Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The conditions lived and worked in

I want to address a comment that I received on a previous post, On a lack of honesty. What I said in that post, and in most other posts, is the fact that our choices and this culture result in ecological degradation, and that this ecological degradation leads to living and working conditions for people that are hard and toxic. It is not only the production and mining that leads to toxic conditions, but also the things that happen to what we produce once we've rejected them. The comment suggested instead that today, working conditions are much better overall, and that ecological degradation and working conditions are "inversely related." I wanted to counter that by providing a few examples, and by reemphasising a point I made in another post - our attitudes toward people are reflected in our attitudes toward nature, and our attitudes towards nature are reflected in our attitudes toward people. The nature and people negatively affected may not be present in our immediacy, but they may be present elsewhere.

This blog started off by exploring trash, an outcome of our choices, and there's no better example of poor working conditions and living conditions than viewed through trash. Whether it is electronic waste being sent to Asia, or petrochemicals being dumped in Africa, or the landfills on the outskirts of cities, the working and living conditions produced because of what we reject are horrifying and degrading. In his book The Lake of Sleeping Children, Luis Alberto Urrea describes these conditions that people live in and work in at a Tijuana dump. On the production side, it is very easy for us to be unaware of poor working conditions that exist in far off countries. I am sure you heard of the exploitative conditions at Foxconn (here, here), the chip manufacturer in China.

This culture has been successful at exporting and externalising the negative outcomes of our choices. Wars aren't fought here, they are fought elsewhere. What does it mean to go to war? What does it mean for the land and air and water? What does it mean to live in a war zone? We don't really know. Similarly, what does it mean to export production and mining? What does it mean for the land and air and water? It may mean that the conditions here are pristine and clean, but there is no way that such conditions exist in the places the actual production and mining are taking place in. We may be able to mechanise most every job here in the West, and create "good working conditions," but there are actual people doing those jobs in the industrialising world, a world that this Western culture has created and exported.

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