Point of View: Natural disasters, politics make for a bitter Feb. 14

By Bonnie Berger

This Valentine’s Day, millions of Americans will exchange something sweet with that someone special without taking a moment to consider where that confectionary item was produced or ponder the ever-so-slight price increase.

As one of the three global leaders in sugar cane production, Australia’s unfortunate plague of natural disasters brought on an increase in sugar cane prices.

The United States heavily relies on Australia’s exports to produce the conversation hearts we gave to our friends in elementary school, and with sugar at the highest price since 1980, those colorful heart candies may decrease in popularity with parents. Similarly, a month long embargo on cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast continues to see chocolate prices skyrocket.

Spurred on by political tensions between past president Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Outtara, the winner of the Nov. 28 national election, the world’s largest cocoa producer has halted all export of cocoa beans until tensions lessen.

Although the majority of Valentine chocolates are already priced and shelved, chocolate Easter bunnies are sure to get a new, slightly pricier tag this year.

Although these events will gradually affect your pocketbook, they aren’t situations that impede human rights on a global scale. These price increases are a far cry from blood diamonds or child labor, leaving little room for reaction among consumers.

Price increases, be they ever so slight, are never savory; however, the well-informed consumer will be aware of the reasoning behind such actions.

Through the day-to-day hustle of college life, it is difficult to dedicate any significant amount of time to reading up on world affairs.

Some days, I consider myself lucky to catch the main headlines, let alone be aware of commodity prices on the global market. Yet, in an effort to maintain a holistic, balanced lifestyle, I challenge myself to know what I’m putting into my body, as well as major current events that might play into that item’s production, or pricing, in this instance.

The unfortunately popular America-centric worldview leaves many students blissfully unaware of world affairs that factor into gas prices, food production or textile imports.

Living in such a blessed country makes it easy to get caught up in the cares and responsibilities of today, giving little thought to our neighbors around the world, many of whom we rely on to supply our lifestyles.

Simply making a point to catch up on the news, global and local, as well as putting a little research into that item you’re about to pick off the Walmart shelf, will yield a beneficial return.

Such knowledge may spur on an appreciation for what we have, in addition to a clearer understanding of specific goods and services. I believe delving further into such affairs will also cultivate a deeper appreciation for other countries, which in turn will produce better world citizens.

Who knew all this could be inspired via conversation hearts and chocolate truffles?

Merely thoughts to savor over delectable treats, challenge yourself to broaden your horizons through interacting in more meaningful conversations with others, taking an interest in other countries’ affairs, and appreciating those you love this holiday.

Bonnie Berger is a junior journalism major from Austin and a reporter for the Lariat.