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It’s happening a lot more nowadays at fair trade conventions and seminars. Brawls, that is. That’s right, the gloves are off, bar stools are flying, whiskey bottles are smashing, guns are smoking and at the center of all that smoke stands a radical revolutionary. His name is Paul Rice.

This is the guy who wasn’t satisfied with his first glimpse into economics at Yale back in the late seventies. Because you see, just a glimpse wasn’t enough. Paul wanted to experience economics – to see what it looked like in the eyes of desperate coffee farmers around the world, to smell the sweat it produced on their brows as they struggled to make ends meet and most of all, he wanted to live the life that is created by an imbalanced trading system. To get this hit of real economics, Paul took off after his studies to Nicaragua in 1983, just when the Sandinista revolution was in full bloom. He stayed in there for eleven years, living for most of that time near the Honduran border. While he won’t discuss it, he risked his life alongside passionately committed revolutionaries -some of whom did not survive.

Well anyway, that’s a bit of background on Paul Rice. It’s fair to say that he’s got a few strong opinions about social justice. And now he’s back, shaking up the world of fair trade from within as the president and CEO of Fair Trade USA. But don’t be fooled. This revolutionary’s heart beats to the sound of a distant drum, one that still echoes through the Nicaraguan jungles where his fellowmen tend to their coffee beans. So when Paul takes provocative jabs at the international fair trade system, he knows full well what he’s doing in pushing a slow and lumbering organization towards pioneering innovation. And so he should because Paul is a survivor, and right now he’s on a sinking ship and he knows it. Fairtrade is at serious risk of being relegated to the dusty back shelves of history – unless a revolutionary with a beating fighter’s heart can innovate a way forward within the market system we’ve got.


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