An Elephant Named Slavery

There is a pink elephant that follows me down the grocery aisle, into the coffee shop, and even into the dressing rooms at my favorite clothing store. This particular Elephant is named Slavery and my hope for this blog is to show you how despite her size she's been hiding in your very own pantry and closet.

Category: Human Trafficking

The Downside to Upgrading Part 1

It’s no secret that the constant flow of upgrades in the electronic industry is rooted in clever marketing more so than the a real need for a newer device. Most of us don’t only upgrade when our devices break, we upgrade when our phone company tells that even though we have a perfectly working phone (albeit a few scratchces) we now qualify for an inexpensive upgrade, we upgrade when we realize how much more convenient life will become when we get our hands on the newest computer, and we upgrade when we get some extra Christmas cash from grandma and can finally upgrade from a boring textbook to a shiny tablet. While an obvious downside to the upgrade addiction can be seen in our bank account statements, what may be less obvious is that this cultural addiction also creates a continual demand for minerals like copper, tin, coltan, cobalt, and tungsten, minerals linked to human trafficking and terrorism.

The mining of these materials is often extremely dangerous, conditions characterized by toxic chemicals, heavy loads, and dangerous tools ( Many of our everyday electronics are made with Coltan, a mineral found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where miners (including women and children) are forced to work by armed terrorist groups. Not only are these people forced into the dangerous mines but rape and reckless violence  is regularly used to maintain control. It is believed that the profits of the mining and smuggling of the coltan funds the violent and oppressive military occupation of the country ( Though U.S. companies are held to trade laws that forbid importing goods obtained through terrorism, the minerals are often purchased after being smuggled into China where companies and governments alike can successfully turn a blind eye to the origins of the minerals.

As is the case in any industry with such a complex supply chain, human trafficking crimes often occur at more than one stage in the game.  Infringements on workers rights, forced overtime, exploitative wages, unsafe working conditions, verbal abuse, and explicit human trafficking have all been found in the factories where our phones, computers, and televisions are made. It is our constant demand for new devices that often fuels the unrealistic quotas that leads to such exploitation. Intel is promising a conflict free microprocessor in 2013, proof of the power of the conscientious consumer. We cannot stop there though, we must ask that they carry this ethic into the factories as well.

At the moment there is no such thing as a “fair trade tablet” or an ethically sourced iPhone, but that doesn’t mean that we have to sit by and continue to feed the unsustainable demand for conflict minerals that fund terrorism and human trafficking.

When we resist the urge to upgrade we leave room in our bank accounts to put our money towards more life giving purchases and we leave room in our spirits for lessons in contentment and simplicity. As always there is more to the picture, it cannot be simplified into a 554 word blog post, but I will be posting one more piece to the puzzle in the days to come.

Articles for additional reading:

Congo’s efforts to block conflict minerals thwarted by war

Poor conditions at Apple Suppliers

Why apple doesn’t make our iPhones in the U.S.

Intel’s new microprocessor

Debt Bondage

This last weekend at the global forum Jordan and I had the chance to  pre-screen an episode from of the Al Jazeera’s news series “Slavery: A 21st century evil.”  This particular episode focused on the charcoal industry and the steel that ends up in many of our cars and trucks. However, since its not yet available to view I wanted to share another episode with you. It’s titled “Food Chain Slaves” and it shows the evils of debt bondage and forced labor right here the in the United States. Since we all eat I thought this episode was particularly important to share.

Debt bondage is truly a most evil predator of the poverty stricken world. For many men unsuccessfully trying to feed their families and keep possession of family land a promise of high paying wages in America seems like the perfect solution. They are willing to leave their families for years in hopes of giving their children a future. There is however often a catch. Most likely they are asked to pay a recruitment fee  ( at times up to $20,000)  Many of these men realize however that if they can get a loan, they will be able to pay it back in a year with a US salary. So they mortgage their lands, take money from dangerous loan sharks, borrow life savings from relatives and head to the US. As this episode shows many will be brought to isolated farms will they are forced to work under inhumane conditions and for little pay. With sky high interest rates, the more they work the further they fall into debt.



To many of us this injustice may lead us to despair, where then can we buy food? Who will bring these crimes to justice? Can the cycle ever be broken? Before you lose to much hope I ask that you stay tuned for my next post (tomorrow) in which I will introduce you to an organization that will give us the chance to combat debt bondage with no cost to your pocket book!

In the meantime pray, fast, and be an advocate with every dollar you spend. Slavery can be abolished.