Meaningful conversations from the heart of your creative spark...
Join us as we explore the thought provoking themes surrounding CreativeMornings Cleveland's monthly breakfast lecture series. Excerpts of the lecture are book ended by meaningful conversations with attendees and speakers alike.
Justice is a word packed with consequence. Justice can be blind, social, or poetic. It is carried out in courtrooms and on city streets. It stirs emotion and carries a colorful array of connotations along with it. In this episode of Wake Up Call, we talk with three people who are fighting for Justice, each in their own unique way.
Megan Gallagher: I believe that a lot of our government systems are broken.
Daniel Brown: We're not paying the full price of food, that's for sure.
Chris Feran: I had to turn off notifications from Twitter and New York Times three years ago, so that I had the emotional capacity just to get through the day.
David Moss: We're so connected and available, tethered to our phones and tablets and computers, pestered by notifications and whatever the top story is of the ever-shrinking news cycle. And it's all bad news, all the time. It seems that way. It feels oppressive and unmovable. It's hard to feel anything but overwhelmed, and it often leads to fear, anger, and apathy.
David Moss: But, there are some people who are fighters. They're people who strive to make the world a better place. They carry their passion for a just world with them. Like a warrior carries a sword or a scholar carries a book. You know them because they stand tall, they speak up, they act with determination and purpose. Thank goodness for the fighters. Without them, the seekers of the truth, the boat rockers, the trailblazers, the world would be a different place. Daniel Brown, Megan Gallagher, and Christopher Feran, these are the people we spoke to at another Creative Mornings breakfast lecture. The theme is justice.
Thomas Fox: Hi, I'm Thomas Fox with Creative Mornings Cleveland. We're thrilled to have Evergreen Podcasts onboard as our official podcast partner. Evergreen Podcasts is committed to producing the best original content and engaging shows. Right now, you're listening to Wake Up Call, recording on location at the monthly Creative Mornings lecture series. Enjoy.
Daniel Brown: I founded a company like five years ago to help try and make some impact on addressing climate change. So yeah, I get to wake up every day and work on that, which is sweet.
David Moss: This is Daniel, the co-founder of Rust Belt Riders, a Cleveland food composting company. He's parlayed his passion for the environment into a thriving business that composted 1.3 million pounds of food waste in 2018. Daniel fights for justice.
Daniel Brown: Food is a really big component of what goes into our landfills, and then it creates a lot of really harmful greenhouse gases. And so if we can keep that stuff out of our landfills, we can turn food scraps into soil. And soil can sequester carbon. And by sequestering carbon, we can slow climate change. And then you can also grow food in that.
David Moss: Look, we all live here. Climate change is a big deal. It affects everyone. Even most people who don't believe that humans are the cause of climate change still acknowledge that it is happening. The cause doesn't change the necessity to do something about it. And Daniel is doing a lot about it. Composting is the issue that Daniel is focused on, but is quick to point out some other problems in our food supply chain.
Daniel Brown: 40% of all the food that's grown in the United States will end up being thrown away. And in Northeast Ohio, one in six children doesn't know where their next meal is coming from. So just by virtue of pointing out that we are actually growing enough food to feed the world right now. It's just being misallocated and not transported in the most efficient ways and handled in the most efficient ways.
Daniel Brown: And so we need to develop solutions to ensure that the right people are getting the right access to the right nutrition, at the right place, at the right time. And we're just at the very end of this supply chain to make sure that after you've prepared a meal or had a cup of coffee, that those coffee grounds or banana peels aren't going to a landfill.
David Moss: You don't hear a lot about landfill or composting movements in the news. Maybe it's not sexy enough, but Daniel's fight and company's promise to feed people not landfills, is making the world around him better.
Daniel Brown: What would it look like if Cleveland grew a significant percentage of the food that we would consume? Right. That's the kind of world that I want to get to and try and create. Rather than thinking about these massive global supply chains that can be impacted by tariffs that are thrown out by arbitrary goons. The average meal will travel over 2000 miles before it gets to your plate. And the farmer ends up getting cents on the dollar. And so, that creates a lot of conditions for labor exploitation, and terrible environmental practices, and farming practices.
Daniel Brown: I'm much more interested in how we can create a local regional food shed that connects people back to their food systems, in a way that really gives value to the farmer and labor and land that that food comes from. And I think that the role that everybody plays is in really trying to scrutinize the food that you're consuming, when you're consuming it, where it's coming from, and just being able to ask the right questions, I think.
David Moss: We spoke with another guest who also feels passionate about creating a better world. This is Megan Gallagher, and she fights for justice.
