January 26, 2004

Stop slavery now!

You may think that slavery is a thing of the past. Think again. The NYT (my favorite source) had a horrifying story on sex slaves. Buyers are looking for younger and younger children (even infants) to force into sexual slavery. These people are not prostitutes, who willing engage in sex for money. Rather, these are people forced into service, who receive no payment for what they do, who are severely abused and who are threatened with death (either to themselves or their family members). And they're not just in far away countries. It is estimated that there are 20,000 trafficked in the US alone.

January 19, 2004

I save quite a few tid bits for my blog. Actually getting them up here, on the other hand, is a bit more of an endeavor. (Its so much easier just to play neopets.)

Back in the November 4 edition of the NYT there was a horrifying article about factory workers in China.

Shen Yunxiang worked for Hisun Pharmaceutical (one of China's leading exporters of pharmaceutical products -- with prices Western manufacturers cannot match). He and his brother-in-law were told by the company to clean up some waste that had collected beneath the factory. Within minutes his brother-in-law passed out. By that evening he was dead. Mr. Shen has since had migraines and lung congestion that doctors are unable to diagnose. Another worker was sent down the next day to finish what Shen and his brother-in-law had been unable to do. He also died.

"Internal reports by local and national environmental investigators have found that each year, Hisun and other nearby companies release 3.6 million tons of water laden with organic and inorganic compounds that receive little or no processing."

Another worker's daughter was born with birth defects, which they attribute to the toxic conditions the mother worked in. The parents named their daughter Hisun so she would always know the cause of her deformity.

There's another article from September 16th's NYT (these are all from 2003, btw) about a Korean farmer, Lee Kyung Hae, who killed himself at World Trade Organization talks in Cancun.

“Give me the strength to accept the things I cannot control, the courage to change the things I can control, and the wisdom to know the difference between the two.” --The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (despite the fact that its more often attributed to anonymous)

January 9, 2004

Geez, I haven't posted since October. I'm so lame.

Well, here's a great article on Christmas Trees. This time I'm just plain cutting and pasting from the NYT since I suspect you won't be able to access the article in a few days. (But if you'd rather check out the original, just go here.)

Q: What is the environmental impact of the loss of evergreens for Christmas trees?

A. In countries like the United States, where there is a big industry that grows Christmas trees rather than having thousands of people raid natural forests, growers say that the loss of the trees' services to absorb greenhouse gases is minimized.

But Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, argues that tree farming is really the lesser of two evils. He points out that the trees have a short replacement cycle, harvested every six to nine years, and are grown quickly with chemicals to suppress competing flora, stimulate growth and kill pests. These herbicides, fertilizers and insecticides run off and add to water pollution, Dr. Hershkowitz said, and birds are deprived of food.

The frequent disruption of the soil also releases the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, he said, "so much of the benefit of growing Christmas trees in terms of absorbing greenhouse gases is undermined," he argued.

Proper disposal of used trees is also important. "If burned, they generate nitrogen oxides, which contribute to smog, and even properly chipped and mulched, they release carbon dioxide," Dr. Hershkowitz said.

Alternatives present their own problems. "Artificial trees come overwhelmingly from nonrenewable petroleum-based products, and refining them also produces some of the most hazardous chemicals," Dr. Hershkowitz said. If practical, it would be better to plant a growing tree in the yard and decorate it for years, or skip greenery altogether, he said.