Friday 24 June 2016

I'm not a fan of a sugar tax

Someone we know recently posted on Facebook in support of a tax on sugary soft drinks.  On the face of it, it seems like a no-brainer: they're fuelling our 'obesity epidemic' and are generally bad for you.  But he also mentioned that obesity is largely a problem of people who don't earn much money.  That got me thinking: why is that?  I suspect it's because soft drinks are an accessible pleasure for people who don't have much money.

So, instead of (or alongside) the 'stick' of a sugar tax, I propose a 'carrot'.  Introduce other pleasurable options for people with very little disposable income.

This has been done before. Most of the British chocolate companies were started by Quakers dealing with a very similar situation to our obesity epidemic. They were faced with a drunkenness and domestic violence epidemic, fuelled by working class men indulging in one of the few pleasures accessible to them: beer. Their response was to start chocolate companies as a form of social enterprise.  They wanted to provide a harmless pleasure for the working man to replace the harmful one he was indulging in.

Sunday 19 June 2016

On not lightly encouraging flying

I've been thinking a lot recently about big political changes that I'd like to see happen.  Different policies on immigration, on climate change, on the structure of our social welfare system and more.  I've come to believe that, for change to happen, the general public has to believe that they will still have good lives after the change is made.  No matter how much they are lobbied, the politicians are unlikely to change their stance without that.  The people who elect them simply wouldn't stand for it.

And so, every time I see someone who wants change encouraging others to enjoy the opportunities of the status quo, my heart sinks a little.

It happens so much with climate change.  So many people I know who are firm believers in climate change - people who lobby politicians, campaign for fossil fuel divestment, join marches and sign petitions - frequently and enthusiastically encourage others to fly.  People who live outside their home country encourage others to go see their beautiful homeland; people who live overseas encourage their friends and family to come visit them; people who hear of great deals on flights spread that news through their networks.

And every time I see it happening, my heart sinks :-(

Friday 17 June 2016

The wonders of bean water!

A friend recently drew my attention to 'aquafaba' (literally 'bean water') - the water you've cooked chickpeas or beans in.  It's kind of gelatinous, and someone figured out that you can use it just like egg white: it can even be beaten to stiff peaks!

When I heard that, I had to try it!  After all, we cook beans or chickpeas at least once every week and just throw the water away...

First up, I had a go at making vegan meringues. I used the Edmonds pavlova recipe, substituting 30mL 'aquafaba' for each egg white*, spooned it onto lined baking trays and baked it for about an hour and half at 120C.

* We cook chickpeas from dry, rather than using canned canned ones.  The water we get from doing that is quite thick - a lot like egg white.  Apparently the water from canned beans is thinner, so you either need to use twice as much or cook it down till it's as thick as egg white.

Thursday 9 June 2016

Fairly traded cocoa products in New Zealand

This post has been moved to the Just Kai website.  Further updates will be posted there.

This post contains a list of all the fairly traded cocoa products I am aware of for sale in New Zealand.  To jump straight through to the list, click here.

Some years ago Martin and I were horrified to learn that, every time we bought chocolate or other cocoa products, we were paying people to enslave children.  Children who had been trafficked to work on cocoa farms in West Africa, denied schooling, denied wages and 'encouraged' to work by being beaten with bicycle chains.  In addition, low cocoa prices seem to drive many families to send their kids out to work, meaning those kids never get an education.  Instead, they commonly work 12 hour days and are frequently beaten.  It's hard to get accurate figures of how wide-spread these practises are, but the 2018 Global Slavery Index estimates:
  • around 29,700 people (16,000 of them children) are enslaved on on cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast - working without pay and unable to leave;
  • 1.6 million children also work on these cocoa famrs (out of a total workforce of 5 million);
  • 1.4 million of these children are doing work hazardous to their physical health.
Given that 60% of all cocoa in the world is grown in Ghana and the Ivory coast and 1/3 of the workforce there are children, 1/5th of all cocoa is grown by children.  Out of every 10 squares of chocolate you eat, 2 are the product of child labour.

In 2005 many US chocolate companies signed the Harkin-Engel protocol committing to ending the worst forms of child labour.  However, this protocol is non-binding and little has changed.  As of 2015, many of the world's largest chocolate companies are currently facing lawsuits for turning a blind eye to these issues.

Who would want to support all that??!!