On Wednesday morning I attended a talk on human trafficking and the state of slavery in today’s world. Like learning that 1 in 5 children in the US go to bed hungry every night, learning that 70% of children in the foster system end up trafficked one way or another broke my heart.
There are children, women, and men, in our towns, in our schools, in our stores, our restaurants, our every day haunts who aren’t there by choice. Who have no way of escaping. Who fear for their lives daily.
I left that talk feeling so powerless and small.
Later that afternoon my husband and I had a rousing discussion about the state of the workers in China who assemble our favorite gadgets. For all the debunking of the stories recently published about the factories used by Apple, fact remains that those workers are treated less than optimally.
And Apple, well, they like to say that it’s not their fault, it’s how business is run over there.
That makes me want to scream.
To top off the despair, that night M and I went to talk given by Jean Michel Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau’s son, about how we as a species, are destroying the oceans and all that they contain. He talked about fire retardants leaching into the water, killing baby orcas and about deserted islands covered in trash from around the world. He reminded us that the oceans equal life. Without water we cannot live.
I went home exhausted. I spend my days making sure the kids are well fed, safe, and happy. But it’s not enough. There’s a whole world that needs fixing, healing, saving, feeding, watering. There’s so much to be done.
It would be beyond easy to take Apple’s stance. To throw up my hands and say “that’s the way of the world. It’s not up to me to fix it.” But that’s a cop-out and we all know it.
For sure, factories in China and all over the world are poorly run, with unsafe worker conditions and people — children and grown-ups — who work insane hours for a tiny bit of pay. That is the way of the world. But it doesn’t have to be the way of the world.
Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts don’t have to sell Fair Trade coffee. They could make more money selling coffee bought for less. They’ve chosen to make the right choice, the ethical choice. Others can too.
It is rumored that Apple only needs to charge $50 more per device to turn the same profit and give their workers more humane work conditions. Arguably, they could also just take that loss. After all, it’s also rumored that they have more cash in their coffers than they know what to do with. Making that change would do more than just helping their workers, it could start a change felt throughout the industrial world.
All these thoughts swirled in my head as I went to bed on Wednesday, tired from a day working, being with the kids, cleaning the house, heartsick because of all the sad, horrible things happening in this world I love.
Thursday I woke to the news that Apple was changing their policies. That they would shorten worker’s hours and increase their pay. That they would do the right thing.
And why? Because people like you and me started a petition.
We live in the age of communication. Informing people of the horrors that surround us invisibly is no longer impossible. The more aware we are, the more we do. When was the last time you left a light on in an empty room without giving it a second thought? Do you stop to think about the water that runs into your sink when you brush your teeth? Do you wonder how you can reduce the amount of gas you use in your car?
I’m pretty sure that I can’t clean all the oceans, but I can buy better detergent. I can’t get water to all the thirsty people in Africa, but I can turn off the water while brushing my teeth. I can’t free all the slaves in America and Europe, but I can be more aware of what goes on around me and report things that seem off. And for the rest? I can sign petitions, I can lend my voice and my influence to the masses, so that as a whole we can start making changes to this world where we’re raising our children.
(Why yes, that is my heart bleeding all over the place. Deal.)