Monday, March 03, 2008

What's a Lover to Do?

This comes too late to provide any Valentine's Day relief, but, as a public service, I nonetheless want to recommend an article in the February 2008 issue of Human Rights Quarterly (vol. 30, no. 1): "Flowers, Diamonds, and Gold: The Destructive Public Health, Human Rights, and Environmental Consequences of Symbols of Love," by Martin Donohoe.

Donohoe writes:

On Valentine's Day, anniversaries, and throughout the year, suitors and lovers buy cut flowers and diamond and gold jewelry for the objects of their affection. Their purchases are in part a consequence of timely traditions maintained by aggressive marketing. Most buyers are unaware that in gifting their lovers with these aesthetically beautiful symbols, they are supporting industries which damage the environment, utilize forced labor, cause serious acute and chronic health problems, and contribute to violent conflicts.

Cutting to the recommendations, Donohoe touts and the Veriflora certification system for flowers, certified conflict-free diamonds (with that status ascertained through aggressive questioning of the jeweler selling the diamonds), and gold purchases consistent with the "No Dirty Gold" campaign. Of course, there are also alternatives to flowers, diamonds, and gold:

Substitute gifts include cards (ideally printed on recycled paper), poems, photos, collages, videos, art, home improvement projects, homemade meals, and donations to charities. Consider alternatives to the traditional diamond engagement and gold wedding rings, such as recycled or vintage gold: old gold can be melted down and made into new jewelry. Other options include eco-jewelry made from recycled or homemade glass and coconut beads. Purchasing handicrafts constructed by indigenous peoples from outlets that return the profits to the artisans and their communities provides wide-ranging social and economic benefits. Such tokens of affection will be rendered more meaningful through their lack of association with death and destruction and because they symbolize justice and hope for the future.

That's the advice, ladies and gentlemen. Good luck implementing it.