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Slavery and the Environment


As Americans, we claim that the abolishment of slavery happened January 1, 1863. And in the most American fashion possible, we put our blinders on and pretend that slavery ended from thereon out. From human trafficking, to the 6 countries where slavery is still legal, our traditional definition of slavery is ever present. However, the American justice system serves as a form of third wave slavery. And we still haven't seen all of the effects of the first wave.

The formerly enslaved south is suffering the effects of their actions. Cotton growers were forced to not care for the soil- and thus- there were mass amounts of erosion from Virginia to Alabama. Slave owners were more concerned with profit, than the future of their crops, explains Aaron Joslin, PhD candidate at the University of Georgia. It is ironic how the products over people mentality seen in so many capitalistic corporations today can find it's roots in slave owners. Perhaps this should be called into question when deciding between a locally owned establishment or that of a larger company.

Currently, in Bangladesh and India, there is Asia's largest carbon sink which has been protected since the 1970's. Child slaves are forced to cut down the forest and evacuate the land for shrimp farms. In Ghana, criminals are forced to dig for gold in protected forests. In the action of this, the ecosystem is infected with mercury which kills the land, plants, animals, and people for decades to come. In Eastern Congo, mass groups of people are enslaved by gangs to dig resources for American phones and computers, as well as burn forests, home of gorillas, to sell charcoal.

Our materialistic addictions are killing our earth. From slave owners craving more cotton than the soil could take, to stripping non western countries of their resources for our goods, this mentality is plaguing us all. And it is hard to say what is the next best move. In general, shopping local, shopping BIPOC, and shopping sustainably has never hurt anyone. Especially when ethnic groups are being more ostracized than ever: Asians being blamed for Covid-19, Black people being disproportionate victims of police brutality, and Hispanics/Latinos being vilified as stealing jobs. It's crucial to educate oneself about radical environmentalists, especially BIPOC. Moreover, it is simply not necessary to idolize former slave owners and confederate leaders. Our hearts are hurting as victims and allies, and our earth is hurting as well.

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