After brewing a cup of my favorite Fair Trade organic Equal Exchange coffee the other morning, I was awakened by some exciting news. We can now find our favorite Fair Trade coffee producers on Google Earth!

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few years, Google Earth lets you virtually swoop around the world viewing satellite images on your computer of literally any and every corner of the globe.

Loved by school children, superman wanna-be’s, architects and voyeuristic pervs alike, the latest version of Google Earth features a close-up street view with 3D buildings, detailed descriptions of landmarks, and even a “sun” feature that lets you play God and control the sunrise and sunset of any location you wish.

Proudly, the team at Google Earth has always had a social conscious and uses its technological savvy to raise awareness about international affairs and human rights issues. In the recent past, they’ve focused their mapping efforts on highlighting the New Orleans post-Katrina floods and the conflict crisis in Darfur.

Their newest feat is bringing you close-ups of and stories about Third World producers participating in the international movement of Fair TradeFair Trade is an alternative, more sustainable, and all around better way of doing business. Rather than using sweatshops and importing massive amounts of goods from China, Fair Traders work closely with small, independent owners and cooperatives located for the most part in rural parts of the developing world. Fair Trade producers are paid a fair price for their work; do not use child labor; are not held to abusive overtime pressure; have safe and healthy work environments; and are usually recipients of other well-being initiatives and community programs, such as health clinics and micro-credit programs.

To zoom into your favorite Fair Trade producer, all you need to do is download Google Earth (if you haven’t already), click on “Fair Trade Certified” (it’s under the Global Awareness subset), and start roaming the earth in search of all things Fair Trade! When you find a icon that looks interesting, click on it and you’ll get a pretty good introduction to that particular producer and their history, plus more info about their community and local economic environment.

This is such a cool marriage of technology and story-telling. Fair Trade is all about telling the story of small farmers and producers and what better way to learn more about them than to zoom into a satellite photo of their home! Plus its super fun. When we checked it out, we found Tongorrape: a mango cooperative located in northern rural Peru where families live in extreme poverty without running water or electricity. We also learned about Yirgacheffe Farmer’s Cooperative Union in Adis Abeba, Ethiopia which was formed in 2002 as a coffee and tea coop whose primary goal is to actively participate in the international marketplace.

We’re obviously loopy about bringing these producers’ names, faces and stories to American consumers…and now, using the ridiculous power of Google, we can really spread the word (and the landscape) of Fair Trade! So get on the Google Earth spaceship and join the mission to support Fair Trade!

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