One aspect of my life that may not be clear based on the classwork I’ve produced so far is my involvement in the fair trade movement. I did mention in my video presentation how my freshman year paper on corporate land grabs in Tanzania sparked an interest in globalization, but that interest didn’t fully solidify until last year’s semester in Costa Rica, when I saw first-hand the impacts that free trade has on economically vulnerable communities.
This summer I started up the University of Michigan chapter of United Students for Fair Trade. Haven’t heard of us? That makes sense, because we only have about six people. It’s really, really hard to get people to care about trade policy, even though it has a serious effect on pretty much every issue that my friends care about.
For instance, that company that’s currently suing Canada for Quebec’s ban on fracking? They’re able to do that because of NAFTA’s investor-state dispute resolution provision, which grants corporations nation-state status and the ability to sue entire countries for any environmental policy/ health code/ labor law that could interfere with their expected profit. Wonder how companies are able to offshore factory jobs from the U.S. and get away with abominable sweatshop conditions overseas? Look into trade policy.
The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is what my group is currently campaigning against, incorporates those provisions as well as restrictions equivalent to SOPA/PIPA (for those of you concerned about internet freedoms) and gratuitous extensions of pharmaceutical patents, which limits access to life-saving medications for those who could only afford generic prescriptions.
I spend most of my extracurricular time working on that stuff, and that’s what I’d like to work on after I graduate, too.
My hope is that the Minor in Writing is enabling me to write clear, concise and interesting pieces that will inform people about how complex political policy affects issues they care about, and, ideally, inspire them to get involved with the movement. If I’m lucky, what I do in my spare time could become my job, and I could actually do something else for fun!