I've recently decided to stop buying chocolate that wasn't fair trade certified. I had considered this for a while, just like going mostly meatless, and like that decision, it was difficult to commit to it. Going to Mission U and taking the class on poverty (as well as taking the Theo Chocolate tour) sent me over the edge, and I decided to do what I could to not buy chocolate potentially harvested by child slaves.
However, I've noticed that this seems to be a slippery slope. At some point I will find myself with nothing to eat. Mission U also had me thinking about tea and coffee, so I've tried to avoid buying those until I got a clearer picture of what's at stake with these products.
In researching all of this, I stumbled across slaveryfootprint.org, which is similar to carbon footprint calculators only it tells you how many slaves you have essentially created through your consumer choices. 37 is what they decided based on my lifestyle. Along the way, they teach you about where particular products come from, such as clothes, shoes, foods, electronics, and even sports equipment. It was utterly sickening.
This certainly hasn't helped my problem with trying to do the least harm I can in a country dedicated to feeding off of others. I imagine that if I could make my number 0, I would have to not only own a large farm that grew every single product I needed, but I would have to excel in producing clothing, food, electronics, etc. and somehow also work a job that would support this farm. So what do we do when all that is available to live off of is made at others' expenses, and often their lives?
Well, being careful with what you buy helps.
But really, I think now that "doing the least harm" isn't actually doing much to help those whose lives are taken from them by our systems of injustice. Yes, what you buy does matter because it affects what products are available. If we all stopped buying chocolate that was produced through child slavery, unsafe working conditions, and little pay, then the chocolate companies that get their supplies from these places would go out of business.
A bigger thing that we can do is to use our voices. Teach people about the costs of the things they buy. Tell your officials that it's not ok to get cheap clothes put together by people who weren't paid, are children, or worked in unsafe conditions.
And pray. A lot. I used to think prayer was just what you're supposed to do, but I'm starting to see that it really matters. I don't have a lot of hope that mere words and changing my diet will stop people from abusing each other, or stop our country from exploiting others, and that is really draining some days. But I do know that God cares for these people, and God is slowly working to change us so that we are open to changing our ways. And the best way to be open to being who God wants you to be is through prayer.