In a heart-wrenching narrative, Bales (Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves, 2007, etc.) explores modern slavery and the devastating effects on its victims as well as the environmental degradation caused by this morally reprehensible institution.
As co-founder and former president of Free the Slaves, the world’s largest abolitionist organization, the author has dedicated his life to exposing the evils of slavery. For his latest book, Bales traveled around the globe for seven years documenting the wretched lives of the enslaved and revealing how their forced work destroys the natural world. Weaving together interviews, history, and statistics, the author shines a light on how the poverty, chaos, wars, and government corruption create the perfect storm where slavery flourishes and environmental destruction follows. “When we better understand the interrelationship of environmental issues and human rights,” he writes, “we’re likely to see in many ways that working to solve one can help to solve the other.” In this system, men, women, and children are lured into work extracting the various commodities our modern appetites desire, including gold from Ghana, shrimp from Bangladesh, granite from India, and timber from Brazil. Bales provides an excellent account of the 11-step supply chain required for procuring the minerals needed to build cellphones and laptops, revealing the individuals involved at each stop along the way, from slaves working in the Congolese mines to the consumer with his or her cellphone in hand. The author offers some hope for change, as well, describing various slave-free models, including the development of small family farms, cooperatives, and small-scale mines. Bales prods readers to consider the origins of our consumer products and the conditions under which they are made. While taking these steps will only cause “some inconvenience” for most of us, “small choices, made at the right moment, can bring very big changes.” Bales also includes a list of organizations working for change in the Eastern Congo.
A cleareyed account of man’s inhumanity to man and Earth. Read it to get informed, and then take action.