The above picture is of Brazilian waters courtesy of: Yahoo! New
The above picture is of Indonesian waters courtesy of: flickrhivemind.net
The above picture is of a Mumbai beach courtesy of: knowledge.allianz.com
The above picture is of the Citarum River in Indonesia courtesy of: turnbacktogod.com
The above picture is of the air in Shanghai, China courtesy of: thestar.com
Since the Industrial Revolution we have been continuously adding pollution to our air, seas and land. The United States is at the forefront of this catastrophe due to her insatiable desire for goods. The world, the developed world, is moving into the middle class faster then we ever could have imagined and with that comes consumerism. As people continue to make more money they will desire more and more “things” to make their lives easier, and who can blame them? We cannot, as Americans, tell the developing world that they have to slow down, not use as much, protect the environment etc when all they have to do is look at us and see just how much we use. We, the United States, will have to set an example for others to follow and although we have started protecting the environment we have a long way to go.
Ever since trade was opened up to the world, American corporations have searched high and low for people to make their goods at a lower and lower price so that those same corporations can make higher and higher profits, without giving any back to the worker. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage of a Chinese worker is $1.36 while their average workday is 12 hours and their chance of having a workplace fatality is 0..96% compared the US at .0027% and Germany at .00187%. You would think, looking at these numbers that the cost of goods should be much lower than they are, right? According to CNBC, the cost to build an iPhone is just $199 but it is sold in the US for as much as $849. That’s a mark-up of $650 per iPhone. Why do they sale for so much? Well for two reasons. 1. Americans will pay it and 2. To increase profits and therefore please share-holders. According to Sky News, more than half of the 170,000 employees at FoxConn exceeded China’s max overtime limit of 36 hours as well as high numbers of suicides and industrial unrest.
What is the price we are willing to pay for cheap products? One of the biggest concerns, in my opinion, is the apparent US government desire to keep workers underpaid and therefore in poverty in these areas. The US government condones this activity, albeit by their silence. They could pass legislation that says in order for a company to sell their products in the US, the factories in which those products were made will be held to the same standard as US factories, to include proportionate pay. There are steps we could take, as a government to significantly reduce world-wide pollution, we just simply choose not to.
American corporations, though indirectly many times, pollute to area in which their products are made by taking advantage of the loose restrictions on environmental protection. In America there are rules to say that companies cannot dump many chemicals directly into the water, meaning they must make those chemicals safe first; others rules may say that companies must “clean” their emissions. These rules cost that company money and therefore encourage those companies to move overseas where those rules may not exist. According to Greenpeace, big name brands to include Adidas, PUMA and Nike all relay on companies in China that knowingly pollute the waterways, and PUMA/Adidas said that they would not stop doing business with those companies after learning this.
Again, according to Greenpeace, “In China alone there are 435 discharge points like the one serving Wubao, spanning the coast and releasing 32.2 billion tons of waste water into the sea each year. In 2012, a staggering 68% of them had records for illegal discharge while 25% had never met national environmental standards…” According to Explorando Mexico, “Water pollution is due to the discharge of domestic, industrial, agricultural and mining residues. Ninety million Mexicans, despite having the infrastructure to receive drinkable water, need to filter their water…” According to livemint.com and the Wall Street Journal, more than half of the 445 rivers in India cannot even be used for bathing. I will say that not all of this pollution is from American corporations but a lot is and worse than that, other countries tend to follow America so by seeing American corporations coming in and dumping waste, emitting poison etc they may think that it’s okay and therefore do it themselves.
We know how to reduce pollution. The United States Environmental Protection Agency gives us some pointers. Conserve energy, recycle, plant trees to give your home shade, buy green electricity, use solar power for outside lights and keep your house a little warmer during warm months and a little cooler in the cool months. You may ask yourself the same thing I am asking myself. If the US EPA knows how to reduce pollution then how come they do not force companies that sell products in America to reduce theirs? I know why, and I’ll let you in on it. Money! These companies give huge amounts of money to US politicians who then turn around and fight against more import taxes, tighter regulation or pollution clean-up as well as decent pay for employees and better conditions for foreign employees. Money truly is the root of all evil.
How can we fix this? First, and most importantly we must cap political donations. If a company is allowed to spend $10 million on a presidential candidate then it is no secret that if that candidate wins he will be in that company’s pockets. Second, we must ensure that employee pay, in America, keeps pace with inflation. If we continue to have pay stagnation then we are not allowing ourselves to spend more, tax more or buy more. Third, we have pass legislation that hold companies liable for their workers conditions and pay, if they sell product in America. Fourth, we must join an International organization, or found one, that encourages pollution clean-up; even awarding countries that make significant advances with aid or contracts.
Whether you believe it or not world-wide pollution is everyone’s problem. The water that is polluted makes it’s way around the world, potentially touching every country. The air that is polluted will blow around the world and the disease that may accompany pollution is passed around the world. We must all do our part and encourage others to do there’s.