Most of us know that terrible things are done on our behalf each and every day. These awful deeds may come at the expense of the our food which, if meat, probably comes from animals living in concentrated feeding operations (CAFOs) where they are pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones on a daily basis, or, if vegetables and fruits, probably come from farms where the laborers are grossly underpaid, overworked and exposed to harmful chemicals broadly sprayed by industrial agriculture techniques (farm workers have poverty rates double other paid workers) (ref 1, ref 2). They could come from the clothes we wear, many which are made in factories here or abroad where workers are treated horribly and suffer many human rights abuses (ref 3). They also come by way of our ubiquitous use of electronics. Nearly all electronic devices that transmit Wi-Fi (which includes phones, video games, and computers) have a metal alloy called coltan in them. Sadly much of this rare metal comes from regions of the world mired in war and conflict (such as The Congo), which the valuable resource has largely exacerbated (ref 4). And every time we use energy, in virtually every form it comes in, whether its source be fossil fuel or renewable (e.g., in solar panels that are increasingly made in China), large amounts of toxic material is produced and many humans are abused. (The Story of Stuff puts a lot of this into perspective: the Book & the Videos).
Not a fun paragraph to read, was it? Well, if all this harm is being done on our behalf, especially those of us fortunate enough to live affluently, why aren’t more of us doing anything about it? Many answers come to mind but the most telling may be that the bulk of the harm done is done “out of sight,” somewhere far from us. I believe that humans are moral beings. Most of us are not intentionally and purposefully doing harm to others. We wouldn’t. Most of us would be sick to our stomachs if we were forced to live this way. Wouldn’t we? Perhaps this is why when presented with “facts” that implicate us, and our lifestyles, we ignore them or get defensive. This creates a real existential problem then. The people that need to change (us) to make the world more humane aren’t willing to accept responsibility for the damage being done. So what can we do about it?
This blog is largely dedicated to exploring answers to this question but I think the first step for everyone is to familiarize themselves with the various “pains” created by our way of life. This knowledge can be very liberating. It motivates us to do something to make others’ (and by extension our own) lives better. This revelation is extremely eye-opening for many. And many of us definitely recognize this. Consider how many people in your community donate/volunteer 100’s of hours a year for the greater good! We do get greater satisfaction from intrinsic rewards even though our culture (especially that component that is trying to sell us something or another) puts so much emphasis on extrinsic ones (ref 5). So by knowing more about the true impacts of our lives and, then, intentionally acting to make them more humane, we can all begin to heal and feel better all the while.