One benefit of being in the Honors Program at St. Norbert College is that you are able to go on short term study abroad opportunities called Global Seminars. This last J-Term, the Honors Program sent seven brave souls, three women and four boys, to the Philippines for a global seminar focused on food ethics. The guides for this experience were the fearless Drs. Chan (Dr. Ben Chan, Philosophy) and Mann (Dr. Joel Mann, Director of the Honors Program/Philosophy). During this fourteen day trip, the group visited a variety of locations in the Philippines such as Manila, Lake Taal (before the volcano exploded), Baguio, Sagada, and Batangas. Needless to say, all of the students made it out alive and avoided natural disasters, more or less.
The purpose of the global seminar was different for everyone; every student had their own questions to answer about ethical food production. Namely, questions pertaining to certain food practices or what makes food good and why. For some students, the trip was a magical time filled with every college student’s dream: stupendous amounts of coffee! You may be asking why? The Philippines is known for their coffee and it's one of their major exports. For non-coffee drinkers, coffee tasting was similar to tasting burnt rubber and even raisins were toxic.
Students quickly learned that very unfortunate circumstances happen within a facade of decadent natural landscape. Some of the most beautiful, joy bringing things come from the worst conditions. The unfortunate circumstances revolve around the unethical treatment of farmers and their crops by buyers of the products. The buyers' actions cause a disparity and divide between those who grow, tend, and sell the crops and those that utilize the crops. Coffee farmers are often taken advantage of. Buyers regularly make statements to devalue the farmers' livelihood, coffee. Coffee farmers lack the power and resources to contest the claims and are forced to sell their product for an unfair price, leaving them without funds to sustain their crop successfully and continue to live in or near the poverty level.
Many on the global seminar learned that the next time you drink a cup of coffee, ask yourself, “Who made this and how are they doing?” because that coffee could be someone's stolen livelihood.
Stay tuned for further pictures, reflections, and recaps of this global seminar from other student attendees coming up in future issues!