Consumption, Slavery, and Environmental Degradation

Slaves are producing many of the things we buy, and in the process they are forced to destroy our shared environment, increase global warming, and wipe out protected species. […] Our consumer economy is driven at its most basic level by resource extraction, pulling things from the earth, an extraction that we never actually see. We pull food from the earth, of course, but we also pull our cellphones from the earth, our clothing, our computers, our flat-screen televisions, our cars—it all comes from the earth, ultimately. And pulling things from the earth can be a dirty business. To make our consumer economy hum and grow and instantly gratify, costs are driven down as low as they can go, especially at the bottom of the supply chain; this can lead to abusive conditions for workers and harm to the natural world. Taken to the extreme it means slavery and catastrophic environmental destruction. But all this normally happens far from any prying eyes. It’s a hidden world that keeps its secrets. (Kevin Bales, “Your Phone Was Made By Slaves: A Primer on the Secret Economy”, an excerpt from Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World)

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