Saturday, October 15, 2011

Slavery Footprint

I recently stumbled upon an interesting website that lets you input some details about your life, and then tells you how many people around the world were probably involved in providing you with what you have - but through forced/unfair labor.  The website is called Slavery Footprint , if you want to check it out for yourself (and let me know what you think about it!).

I discovered Slavery Footprint via a random Facebook friend, and I imagine it's kind of making the rounds of the social networking sites, reaching whichever users care enough (or are bored enough) to click the link and fill in some information.  After you see how many people around the world worked in unfair conditions to produce your stuff, you are invited to click the "Take Action" button.

"Excellent!" I thought, "Now they'll have some excellent ideas to help people reduce their consumption of unfairly sourced products!  I really hope there are some useful ideas that I can take to heart and try to incorporate into my life."

Slightly disappointing.  The website turns the whole experience into some kind of game and invites you to "earn Free World points" to cancel out your "Slavery Score."  Granted, some of the ways you can earn points are valid and legitimate, like making a donation to fight against slavery and sending notes to companies to ask them to prioritize fair supply chains.  But the other options, like earning points by telling all your online friends about the site, or downloading the special app so you can chat...while shopping...about the slavery that went into the stuff you are currently buying, don't do much to provide a sense of usefulness to the cause.

I think I mostly didn't like the uncanny resemblance to factories buying carbon credits so they can pollute all they like without getting in trouble.  "If you offset your Slavery score, you're off the hook!  Great job!  We wouldn't want you to actually change the way you live just for something silly like injustice."

The inconvenient truth (no pun intended), is that sharing an awesome website on Facebook while buying Nikes and gobbling Snickers probably isn't doing anybody a whole lot of good.  And deep down inside us, we know it.

There are obviously no easy solutions to something as huge and terrible as forced labor.  But don't the millions of little choices made by millions of rich Westerners every day add up to make a difference?  It might seem simplistic or childish to say so, but when you're standing in the store, choosing between the Cheap-o sugar and the Fair Trade stuff, it really does matter (yeah, I know, go get some local honey at the Farmer's Market instead).  When you're choosing whether to drive to the mall for "retail therapy" or to head to the vegetable garden to do some weeding, that choice matters too.  

I think I'd rather "inconvenience" myself by trying to live a consciously ethical lifestyle every day, than earn "Free World points."  How about you?


  1. ImagesOfRealHope.orgOctober 15, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    It's kind of like the story of the boy throwing starfish back into the ocean after a storm had washed them up on the beach. A man walks by and says, "Kid, you're wasting your time. There are thousands out here. It's not going to matter." The kid picks up another one, throws it into the ocean and says, "It matters to that one." He keeps doing it. After a few minutes of reflection, the man joins the boy.

    Compassion International made a poster years ago that was simple, yet profound. Hundreds of people were standing shoulder to shoulder, all staring right at you with confused looks on their faces. About 1/4 of them had thought bubbles which said, "But what can one person do?"

    Keep up the great writing, Danielle!

  2. Hi, Dad,
    Thanks for commenting and encouraging me. :)


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