Megan Gallagher: I'm the executive director of the Cleveland Hope Exchange. We are a nonprofit that exists to break the cycle of despair that's rooted in poverty. So when you think about poverty, you know that there is a lot of helplessness that exists. Like hunger, human trafficking, homelessness and addiction. Where there's helplessness, there's a lot of hopelessness. And so we actually believe, if you insert hope in that cycle of despair, we can break it. And it's really through real relationship.
Megan Gallagher: Truly. It's about getting to the center of the human being. You know, someone once told me that was experiencing homelessness, they're like, "You know, Megan, I didn't become homeless because I ran out of a home or I ran out of money. I actually became homeless because I ran out of relationship. And I realized in that moment, that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to bring hope. Without that human piece, that human side of it, you really have no ability to break that cycle, just fair.
David Moss: Megan is spot on with this. A lot of people experience difficult times and it's really hard to pull out of them alone. The relationships we have are a huge component of having purpose and hope for the future. There are even studies that show a correlation between purpose and life expectancy, so this really can't be overstated.
Megan Gallagher: Without that hope. How do you move forward? How do you recreate yourself or really get back on your feet? A lot of times it could take this one phone call or one thing that happens that knock someone down and it can happen to anyone.
David Moss: People's life stories are so varied. It can and does happen to anyone, as Megan said. And what's the problem with the systems that are in place now? Why aren't they working? Why do people fall through the cracks?
Megan Gallagher: It's difficult. I believe that a lot of our government systems are broken. The systems don't really wrap around the human themselves. And so that's where I believe nonprofit can make the biggest difference. There are caseworkers in place, but they have so many cases they're managing. And so they're coming in, they're getting these people certified or processed through, but they don't get to say, "Hey, do you want to go to the park today?" Or, "Hey, how are you doing with your mental state?" Or, "Do you have friends that you can connect with? How's your family? What's going on with you?" To be able to be seen and heard and loved is invaluable. And that can't necessarily be provided by our government systems.
David Moss: This is where Megan and the Cleveland Hope Exchange try to step in and fill the gap. And one more thing, she also wants to inspire others to help.
Megan Gallagher: Just as much as I'm passionate about reaching the people that are hungry and experiencing homelessness, or addicted, or in human trafficking, I'm really hoping to break the stereotype of what volunteering is. I actually believe that we're not called to be human doings, we're human beings, right? And so in the midst of when we are doing outreach or work in the community, it's a great reminder that if we just come and be, like, "Hey, come to our outreach." And if you just share life with someone, like, "Yes, we're passing out free fresh produce." Or, "Yes, we're giving dental exams." But if you come and just share a little bit about you, and have them share a little bit about them and you exchange life, you're really exchanging hope. And that changes a volunteers mindset. And that's going to bring more impact than boxing 14,000 pounds of food.
Speaker 7: You're listening to Wake Up Call. We'll be right back.
David Moss: Downtown Cleveland is in a renaissance. World-class museums, incredible restaurants, live music, boutique shopping, luxury living, and of course, plenty of sporting events too. Stay up to date with where we are today and where we're headed next. Listen to Then There's Cleveland, a new podcast brought to you by the downtown Cleveland Alliance. That's Then There's Cleveland; episodes out now on evergreenpodcasts.com
Speaker 7: You're listening to Wake Up Call. Welcome back.
David Moss: Christopher Feran is the guest speaker at today's breakfast lecture. His expertise touches many of us each morning. He is a coffee industry consultant, roaster and travels the world as a green coffee buyer, working directly with farmers. He has years of experience working with startups and established companies in the Midwest, California and New York City. He's also the director of Coffee and a partner at Phoenix Coffee Company in Cleveland, Ohio. While coffee is an everyday commodity and we definitely take that for granted, it's also quite a process to get that coffee to us. And there are a lot of people that can be exploited along the way.
David Moss: We're glad to have had a chance to sit down and talk with Christopher Feran about his fight for justice. We start off by asking him about that Fair Trade stamp we see on the side of the coffee bag. What is that? Is it helping?
Chris Feran: So, Fair Trade is a really interesting program. Originally it was set up to give a certification that the farmer was paid what they considered to be an equitable sum. They establish a minimum price. So any coffee that is certified Fair Trade is supposed to get a minimum of $1.40 a pound. There is a $0.20 social premium that would go to the union or cooperative. But there are a lot of problems.
