Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day, but hurting no one.

Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays.  I love Valentine's Day because it's one day where I can remind Alex, my family and friends how much they mean to me and how much I appreciate them, but I don't have to buy into the consumerist trends to do this. Many people are cynical towards the holiday, although the majority of the time, the cynicism is directed towards the consumerist nature of the holiday rather than the sentiments it represents (very much like Christmas).

I'm going to borrow from another eco-hero of mine, Anne Leonard (creator of The Story of Stuff), on this issue as she blogs about Valentine's Day. Below are highlights I have picked out, but to read the full article please CLICK HERE.


Of all the holidays that promote consumer spending, Valentine’s Day may be the most important to opt out of the shopping spree because the specific stuff heavily marketed as symbols of our love are among the worst consumer products out there: Flowers, Chocolate, Gold and Diamonds. How ironic that the very items we’re told best symbolize love are linked to terrible environmental destruction, worker rights abuses and even brutal wars.

Chocolate: While chocolate may be a treat to receive, it’s a nightmare for many of the workers. Child labor and even slavery is commonplace in the West African cocoa plantations which supply most of the world’s chocolate.
Flowers: Most cut flowers in the U.S. come from South America – especially Columbia and Ecuador. Like chocolate, the cut flower industry has been linked to forced and child labor and, not surprisingly since those flowers have to look flawless, massive pesticide use and worker poisoning as well as a hefty carbon footprint since they have to be flown thousands of miles.
Gold: Gold mining is also linked to forced and child labor, uses toxic chemicals including mercury and cyanide,  and creates huge amounts of hazardous waste. Mining the gold to make one ring leaves over 20 tons of waste behind!  Gold is mined mostly in Africa, Asia and the Americas and over half of all gold come from indigenous peoples lands. About 80 percent of gold is used in jewelry, and Valentine’s day is a prime time we’re told to indulge to demonstrate our love, while the true cost of gold is kept out of sight and out of mind. For more information please visit: No Dirty Gold.
Diamonds: Ever since the Hollywood movie Blood Diamonds, there’s been growing awareness about the link between diamonds and violent conflicts and human rights abuses. Blood diamonds – also called Conflict Diamonds – have funded brutal conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Côte d’Ivoire that have resulted in the death and displacement of millions of people. The international process set up to track diamonds and ensure conflict-free sources, has so far proved ineffective.
By exposing the hidden underside of today’s Valentine’s Day stuff, I am not joining the ranks of Valentine’s Day-cynics myself. I am all for demonstrating our love this Monday and every other day of the year. But real love doesn’t trash the planet and force children to work in mines or fields. I’m convinced that talking  about  – rather than ignoring, or worse, hiding  – the reality behind our consumer stuff, can shift both cultural norms about how love is expressed and these very industries making our stuff.
So don't blame St. Valentine and his holiday, but rather those that truly do not understand the meaning of love and more importantly compassion and please spare a thought for those who suffer at their hands.

So what did I do for Valentine's Day? I participated in Post a Love Note from British Heart Foundation by making my own for Alex (it sort of looks like my niece drew it, but that's on purpose and its part of the charm!). It can be that simple but so effective!

*HaPpY VaLeNtINe'S dAy eVeRYoNe*

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