Imagine sitting around the dinner table with your family. You are laughing, and sharing the day’s events. You help yourself to a serving of mashed potatoes. You descend back into a comfortable sitting position and pick up your fork. Just as the cold steel of the fork touches your mouth, the door slams open and a wave of armed men enter the dining room. Their presence alone is startling, and has frightened you and the rest of your family into a position of powerlessness. They tell you your living room is now the site for a cattle-farm and that although, one day you may resume the meal together, today is not that day.

This scenario is not my first choice for a daydream, but parallel circumstances have been a harsh reality for people, all over the world.

Years of abuse and overproduction of the Earth’s resources has contributed to global climate change, the displacement of indigenous people and wildlife, and has triggered a humanitarian panic to amend our industrial indiscretions.

The Amazon Rainforest often referred to as “the lungs of our planet,” has graciously provided the vital service of recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen, among other things, and has demanded nothing in return.

We are civilized people. No well-mannered men would accept a gift of such generous implications without the returned expression of appreciation. As a token of our humble thanks, this is what we offered the Rainforest:

Since 1970, we have destroyed over 600,000 square kilometers of the Amazon Rainforest and displaced or killed countless amounts of indigenous wildlife and people in the process.

Why?

Cheeseburgers, furniture, oil, and pharmaceuticals.

And now, in the wake of the new climate change resolution trend, it seem our destruction of billions of acres of rainforest is no longer a sufficient offering. In this new era of environmental responsibility, action has just begun for the reconciliation of our misdeeds. Unfortunately, many of the resolutions in effect come with the same cost for the indigenous life.

Deforestation contributes nearly 20% of the total global carbon emissions. We have been taught to equate carbon emissions with global warming, and global warming with a man-caused process that must be stopped, for the sake of our planet.

In a nutshell: by clearing out billions of acres of rainforest for the timber industries, cattle farming, oil, soybean, and paper industries, we have caused irreparable damage to the planet and the life indigenous to the rainforest. Now it is a race to right the wrongs of the human race, and where there is a demand, there is possibility for economic gain. Ironically and tragically, the indigenous people and wildlife who have forcibly suffered in the name of economic gain are once again being made to bare the burden, only this time it is under the guise of going green.

REDD, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, is a United Nations collaborative program. According to their website:

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.”

This simply means that governments, companies or forest owners in the South would be paid for keeping forests standing instead of cutting them down. The main system of finance behind REDD is the carbon-market system. According the Indigenous Environmental Network:

Carbon Markets buy and sell permits to pollute called ‘allowances’ and ‘carbon credits.’ Carbon markets have two parts: emissions trading (also called ‘cap and trade’) and offsets. They are false solutions to climate change because they do not bring about the changes needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground. They claim to solve the climate crisis but really allow polluters to buy their way out of reducing their emissions. These multi-billion dollar trading mechanisms privatize and commodify the earth’s ability to keep its atmosphere balanced. The International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change opposes carbon markets.”

It is no surprise that even the implementation of a socially responsible system is designed for a few key players to make a very large profit. Reuters, an international news agency, reported that an Interpol environmental crime official warned that organized crime syndicates are eyeing the REDD forest carbon credit industry as a potentially lucrative new opportunity for fraud, at a conference in Indonesia. Exploitation was and is inevitable, but what does it mean for the people? Aside from marginalized financial gain, will REDD be a solution to the displacement of indigenous life?

I wish I could say yes.

Previous conservation efforts such as: Dumoga-Bone National Park in Sulawesi, Indonesia and Korup National Park in Cameroon have taught us that the indigenous people often lose more access to their land, and are stripped of their freedoms as governments and corporations implement strict regulations and guidelines, in order to uphold their new systems.

So who do we support?  We are constantly being told to go green and we want to do the right thing. We believe in making a difference in our environment and our world, but at what cost? On the other hand, were told not to trust big corporations; the driving forces behind much of these issues. And why should we?

What should we do?
Who can we believe?

The International Conference on indigenous people’s rights, alternatives and solutions to the climate crisis was held November 4-9 2010. in the Philippines. The conference was organized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Land is Life, IBON International, Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network and the People’s Movement on Climate Change.

In their declaration of solidarity, this was said:

We believe that the root cause of the enormous problems we face today is the neoliberal global capitalist system, which puts profits before people and the planet. Central to this system is the expropriation and control of resources by multinational corporations, and dispossession and marginalization of small producers, workers, peasants, women and indigenous peoples.

