If you want to gain a great lesson in the complexities involved with international trade, visit FloraHolland’s flower auction in Aalsmeer, about 13 miles outside of Amsterdam.  Thanks to the prodding of a Dutch colleague, I dragged myself out of bed at 5:00 am, as dawn broke with no one milling about Amsterdam’s streets and canals.

The bike ride alone was a joy; I could write a post about that lovely experience.  After an hour and 52 minutes, I arrived at the massive auction warehouse, located close to Schipol’s International Airport.

What awaits you is a lesson in international trade.  With all the cry over buying local, the fact is that so many around the globe make their livelihood off the hauling of goods across the world’s borders.  Depending on what data you read, only about 5% of products ship by air—but that small fraction accounts for about 90% of the total value of goods traded by nations.

You can learn about how the auction house works on FloraHolland’s site.  My two hours there were fascinating:  the geometric movements of the carts left me in a trance, and the scenes in the various auction rooms give you a window to a process that may disappear in a few years.  Most flowers sold in Aalsmeer are flown in from countries like Kenya—and most are sold electronically.

I spliced together some scenes, which are divided up into four different videos on YouTube.

While I appreciate the desire to buy locally, it is not always practical.  I believe in the economic theory of competitive advantage.  I also think the way to address the issues involved with the fuel needed to haul products around the world should be rethought.  Is there a way to use cleaner fuels for ships, which transports the majority of goods?  And is the flower trade a way to build wealth in developing nations, or is this a luxury with more detriment than benefit?  Please share your thoughts.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.