How Modern Slavery Impacts the Environment with Kevin Bales

5/5/2023; 87 minutes

There are 45 million enslaved people in the world today. The links between slavery, conflict, environmental destruction, economics and consumption began to strengthen and evolve in the 20th century. The availability of people who might be enslaved dramatically increased in line with population growth. According to Kevin Bales, professor of contemporary slavery and research director of the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham, the large and negative environmental impact of modern slavery is just now coming to light.

Slave-based activities, like brick making and deforestation, are estimated to generate 2.54 billion tonnes of CO2 per year – greater than the individual emissions of all the world's nations except China and the U.S. Globally, slaves are forced to do work that is highly destructive to the environment. This work feeds directly into global consumption in foodstuffs, in minerals – both precious and for electronics – construction materials, clothing, and foodstuffs. Most of this work is unregulated leading to extensive poisoning of watersheds, the clear-cutting of forests, and enormous and unregulated emissions of carcinogenic gases as well as CO2. Political corruption supports this slave-based environmental destruction and its human damage.

Kevin Bales, CMG, FRSA is Professor of Contemporary Slavery and Research Director of the Rights Lab, University of Nottingham. He co-founded the American NGO Free the Slaves. His 1999 book Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy has been published in twelve languages. Desmond Tutu called it "a well researched, scholarly and deeply disturbing expose of modern slavery." The film based on Disposable People, which he co-wrote, won the Peabody Award and two Emmys. The Association of British Universities named his work one of "100 World-Changing Discoveries." In 2007 he published Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves (Grawemeyer Award). In 2009, with Ron Soodalter, he published The Slave Next Door: Modern Slavery in the United States. In 2016 his research institute was awarded the Queens Anniversary Prize, and he published Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World. Check out his TEDTalk. Recorded on 3/14/2023.

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