It is true of the indigenous people of the rainforest, and it is true of you and me. Money is more valuable, globally, than human life. By no means am I suggesting that we fight capitalism or take a political stance one way or the other, but what I am promoting is the value of life above all.

Advocate for the indigenous people of the rainforest. If you have the opportunity to buy goods from a small local company that sells environmentally friendly and fair trade products, give them your money instead of circulating it back into the industries that wreak havoc on humanity.

Most importantly, be informed. Know where your financial support ends up, and what you can do to ensure the quality of life for others, that you get to enjoy yourself.

-Jaclyn Bauman

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For the past  month, the 2010 World Cup  has had sports  fans worldwide whipped into a frenzied state of obsession that is commonly known as World cup fever. This affliction sees football fans* unable to concentrate on work while their team of choice is battling it out in South Africa; somehow tolerating the obnoxious bee-like sound that a symphony of vuvuzelas in the stand produces; and accepting daytime- occasionally even morning- drinking, as rabid fans make their ways to various watering holes to see this popular sport played live half way across the world.

After Sunday’s final game between the Netherlands and Spain fans will either feel the agonizing disappointment of defeat or the absolute elation of being a champion.  Monday morning offices across the globe will likely see an increase of productivity, the sound of swarming bees will again illicit an appropriate amount of fear in individuals, and drinking before noon will again only be practiced by professional winos and eaters of brunch.

As it stands, the greenest thing about football–or most sports for that matter–is the fields on which they are played. Big corporate sponsorships, by companies such as Nike and Adidas, see this beloved game and many other professional sports being played with less than eco-friendly gear and balls. These big name companies may have catchy slogans and million dollar ad campaigns that frequently air during the World Cup, but each has a scandalous history of  human rights violations– each taking of advantage of  cheap sweatshop labor frequently–allegedly even currently.

Once the World Cup fever breaks, and you start to feel withdrawals for the World’s favorite sport, you may get a hankering to kick a ball of your own up and down a grassy field this summer. Unlike these big shot professional sport organizations, you can approach your purchases from a standpoint of compassion. When it comes to big named brands, ignore the commercials that have been pumped into your eyes and ears throughout this World Cup– just don’t do it. Get your soccer–er, I mean football gear from companies such as  this amazing company, Fair Trade Sports. Their products are not only Fair Trade certified, but they are all vegan and eco-friendy! As if this were not impressive enough, this company generously donates their after -tax profits to an array of  children’s charities!

Now that’s a spicy football!

Even if you never make a goal, you can take pride in knowing that your gear is not only eco-friendly, but human kind friendly. You may not be a sports star, but you are a super star of compassion- so go ahead, have a good morning drink, you’ve earned it.

* “Soccer fans” to those of us in the United States–football here involves more tackling and confusingly, much less contact between ball and foot.

-Meghan Hurley

When the first decade of the new millennium came and went, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by personal electronics, a modern-day necessity. Chances are, the first thing you look at in the morning is your BlackBerry, iPhone, or other Smartphone. Then, you probably take your iPod out for a morning jog or connect it inside your vehicle for the commute into work. Perhaps you have an iPad, Nook, or Kindle you use on the subway on the commute to catch up on the day’s local, national, and international news. You have not had lunch yet, but you have used a myriad of personal electronics by noon. Whether we like it or not, electronics have become an essential part of our lives. However, many of us know little about the origins of our handheld havens.

Tin, tantulum, and tungsten are metals found around the globe, which give life to our digital cameras, personal computers, cellular phones, and other electronics. A large percentage of these metals are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). What major electronics companies like Apple, Research in Motion (RIM – makers of the BlackBerry), Nokia, Dell, and Motorola don’t tell you is that an estimated 50,000 children work in the Katanga Mine in DRC. Children make up about 1/3 of the entire mining workforce in DRC. Despite the rising value in metal, miners do not receive any raises and most cannot afford to live off the small wage they already earn. Furthermore, the lack of regulation from the DRC government on safety regulations within the mines results in extremely dangerous work environments. In addition, the privatization of mines on the African continent has displaced tens of thousands of people forcing them to leave their homelands.

Why hasn’t the DRC government or electronic companies stepped in to end the human rights abuses, displacement issues, and safety hazards? For 10 years, the DRC has struggled with a civil war. Rebel groups sell to middlemen who pass the metals onto companies like Apple giving them the funds needed to purchase weapons and other war necessities. Because the electronics companies purchase the metals from middlemen, they have no direct ties to an unethical mine. According to Amnesty International, global brands state they are being ethical by purchasing metals from licensed exporters. However, the exporters’ middlemen are known to purchase the metals from rebel groups.

