Monday, June 9, 2008

Still a bookworm...

So it's June, and along with Green Bean and the others who are Still Bookworms, I've been working on increasing my ecological IQ by reading an ecologically relevant book.

I just finished reading The No-Nonsense Guide to Fair Trade by David Ransom. I almost always buy fair trade when that option is available, but other than knowing that treating people fairly is a good thing, I don’t really know too much about the details of fair trade and what is actually involved. I also have a few questions and concerns about fair trade that I was hoping to have cleared up after reading this little book (stay tuned for more on this tomorrow).

But alas, no such luck. I guess I should have had a clue when there was no waiting list for this title on paperbackswap. Perhaps I’m not all that smart, but what I heard after reading this book was basically “Free trade is bad. WTO is bad. Structural adjustment programs are bad. Almost all big corporations are bad. The northern world takes unfair advantage of the southern world. Fair trade is good.”

What disappointed me about this book were two things. The first is that he sort of assumes that the reader already knows a fair bit about why free trade, structural adjustment programs, and so forth, unfairly benefit developed nations at the expense of countries in the southern part of the world. I’ve done a fair bit of prior reading, though, so I was able to fill in the gaps with my own knowledge.

The second, and perhaps more disappointing issue with the book, though, is that he never actually makes the link between fair trade and the problems created by free trade, and how fair trade will actually fix those problems. This may be in part due to the fact that he never actually defines what fair trade is in any detail.

The book is basically a collection of anecdotes about producers of coffee, cocoa beans, and bananas all over the world, accompanied by descriptions of how poor they are and how the prices set for their commodities by free trade markets are not enough for them to live on.

I left this book with more questions than I started with, and frankly, I wish I’d invested the time elsewhere on a volume that would have actually answered some questions rather than just giving me mini-bios of fair trade farmers around the world.

Thumbs down - but thumbs up for the challenge! Since June's not over yet, I'm still a bookworm, and I'll post a review of the next title as soon as I'm done with it.

1 comment:

Green Bean said...

Oh well, not every book is a winner. And at least you've eliminated this one from reading lists. :) That's just as valuable as adding one to a list - for your readers, at least. Better luck with the next book.