Chris Feran: One is that the cost of certification is high, so it tends to overlook a lot of small producers who can't afford that. Second, it tends to be unions or cooperatives who would then certify. And there's no guarantee that the premiums trickled down to the individual producers. And so what I find in a lot of areas of the world is that they don't. And so you find people who are in charge of the unions or on the boards live very lavishly at the expense of the members. And then they have to use Fair Trade certified trucks and shipping containers and everything else. It just compounds the cost down the chain when there's only a guarantee that 10 to 20% of the coffee that went into that blend is actually certified.
David Moss: 10 to 20%. It doesn't sound like this Fair Trade certification is working very well. Is it worth consideration when shopping?
Chris Feran: What it was really valuable for, is creating this idea of price consciousness. And that's not something that had been applied to coffee before. Other than, you know, "I need my dollar Bodega coffee." So any sort of conscientiousness by the American consumer that this thing is a commodity that has a value is progress in my mind. We just need to find ways to say that's not enough.
David Moss: So maybe knowledge is half the battle. But something needs to be done. Something needs to be changed. We asked Christopher if Phoenix Coffee Company is doing anything about it.
Chris Feran: So when we're navigating that at our retail stores, we've made a very conscious effort to absorb the increased cost. And so we take a lower margin on our coffee so that more people can afford it. And so we want as many people as possible to be able to choose a more responsibly sourced coffee. And because of the efficiencies that we have in place and the amount of attention that we pay to every single detail, we're able to stretch that. So you get a delicious cup of coffee that's responsible and it's cheaper.
David Moss: It sounds like they have a system figured out that works a little better for everyone involved. But I know that Chris travels the world and buys directly from farmers, not distributors. So I don't know if this is a strategy that other companies can employ as easily. And if that's the case, where's the industry heading?
Chris Feran: Coffee plays such a strong role, particularly in capitalist economies. If you look at the growing coffee markets of the world, it's in China and India where you have a burgeoning middle class. And so those trends have applied across history. And in the U.S. we have this expectation that coffee should be part of a daily ritual, therefore, it should be cheap.
Chris Feran: And a hundred years ago, coffee was better than it was 50 years ago. But in the 50's and post war era, everything became cheap and efficient, and that was because we demanded that it be cheap. And I think now that specialty has come as far as it has, and we're starting to see a plateau in it's growth, it's going to coalesce with a shortage of supply in about a year and a half. And as a result, I think the price is either going to jump or a lot of places are going to close and they're going to be a lot of deserts and we're going to have to re-acclimate ourselves to the idea of paying more.
David Moss: Okay, so no one wants to pay more. It can be really difficult to accept a price that is justified when it costs you. And it's easy to ignore injustice when it's far away. That's why awareness or consciousness, as Christopher puts it, is important in this instance. But all this awareness can also sometimes add to the massive list of issues we're bombarded with on a daily basis. It's easy to just say, "Not my problem." Or, "I can't do anything about it." But that's also what makes Christopher's situation interesting. For him, it's not far away when he visits a family farm in Costa Rica, or when he shakes a farmer's hand in Ethiopia right after making a deal. This is right in front of him and he's decided to do something about it.
Chris Feran: I went to Jesuit high school and the Catholics have this prayer, "Change the things you can, and recognize when you can't." And so if I'm given a choice, I weigh those options. I try to think about the fallout of them, and be very conscientious in following through.
David Moss: Justice. Let's start with the root word, just. From the Oxford English Dictionary, based on behaving according to what is morally right and fair. And then the definition of justice: just behavior or treatment, the quality of being fair and reasonable. The personification of justice, usually a blindfolded woman holding scales in the sword. I love this image. I mean, like a righteous warrior weighing what is fair and not distracted by the strongman and red herrings that are often put forward so falsely to justify what is actually injust. There's a lot of false outrage in the world and it's a little confusing knowing what cause to get behind.
David Moss: And I know we only have so much in us, only so much to give, but if we can take some inspiration from our guests today and give what we're able, things could be different. I know that people get discouraged and overwhelmed, but each of us has a choice in every action. Our lives intersect with many people on a daily basis. Can we look outward a bit more? Can we be less self-absorbed? Can we take care of the world a little better, and affect the people around us in a more positive way? I'm not talking about something overly dramatic right now. I'm just talking about doing what is morally right and fair, to quote the dictionary again. And I'm talking about treating people with dignity and love and recognizing the humanity in them. I think we can all do that a little bit better.
David Moss: Wake Up Call is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thanks to executive producers, Joan Andrews and Michael DeAloia, producer and audio director, Dave Douglas, story editor, Julie Fink, and account manager, Connor Standish. Thanks to Toubab Krewe for the use of their song, Rooster available on iTunes. If you'd please like and review this program, it would really help. Learn more about this and other podcasts from Evergreen at evergreenpodcasts.com. Wake Up Call, ideas that crow.