You may be asking yourself how the U.S. government doesn’t hold electronics companies responsible for their supply chains, especially when virtually every American uses an electronic device everyday. Bills have been established, however, they will not be going to a vote anytime soon. Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Russ Feingold (D-WI) initiated talks about the Congo Conflict Minerals Act. This would force electronics makers to publicly release which mines in DRC are used in their electronics. Therefore, consumers would know what mines the metals are coming from. The second bill introduced is the Extractive Industries Transparency Disclosure Act. This bill would force all SEC-listed companies’ financial statements to contain details concerning how much money is paid out to foreign governments for oil, gas, and minerals. Companies’ reputations would increase by actively and openly sharing this information to consumers.

You can take part in the initiatives these bills support. Both bills have not been discussed or touched for over a year according to govtrack.us, a website you can use to view the status of a bill as it travels through Congress. Write and call your local Senators and Representatives and push forward these bills. Better yet, write to your favorite electronics maker. I, myself, could never go a day without my BlackBerry Curve or Macbook Pro. Rest assured, I will drop both RIM and Apple a line about my concern for the origins of the products I use everyday. As Americans, we are huge consumers in today’s modern world. It is only right for us to give thought to where our products come from. Tomorrow night, when you are watching the NBA finals on your fabulous plasma television or streaming it live from your personal computer, take a moment to remember those abroad who have sacrificed their lives and well-being for ours.

-Derek Rogers

I write this article with a bit of shame from behind my Macbook and my iPhone resting close by. Like any other modern citizen, I use my fair share of electronics from computers to mp3 players and even a smart phone. And as a labor conscious and environmentally aware consumer I tend to support companies who meet my ethics. Unfortunately, the electronics industry is seriously lacking in both fields. One of the great offenders happens to be one of the highest grossing electronic companies: Apple Inc.

The past few weeks have been a big disappointment for caring Apple customers. It begun a few weeks ago, during a shareholders meeting, Corporate and shareholders rejected new environmental standards. They voted against proposals which would have required Apple to provide a detailed environmental sustainability report and create a board committee focused on sustainability. Apple claims they are already taking motions to secure environmental sustainability of their products, however, have not given details.

The company also has been threatening a patent war with other smart phone creators such as Google and Samsung. Yesterday they started with a new and small company HTC, suing them for infringement on their patents. All other companies with similar phones to the iPhone, have been shot with warnings about being sued. Although, this seems like business as usual in the US,  the patent war may reduce the competition in the smart phone world,  which means less choices for consumers and bigger bucks for the Apple Corporation, who in the midst of a recession is not hurting one bit.

But the worst news coming out of Apple are the Labor Audit Reports released this week. Like most electronic companies, Apple outsources most of their manufacturing to many countries including China, Taiwan,  Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Czech Republic. The reports don’t name specific violations for each factory but there were 17 major labor violations including children working in the factories, workers on the job for more than 60 hours a week, workers  paid under minimum wage, and lack of environmental permits. The report shows that a total of 11 workers were found to be underage and a total of 57% of their factories do not comply with safety standards to protect their workers. Although, Apple released the reports to the public themselves and have promised to be working on these violations, it still doesn’t take away the fact that they exist.  We all know how horrible sweatshops and child labor can be, in fact I spend many hours of my life trying to combat such violations. This report which details all violations is not only a surprise to me as a consumer but a disappointment.  These types of abuses are inexcusable and abhorrent; something simply must be done!

But what can we do? The easiest answer is to boycott a company with such labor violations. However, with the electronics industry, we, the consumers have little choice. Most electronic and computer companies continue to source their manufacturing overseas in questionable factories. In fact, the International Labor Rights Forum has done some investigating into some of the sourcing for electronics and has found nothing to be happy about. It seems this industry is full of labor and environmental mishaps. Good news is, there are people beginning to fight it.  ILRF has begun to demand transparency within the industry and an organization called Good Electronics monitors electronic companies and sends out appeals. You can even check how your favored company matches up.

