October 20, 2006
I was in cambridge on wednesday for some misc reasons. I was on the T headed
to the airport to fly home and I was getting tired and kinda headachy which is
a good sign my blood sugar is getting low. I had a chocolate bar with me in my
bag so I took it out, cracked off a piece and ate it. While I did that a man
sitting next to me looked at me, smiled as a I cracked the piece of chocolate
off and then asked ‘Is it fair trade?’. I inspected the wrapper. It was not,
in fact, fair trade. It was scharffenberger(sp?) chocolate that the girl had gotten
me for my birthday from hell. I told him it wasn’t but that we get a lot of the fair
trade chocolate like green and black and dagoba when we do buy chocolate. Then I
mentioned Padgett Station in Carborro that only sells fair trade everything. Coffee,
chocolate, other drinks, the whole shooting match. We go there fairly frequently
for dessert or coffee-ish things after dinner. He said that sounded great.
Then he said – “hmm, the triangle, so you have
counter culture coffee?” I explained
that yes, we do. That counter culture is seriously ubiquitous in this area but not
because it is fair trade but because it is the best coffee around. Then we talked
about 3 cups in chapel hill and the adjacent restaurant
sandwhich (link not available). I mentioned that sandwhich gets a great deal of their
food from local farms and dairies.
He mentions michael pollan and the whole ‘local food’
movement. He said he’s worried about that b/c of the impact it has on small farmer’s
all over the world if americans are encouraged to buy more food from places nearby them.
And how does that impact the availability of things like Bananas and chocolate since
those things cannot as easily be grown in a lot of places. I explained that I think
some of that has to do with an interest in not only self sufficiency in your
local area but also in decreasing the carbon and energy costs associated with
transporting food hundreds of miles away. That I agreed that globalization was
probably in the best benefit of a lot of people but that globalization seemed to
hinge on access to cheap energy and that tends to mean fossil fuels which create a
problem in terms of carbon dioxide production. Then I mentioned the book I’ve been
The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs. I said
that I was hopeful for some of the goals that Sachs wants and thinks are achievable especially as
they impact sustainability of not only our economy but also the economies of developing nations.
He mentioned Joseph Stiglitz’s books on the impacts of Globalization and some of the problems
associated with it. He also said he wasn’t sure what ‘Sachs’ was doing right now. At this moment
I realized I had no idea who I was talking to and that I might be shoving my foot firmly in my mouth.
Then we shifted into what we were both doing in Cambridge. He was up there for a
meeting of a board about fair trade products. He showed me a lapel pin he had on that I hadn’t
seen yet that was the fair trade logo then he told me that he worked for transfair helping to establish
the policies for determining things as fair trade or not.
That explains why he was so well versed in the subject matter.
Then it was suddenly my stop and I had to get off the train. He introduced himself as
Paul Rice and he thanked
me for the conversation. I did the same and went on my way.
I got home and I looked up who he was b/c I figured he had to have been mentioned
somewhere on line.
He doesn’t ‘work with transfair’ he’s the president and ceo of transfair. He also spoke at the
World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last year and the year before. I was just a wee bit humbled when
I read this. Here I was a horribly undereducated sysadmin from Virginia talking to someone who had given
talks to the leaders of the world.
I quickly thought back to the things I had said and I realized I hadn’t
horribly embarassed myself. In fact, I felt like I had been
This is something of the difference between Durham and Cambridge. Between
Duke and Harvard. I wouldn’t expect something like that to happen in