Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Bitter Behind the Sweet

Friends, if there's two things I'm kind of obsessive about, it's Harry Potter and chocolate.

Harry Potter because... well, duh. It's awesome. And chocolate because it's delicious melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Decadent, rich, gooey chocolate. Mmm...

But if you've known me long, I hope you'll also know that two things I despise include injustice and sitting silently by when people's lives, safety, and happiness are at risk and I can do something to help them.

So what do these things have to do with each other, you ask?

Right now the cocoa industry is in a shambles. It's horrific, really. Cocoa farmers receive pitifully low wages and often live in desperate hunger. The cocoa industry, all the big players whose brand names you see on the backs of your candy bar wrappers, do little when it comes to cases that involve children being kidnapped and enslaved, or people being beaten and forced to grow cocoa. It's gotten so bad that a recent study has even suggested that there will likely be a shortage of chocolate in the future, as farmers switch to growing crops that involve more money and lesser risks. Imagine chocolate being as rare and costly as caviar! But when a company chooses to go Fair Trade, that means they're saying they will go to extra lengths to make sure that the people who produce the cocoa they use in their products will receive fair pay and work under humane conditions.

Right now all Harry Potter candy - including chocolate frogs, fudge flies, cockroach clusters, etc - are not made under a Fair Trade label. But as Harry Potter fans, the very people these big companies are marketing to, we have the unique opportunity to make our voice heard. Just look at the Potter books and films. When Hermione finds out about the poor working conditions for house elves in "Goblet of Fire," she immediately begins to fight for their rights. Harry finds out over his seven-book journey that he should stand up for what's right, speak the truth even when others would silence him, and help people who may not be in a position to help themselves. It just makes sense that a product made in Harry's name should stand for the same things he does.

This is why the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), a group dedicated to using parallels from the Harry Potter books to encourage people to fight evil in the real world, has sent a letter to Time Warner and NBC Universal, the companies who own the rights to the Harry Potter films and merchandising, to ask that they switch to Fair Trade chocolate.

But we need YOUR help for this to be successful. These companies need to see the support of thousands of fans, not just a single letter. So if you think it's a good idea that Harry Potter chocolate be produced as Fair Trade, please head over to this website and sign the petition to let your voice be heard:

(Two things about the petition: (1) It asks for an email address. This is to send out a thank you note once all signatures have been collected. I've been told that you can opt out immediately for all future emails if you don't want to receive any more from the HPA. (2) It asks you to pick a Hogwarts house. If you know which one you support, feel free to pick it, but if you're at a loss I'm a Ravenclaw and I'd love it if you gave my house points! :) It's just a fun competition to encourage people to get involved.)

Thanks guys. And please spread the word to your friends!

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