Starbucks: global icon, quintessential symbol of transnational capitalism, everyday fixture of many Americans’ daily routines. And, like all things big and corporate…a source of political and social controversy.

I, like many young people, would prefer an independent, local coffee shop with its unique flair as opposed to a predictable international chain. Although, I must admit I’m a sucker for a Starbucks grande vanilla latte. However, as the informed citizen and ethical consumer I strive to be, I’ve decided I won’t be visiting Starbucks for a while. Their latest legal battles threaten to economically strangle Ethiopian coffee farmers by blocking their attempts to patent certain coffee beans. 

For a company that markets itself on fair trade and poverty alleviation, Starbucks’s recent actions are shameful and hypocritical (they even went so far as to post campaign-type videos on YouTube).  The behind-the-scenes reality nowhere near resembles the idealized public image Starbucks works so hard to maintain. A new documentary (‘Black Gold’) was just released on the subject. I haven’t seen it yet but it looks like it could make great material for AID screenings/discussions.

Related articles:
Oxfam press release–http://www.oxfam.org/en/news/pressreleases2006/pr061103_starbucks
The basics of the dispute–http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,1993974,00.html
Guardian article about ‘Black Gold’ release–http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,2000786,00.html

This post isn’t a call for a worldwide boycott of Starbucks; nor is it my personal vow that I’ll never visit a Starbucks again. Rather, it’s a challenge to everyone to recognize that our world is getting more interconnected all the time and a reminder that it’s crucial we stay informed about how our daily lifestyle choices (as small and insignificant as they may seem) affect the rest of the world.

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