much.

The UK is absolutely all over it; you don't visit a special little shop with tea and coffee nicely presented amongst wicker baskets, it's just in the supermarket and the high street and all over everywhere. They're so far into it that now they're coming out the other side and everyone's wondering if fair trade is really all that fair and now there's even different types of fair trade, and everyone's standing in Sainsbury's with fourteen different packets of sugar trying to figure out which is the fairest of them all. Even crumbly old Marks and Sparks sells organic cotton t-shirts, which is even more important than fair trade t-shirts, because it's all very well paying people half-decent money to grow cotton, but if they're *dead from pesticides* it won't make all that much difference.

Anyway, you have to do the best you can with what you've got.

My other means of being fair is to get stuff I can get locally, locally. (Which for some people is the dichotomy, and mostly you end up doing a bit of both and hoping the karmic gods see that you're trying your best). So my tea is modelling Saskatchewan-grown alpaca sock yarn, which I grant you is not local to me now, but it was a couple of weeks ago.

Sock yarn this lovely, when it comes in skeins, is the epitome of joy and despair, in yarn terms. Most people agree it's best to wind the skein (long oval yarn) into balls (compact round yarn - still with me?) to use it. In practice, with a yarn this clingy and fine, you get about three quarters of the way through (the big ball on the left) before the weight of what's left behind isn't enough to keep it straight. It tangles itself up in a big knot, and I end up cutting it in frustration and starting a new, smaller ball, and on and on till I get teeny bits I probably won't end up using. Despair. But the sock is already looking so lovely. Joy!

The other thing about buying locally-made yarn over your standard, imported from some giant faceless foreign yarn-making corporation (what a concept), is that is costs about double. So in fact I'll probably be keeping the little endy bits and they'll be useful for darning when the socks eventually fall to holes, because ain't no way I'm throwing these out.

And I didn't even need a fair-trade chocolate bar to help me regain my sanity on that one. I'd better have one anyway though. And, hey, on Saturday? Grab a cuppa, won't you?

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