Not long after my last presentation on my book and human trafficking, one of my parishioners let me know how horrified she is that she has around 100 slaves working for her. She figured this out by looking at slaveryfootprint.org, an excellent website to learn more about how we can tangibly reduce our slavery footprint (like a carbon footprint). My wife said the same thing when she discovered that she had over fifty. Some of the questions are hard to answer accurately or refer to one-time purchases and may skew the actual result, but the conclusion remains the same: OH NO!
The purpose of slaveryfootprint.org is not to alarm you. The purpose is to inform you. Of course, your alarm serves a purpose, too, in that once you see how terrifying your slavery footprint is you’ll be more likely to want to change. The website then gives you a bunch of detail on what goes into your slavery footprint so that you can adjust your lifestyle and choices accordingly.
Even then the number will probably remain high. I suppose that I am slightly more simplicity-oriented in life and slightly more informed on slavery than the average Westerner, and so I have made slight adjustments to reduce my slavery footprint, and yet I still have thirty-seven or slaves working for me. At the end of the day, even if we entirely remake our lives to limit our footprint, we probably won’t eliminate our footprint until we also influence society to remake itself. That’s an unfortunate truth, but we know it’s true looking at how we reduce our carbon footprint. If we ride our bikes everywhere we go, don’t use electricity or have solar panels that cover our electric usage, and have geothermal systems to heat and cool our homes, we’d still have a carbon footprint (which is sad, considering how expansive and demanding these changes to our lives I’ve listed are). How? Well, where do we buy our food? Is it all local? If not—and it’s almost surely not because in most places it’s actually impossible to only buy local and still eat anywhere near healthy—then we have a carbon footprint because our food had to be transported. Dangit! We’d then have to change the way our society produces and distributes food to completely eliminate our footprint. One example of at least a handful. Another example: do we use paper? If yes, is it hemp paper? If no, and it’s paper made from wood, then we are contributing to the rise in carbon dioxide in the environment because trees breathe on carbon dioxide. Moral of the story is simple: we must make radical changes to our own lives and also make radical changes to how society operates.
Moral of the moral: go to slaveryfootprint.org and learn how you can make a difference with, often, simple life changes. Find out how many slaves are working for you and how exactly you can reduce that number. Remember, a law of economics is that supply always seeks to meet demand. If we limit demand then we limit supply. And when we consider that the supply consists of human beings, each and every one of whom deserve dignity and respect, then we should get to work. We also see that sometimes a product can look so enticing that having a supply creates demand, but that side of economics relates more to societal changes and that comes later.
One quick lesson to take away with you, especially if you don’t go to slaveryfootprint.org right after reading this: don’t upgrade your cell phone. Or, at the very least, make sure that you recycle your phone in a place that will properly reuse the parts of the phone. All cell phones, the way they are made today, require the use of a metal the mining of which, at the moment, uses slave labor. Upgrade your phone and don’t recycle the old one and you are using slave labor. Unless your current phone is broken, why do you need to upgrade it anyway? What’s up with that? Take better care of your cell phone in the first place, too. Even if we recycle our current phones, the rate at which we buy and upgrade our cell phones is not sustainable using recycled product only. If it works, keep using it; if you’re behind the times, so what? The “times” aren’t so kind to 27 million slaves.