So if an outright boycott is out the door, what options do you have? You can purchase your electronics refurbished or used, so that your dollars aren’t going straight to the pockets of industry giants such as Apple. But if used electronics makes you nervous you can  demand accountability and transparency from these companies.  Contact them directly and let them know how you feel about labor rights and environmental standards. Let’s stand up together against this industry, because in the way of this modern world their products are a unfortunately or not a necessity. Let’s demand the companies be more responsible and you can start by letting Apple know you think their labor and environmental choices are a bad apple!

-Gina Williams

Yes, you read that right, child labor on the Colbert Report! But we don’t mean Stephen Colbert’s crew is run by a bunch of 5 and 6 year olds.  Back in November, Stephen Colbert covered the introduction of a new bill proposed by Congress that will ban products made with child labor and prison labor from being imported into the US. This is huge news and would be a pretty incredible change for the US, if it passes.

Colbert, mockingly discusses the impact on pricing and US businesses if this bill were to pass. It is known that some big businesses are already gearing up to lobby against the bill. Colbert also has a quick interview with Marc Kielburger of Free the Children, a great organization that fights to end child labor as well as provide children with an education. Marc and Colbert discuss the ethics of child labor.

It is encouraging to see child labor discussed on a mainstream Comedy Central show and perhaps even more exciting that Congress may finally take some action on labor issues around the world. Watch the interview below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Child Labor on the Colbert Report", posted with vodpod

Although slavery was abolished hundreds of years ago throughout most of the world, human trafficking still exists for many unfortunate souls. Worldwide slavery is still plaguing society, in fact roughly 27 million people are still enslaved. Fortunately, there is a great organization, the Not For Sale Campaign, who continues to fight against these atrocities! They are a wonderful non profit that works towards ending human trafficking. They put on many events, actions, and fundraisers, including creating support groups for victims, hands on help in ending child marketplaces, and supporting legislation to end trafficking.

On top of all their inspiring work, they also hold fundraisers to make sure all their deeds can be accomplished. And if you are a Massachusetts resident, you can support their cause and learn more about human trafficking this weekend! Not For Sale is hosting their benefit concert which will feature the band Maeve, musician Joshua Sturgeon, and local artist Jim Trick. All proceeds will go to the Not For Sale Campaign and their work to re-abolish slavery worldwide. Tickets are only $15 at the door. This price will not break your bank while warming your soul! So why not come check out great music while earning yourself a bit of good Karma? The concert is this Sunday June 7th in Haverhill, MA. Please come and support an incredibly important and sometimes forgotten cause.

If you want to learn more about their Not For Sale or would like to donate  check them out!

Not For Sale Benefit Concert

WHEN: Sunday, June 7 from 7:00-10:00 P.M

WHERE: First Baptist Church at 217 Main Street in Haverhill, MA

With the economic collapse and major corporations declaring bankruptcy this year’s May Day is of utmost importance. This day is meant to celebrate the Workers Rights that have been gained in the past as well as to promote current rights. For a history of May Day, check out our post from last year. Of course with all the transition occurring in our economic system, today should be celebrated with all seriousness. We need to be cautious, to not forget the workers in this upheaval. And as we speak the Chrysler corporation has filed for bankruptcy, causing alarm to union workers and their rights they have worked so hard to gain. But workers are continuing to fight back! For instance Rite Aid recently was shown to have violated several labor laws including union busting and the workers along with Jobs with Justice are currently trying to end this fight. And as we deal with immigration issues, let us not ignore the struggles of the farm workers, especially in California.

But as we ponder our own economic collapse and workers strife, many workers off our shores are struggling just as much if not more. Workers across Canada, France, and Eastern Europe are demanding protection from these economic woes.  Outsourced sweatshops and poor working conditions still plague many developing countries. And the workers in these situations continue to fight against the abuses. So today, as we celebrate, what should be our Labor Day (we all know how Americans love to turn every holiday into a drinkfest) keep these movements in mind. Because although we have come a long way, there is still plenty more to accomplish!

And if you want to get involved in such movements, consider joining or donating to some of the Workers movement groups such as United Farm Workers, Immigrant Solidarity, Transfair and Jobs with Justice. Also put your money where your ideals are, make sure you either Shop Union or Fair Trade.  Also, check out  Green America’s Guide to Ending Sweatshops. And most of all, be up to date on the movement. Currently Jobs with Justice and other labor groups are backing the Employee Free Choice Act and do not forget to sign the petition to have this act officially passed.

Today as we enjoy the warmth of spring and the beautiful flowers, do not forget our laborers and workers. Because this is their day and they are the foundation of any society. So we say thank you to all workers and solidarity!

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