Is it a bargain or not? In their quest for profit, huge corporations which oversee large factories no better than sweatshops and monolithic farms for cash cropping, produce quantities of cheap products but at a great cost to humanity. This economic globalization is exponentially increasing the misery experienced by the vast majority of people on our planet.
We are now governed by corporate rule. There are now about 40,000 transnational corporations; 200 of these run the world. Seven major companies dominate the world’s food industry. While profits soar, poverty is aggravated. If you have money in the bank or in your wallet you are within the eight per cent of the world’s wealthy. From its earliest days, the United Church of Canada has advocated and acted in favour of the social well-being of all God’s people. As followers of Jesus, we are called to ensure the fair and sustainable sharing of God’s gifts.
And so we must uphold hope rather than complacency to challenge the systemic injustice and exploitation within the present framework we call empire. When we do those things, we are actually ministering to Jesus himself. Alternatives are possible. We work, we live and we spend. We may be doing all this in ways that direct resources into the hands of a wealthy few.
Shopping at discount stores and for discount prices, we may be spending or investing in ways that benefit large multinational corporations rather than local producers and small farmers. But we may resist this corporate “empire” by being committed to alternative actions like buying from local producers, small and/or local businesses, buying sustainable products, supporting fair-trade, and bartering.
The increased costs can be thought of as investment in a more just society. We can invest in companies or businesses that respect social justice including human rights. We can invest in those that respect ecological justice and value sustainability. The Chamber of Commerce recently stated that shopping locally benefits the local economy threefold. Why? Because local businesses bank locally, hire locally and advertise locally.
Studies have shown that money spent at a locally-owned business stays in the local economy and continues to strengthen the economic base of the community. There are other benefits to buying local as well. It builds community and a sense of connectiveness. Research has shown that small local businesses make valuable contributions to communities, neighbourhoods, and organizations. As consumers we have power.
Our choices, in how we spend our money, make a difference. A word about the multinational food industry: the food may be cheap but what about the quality? A farmer told me this story. He said when he worked for a conventional grower who grew huge cash crops; his kids could not hug him at the end of the day when he got home. His clothes had to be removed and disinfected of chemicals. Now, working with organic produce, he can hug his children as soon as he wants. So what is a bargain? Spending a little more money can be the best bargain after all!
Large food corporations utilize monoculture farming methods to produce huge crops of the same product for the international market. These industrialized farms, however, are more vulnerable to disease and erosion so farmers must use more chemical fertilizers and pesticides on their land. These practices ultimately pollute the land, the water and food product. Diversified farms produce less but are less vulnerable to problems.
Supporting smaller business and fairly traded products means supporting a more just and sustainable world. Instead of only thinking about the bargain idea, when shopping, think about who you are supporting, where the profits are going.
To render the production base of Empire impotent; resist the consumptive lifestyle of Empire and consider an economic system based on the spirit of justice and fairness for all.
by Rosemary Manarin, world traveller & United Church member
Another point of view, previously published in the Castlegar News