Island Life by David Slack


And I just have to look away

This might not be the recipe for a perfect day, but you might find it self-improving. You begin by reading about the new Jesus phone. Half the price, twice the speed! I still like my Nokia 95 better for its five whole megapixels but my word there is plenty to drool over in those perfectly-designed iPhones. You spend the remainder of the day lamenting the rising cost of petrol and the cramped cost of living. You conclude your day by going to a free screening of Black Gold, courtesy of the Wild Bean people. They announced yesterday that they will henceforth be offering only fair-trade coffee, and put it in context by rolling this film.

Free! Cinema 4, Rialto, Newmarket, 6pm on Tuesday 10th, Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th June. Email nominating the day of your choice and the number of tickets you’d like.

It is chastening to watch the documentation of the straitened existence eked out by coffee growers in Ethiopia. They earn a handful of cents for a kilogram of their beans. You know what your coffee costs you. 50 beans to a cup. Magic beans.

The documentary tracks the many hands in the chain who take their cut. Fair-trade seeks to diminish the number of intermediaries. It’s laudable, and I would, if I were still drinking it, buy my coffee from that source. But in the long run the Ethiopian farmers we see in the documentary clearly apprehend the only viable way out: spend their meagre funds on schools and trust that their children will acquire skills that might be parlayed into a better life.

Labour-intensive primary production is a dead end street. My Dad urged us off the farm for not dissimilar reasons. I was and remain temperamentally unsuited to the life, but he either didn't notice or was kind enough not to put it that way. Perhaps he saw I needed to live in a big city where you could go to well-appointed cinemas to see interesting documentaries about the ineffable tragedies of life elsewhere on the planet.

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