February 20, 2019

Symbols of the Rose

The rose seems to be a perennial flower that we have always known as symbolizing love and affection. Have you ever asked yourself why are the symbols of love and affection particularly attributed to the rose? That’s a question that I’ve asked myself. There are around 400 species of flowers and the rose stands out from the crowd by its incredible beauty and delicateness. What we don’t know is that the rose has also been a symbol of war and politics. You may have heard about the “War of the Roses”, civil wars between dynasties, that have led to the Tudors’ government. Roses have also been proclaimed as legal tender by royalty of the 17th century because of their importance. Archeologists stated that these beautiful flowers were 350 million years old, but they’ve only been cultivated in the last 5,000 years mainly in China. They came into Europe only in the late 18th century. However, in order to have a better understanding of the meaningful rose, we have to go back to mythology. The most credible explanation is that the rose was Venus’s favorite flower and Venus was the goddess of love, which automatically made the rose, the flower of love. Moreover, the color red has been a symbol of strong emotions and romanticism for centuries. When you see the color red, you immediately associate it with the warm feeling of love and other positive emotions related to love and affection. In fact, colors have a great influence on people and have been studied by psychologists. Marketers have used it to their advantage in order to boost sales. Red creates a sense of urgency, enhances appetite, and arouses the body. That’s a reason why it’s used a lot during clearance sales, in restaurants, and for holidays like Valentine’s day.

Roses exist in multiple colors and each color has a different meaning. You don’t even have to speak a word. They speak by themselves…

Rose colors and meanings
Rose colors and meanings

The negative impact of the floral industry

1) For workers

Rose farm worker(Image by Kristjanath)

Roses that we buy in the United States are mainly cultivated in Colombia, and every year, more than 4 billion roses are imported in the U.S. They mainly come from Savanna, a region close to Bogota, the capital city. The flower industry is an important source of revenue for the country, but this industry hides a lot of secrets. A huge amount of water is needed to keep the roses alive. Consequently, water is imported from Bogota because the water supply is insufficient and decreases every year. A toxic component called Lindano has been found in groundwater. Workers - including women, men, and children - work in an unsafe environment. They spend around 80 hours per week in greenhouses that are full of insecticides, fungicides, and nematicides. Indeed, they receive a decent salary, but they're overexploited and spend days in a toxic working environment. Most of the chemicals used are restricted in the United States because they are noxious and cause severe maladies. Moreover, no appropriate clothing is provided to protect workers from these chemicals. Unfortunately, the Government is not willing to do much about this issue, and workers are at risk every day in order to keep up the competition in this billion dollar flower industry.

2) For the planet

condensation trails(image by tookapic via Pixabay)

In addition to being unhealthy for workers, the floral industry is extremely polluting. After cultivation, roses are transported in airplanes to Miami International Airport. Once they land in Miami, roses are carefully inspected to avoid any contamination, put together into beautiful buckets, and distributed all over the nation. Roses are refrigerated at 35°F to stay fresh and survive the long travels. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the transportation sector emits 28% of the total US Greenhouse Gases. Airfreight and refrigerated trucks aren't the most sustainable transportation means, neither they are the only ones available. 

 Nothing is lost!

Container ship(Image by Ricardo Kühl via Flickr)

Ships would be a great solution to that environmental sustainability issue. The Wall Street Journal's article, Fresh-Cut Flowers, Shipped by Sea?, says "Ocean transport costs can be half those of airfreight, an important consideration for price-conscious supermarkets and florists. Mom is unlikely to notice the difference in her Mother’s Day bouquet. Proponents say certain roses, carnations and other hearty varieties show no ill effects from the sea voyages spent in refrigerated containers a degree or two above freezing." To add to this statement, in the future, huge container ships will be able to contain way more flowers than one plane can contain, thus it will avoid airplane round trips and additional pollution.

bed of roses(image by Dr Carl Russell via Pixabay)

This industry also smells like money for both the United States and Colombia. The production of roses is very cheap for the US because roses grow naturally in Colombia, and Colombian labor is less expensive than US labor. Americans are able to inflate rose prices to sell them for high-end purposes like weddings and other special events, thus they're making a huge profit. They are also able to sell them at lower prices to customers who are not willing to pay the . Because of the high demand, Colombia became dependent on the US. This blossoming industry is supporting thousands of jobs in both countries. According to Colombia Today"The floriculture industry employs more than 130,00 workers [in Colombia] and 25 percent of those workers are women." and "it is estimated that the industry supports some 200,000 American jobs – from retail to logistics."


Author: Mara Vukovic

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