A lot of us are beginning to question the unholy gods of capitalism and globalization. Many of us can see where it is getting us environmentally and safetywise.
Lately, the recalls from china have been numerous; the things being recalled are dangerous or deadly to our children and our pets.
But in addition to the environmental toll and the risk to our safety, there is often a toll on humanity.
Here's a new question: do you know where your cotton T shirt is from?
Uzbekistan. Once a part of the Soviet Union, and the site of one of the largest environmental disasters in the history of our planet.
In the 60's the Soviet's diverted water from the world's largest inland sea, the Aral Sea. They sent water to irrigate crops such as rice, and cotton.
Large dams were built across both rivers, and an 850-mile central canal with a far-reaching system of "feeder" canals was created. When the irrigation system was completed, millions of acres along both sides of the main canal were flooded.
During the next 30 years, the Aral Sea experienced a severe drop in water level, its shoreline receded, and its salt content increased.
The marine environment became hostile to the sea life in it, killing the plants and animals. As the marine life died, the fishing industry suffered.
Uzbekistan today is a desert, the winds blow pesticide laced sand and salt. One of the hardiest of crops, cotton, is the only thing that will barely grow.
Rusting hulks from the bygone fishing industry sit in the middle of this desert, almost like they were dropped from the sky.
Abandoned ship in former Aral Sea,
near Aral, Kazakhstan. Photo taken in spring of 2003 by Staecker. No rights
There are some things being done to return parts of the Aral sea, water is being diverted by new dams in the hopes that some of this damage can be reversed, and that some of the land will be desalinated. 60 percent of the water is gone, and the sea will never be what it was once.
Irreversible damage from diverting water and the heavy use of pesticides.
The government that took over in this country upon the fall of the Soviet Union, is cruel and tight fisted. Everything is under Government control and Cotton continues to be the number two export ($1 billion a year) although they are looking into exporting other natural resources such as its mineral and petroleum reserves..
Ummm. ya. Like that will be much better for the people of that country.
So, now I come back to my T shirt question.
When she gets up in the morning, a seven-year-old Uzbek
girl heads not to school but to the cotton fields. She carries a plastic water bottle filled with pesticides. The June day is muggy and hot, and as she douses
the plants, the chemicals burn her skin. In September, she will return to these fields, missing school for up to three months while moving between the rows of cotton, stooped over and picking furiously to try to meet her daily quota—between 20 and 100 pounds per day.
If the girl doesn’t pick the required cotton, or if the cotton she’s picked doesn’t meet the owner’s standards, she will likely be threatened or beaten. At night, the older children are sent to dormitories with up to 20 sharing a room, with little to eat besides bread and tea. They must drink irrigation water and have no running water for bathing. If they are lucky, they earn 38 cents per day for their efforts. Many of the hundreds of thousands of children suspected of forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields earn nothing at all.
China buys a lot of the cotton that is produced through child labour and slavery.
China then pays a pittance to Chinese labourers to make that cotton T shirt, or pants, etc. that we can all buy so cheaply at places like Walmart.
Those goods are then sold to all of the consumers in North America and Europe. Often they are bought by people who have lost all they had when their jobs disappeared so that kids in Uzbekistan and the people of China can live in near slavery and the big corporations can continue to have a healthy bottom line.
More on the travesty of children, cotton and forced labour:
Across the globe some 250 million children are compelled to work. The vast majority (70% or more) are employed in agriculture, where they are at risk from exposure to pesticides and other chemicals, machinery and arduous labour.
The cotton industry is no exception and from West Africa to Egypt, India to Turkmenistan, children are employed in a variety of tasks from cottonseed production, to pesticide spraying and the annual cotton harvest.
Even more disturbingly, the industry relies on a high level of forced child labour – a clear contravention of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
Buying "organic cotton" items usually means that it was grown and harvested by people who are fairly compensated, but then there is still the question about where that item was stiched. It could still be a sweatshop product.
This is a perpetual chain of Slavery. Such is the "free" market. But, free for who?
My new personal mantra:
Stop shopping. Stop buying.
And when I do buy, I will look harder at where it came from, and how it was produced.
All that cheap stuff comes at a heavy price for someone.
Crossposted at A Creative Revolution Come visit us for Canadian and World politics.