Pretty much everything we buy and consume in ‘developed’ countries today today is made in mass production to fuel the demand from the West. From meat to beauty products and even drinking water.
If you take a look at your weekly shop, your clothing and your electrical products you can more or less guarantee that someone somewhere in the manufacturing or farming process has been exploited. Take something as simple as toothpaste. More often than not this will include palm oil, which is the product of a massively destructive industry in the overwhelming majority of instances. The forests of Indonesia have been severely affected by its production resulting in habitat loss for the Orang Utan among much other wildlife. In fact a third of all wild mammals are now considered endangered there. Indigenous people are being force relocated and subject to other human rights abuses.
There is a similar story in South America with the production of soy and the clearing of forest as pasture for cattle to feed worldwide demand for beef.
We hear terrible stories of human rights abuses in the garment manufacturing industry, always in ‘developing’ countries where labour is cheaper, such as the deeply saddening catastrophe at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.
The consumer electronics industry plunders the earth for rare metals and oil to make plastic and has pushed workers in factories to suicide as a result of ‘legal’ yet unrealistic demands on labourers’ health and low pay.
All of this is driven by demand from the West, ‘developed countries’ or the world’s rich: however you wish to phrase it. Current wealth distribution shows less than 10% of the world’s adults owning more than 85% of all assets. We should therefore certainly hope that money does not equal happiness, otherwise we’re living in a very sad world, whether we’re aware of it or not.
There is a huge demand for cheap, disposable, consumable products which is hoovering up the earth’s resources, killing off its wildlife and choking its oceans. We feel that this cannot be contributing to the overall wellbeing of the planet nor its inhabitants and that includes man. The human population of the world is expanding almost exponentially so how is this situation going to improve?
In order for us all to move forward in a world we still recognise, we would all benefit from examining our buying behaviour ensuring everyone gets a fair deal throughout the supply chain. Otherwise we are all guilty of exploitation, change can only come about through action.
Being an ethical consumer
It’s not all doom and gloom. There are all manner of charitable organisations, NGOs and businesses who are doing a lot of good. Petitioning, raising awareness of the plight of those being exploited by big businesses and governments the world over and shopping responsibly are just some of the ways we can all help. You can help by checking who made your clothes and spending a little time researching where your food comes from. Check the ingredients and buy local or ethically traded products whenever possible! Reuse your plastic water bottles or avoid plastic altogether!
At …in a strange land we ensure that all of our products are ethically sourced. This means that we can ensure our products are sustainably made, using traditional methods where possible and benefit those making them.
Read more about some of the great companies and crafts people we work with by clicking on the links below;
Craft Link – Fair Trade and Craft in Hanoi
Healing the Wounded Heart – Hue’s Fair Trade Heroes
Reaching Out – Handmade in Hoi An
Shangri La Farms – A socially responsible business
Norlha – Luxury Yak wool knits from the Tibetan plateau
Threads of Yunnan and Danyun Fair Trade