Thursday, March 21, 2013

Easter baskets and the good news

We're less than two weeks away from Easter now (Mar 31st), and many of you have probably already made your annual pilgrimage down the pastel aisles at Walmart or Target, lined with 2 ft. tall chocolate bunnies, pre-packed Barbie-themed baskets, and empty 'baskets' shaped like Iron Man's helmet ('just fill it up on our action figure aisle!').
It wouldn't be hard to write a post lamenting the general commercialization--Christmas-ization?--of Easter. But rather than shoot those fish in the barrel, I wanted to draw everyone's attention to one aspect of the Easter shopping craze that Christians need to give special consideration to: the chocolate.

You see, much of the chocolate we eat, Nestle, Hershey's, M&M Mars, has a shady past. Child labor, human trafficking, and even slavery can all play a part in chocolate production. Follow that link; read the article. But for now, here's a quick taste:
UNICEF estimates that nearly a half-million children work on farms across Ivory Coast, which produces nearly 40% of the world’s supply of cocoa. The agency says hundreds of thousands of children, many of them trafficked across borders, are engaged in the worst forms of child labor.

And in another piece from Easter-time last year, CNN forces us to face the issue: the chocolate in your Easter baskets may be no better.
Some 70 to 75 percent of the world's cocoa beans are grown on small farms in West Africa, including the Ivory Coast, according to the World Cocoa Foundation and the International Cocoa Initiative. The CNN Freedom Project reports that in the Ivory Coast alone, there are an estimated 200,000 children working the fields, many against their will, to satisfy the world's hunger for chocolate.
The average American eats around 11 pounds of chocolate each year, and the weeks leading up to Easter show the second biggest United States sales spike of the year next to Halloween.

(CNN's estimate for the number of children working on the cocoa farms differs from UNICEF's above, but either way the phenomenon is real, and the numbers are in the hundreds of thousands.)

Much of our chocolate comes through processes that Christians simply cannot support. Even the chocolate we eat while remembering Christ's Resurrection at Easter.

What can we do? How can we get around this?
I don't have all the answers here, but I can make two quick suggestions. First, as the second article linked above explains, buying organic chocolate is one solution, as the farms that rely on child labor do not produce any organic cocoa beans. Organic chocolate will be more expensive... but so what? Buy less of it--God knows that won't hurt us (11 pounds a year!).
Second, avoid chocolate. Give your children or grandchildren some other kind of candy this Easter. It won't be as iconic as a chocolate bunny, but you can feel a little better about the purchase and the practices that your money won't be going to support.

Chocolate. It seems like such a small thing, but all of our decisions, great and small, have ramifications, and as we follow Jesus we need to be able to face that truth and begin to explore what those ramifications are. There are some decisions, even small ones, that we cannot simply go on making.

1 comment:

Danielle In The City said...

I've learned something new today :) Thanks!