By Films For Action
May 12, 2008
By Gavon Laessig. From Lawrence.com
The price of one of those venti frou-frou caramel abortion lattes you can get at the neighborhood beanery equals about 10 days worth of wages for an Ethiopian toiling in the Addis Ababa coffee trade. In our junkie’s pursuit to ride the brown serpent, the 2-billion-cups-a-day coffee habit of the global community is borne on the backs of farmers and packagers in developing countries.
“Black Gold: Coffee and the Bitter Taste of Free Trade,” a documentary by UK filmmaking brothers Marc and Nick Francis, takes a critical yet nuanced look at the global economy through the prism of international coffee markets. The film follows the quixotic efforts Tadesse Meskela, an Ethiopian organizer struggling to unite coffee laborers into fair trade co-ops in the face of all-consuming multi national corporations.
“Black Gold” will be screening as part of the latest Films for Action slate at Liberty Hall and is being sponsored by Two Hands Worldshop, a Lawrence-based peddler of fair trade goods online. Brady Swenson, co-founder of Two Hands Worldshop, joined us to talk about “Black Gold” and whether or not we’re going to burn in a lake of fire for drinking Frappuccinos.
Lawrence.com: Extrapolating from the film and bringing it closer to home, I went to a local coffee shop today and bought a coffee—how many people did my caffeine addiction f*ck over across the globe?
Brady Swenson: It depends on where you went. Fortunately in Lawrence we have a lot of conscientious coffee shops that sell fair trade coffee. But let’s say you went to Starbucks—Starbucks has a very small percentage of fair trade coffee, to kind of throw a bone to this movement and say, “Alright, you be quiet now.” The normal process starts with the coffee producers—growers, people picking the bean and people selling the beans to roasters—those people get very little money. We’re talking a dollar a pound or less. Then it goes through several middlemen—purchasers, roasters, people who prepare the coffee—then it gets to the large companies like Folgers, who then market it and send it out at $6 to $8 a pound. The thing is, the coffee producers make up 70% to 80% of the people in the coffee industry worldwide. You’re f*cking over a lot of people. We’re talking about millions of people who try to survive by growing coffee.
Read the rest of the interview here.