Looking at the social justice calendar for 2009, it appears I've already missed September's Hunger Action Month (though you can still get involved with Catholic Charities efforts to combat domestic hunger). Ratz. But I still have a shot at contributing somehow to October's Fair Trade month. I'm guessing this month doesn't get a lot of PR (Fair Trade month, not October), so here's a small contribution to the mediascape: You can find out more about Fair Trade month and how you can get involved at http://www.fairtrademonth.org/.
You've probably been seeing a lot more fair trade products showing up at your local market. They've gone from small boutiques (I'm looking at you Ten-thousand Villages ) and after-Mass cafeteria table sales to more or less mainstream retail outlets in just a few years. Fair trade piggy backs on existing commerce networks to deliver commodites, food and specialty products that are sourced in a manner that promotes the human dignity of producers and contributes to relationship building with consumers.
Devoting your dollars to fair trade is a relatively painless way to help promote authentic human development in some of the more materially diminished parts of the planet without resorting to charity or squabbling over a federal grant. You also get to participate in what development economics use to call "third way" networks but which Pope Benedict XVI approvingly rebrands in Caritas in Vertitate as the “economy of communion” (borrowing a concept here from the Focolare movement): "a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres, one which does not exclude profit, but instead considers it a means for achieving human and social ends . . . [a] willingness to view profit as a means of achieving the goal of a more humane market and society." (46)
Benedict sees this new economy as a means of "civilizing" market forces. So be civilized, like the Pope says, and this month, shop your values.