The other day in class, Fawad shared a story of some (seemingly happy) children playing with a FIFA-approved football while on a break from working at the local football production factory. For many engaged in a discussion on this topic (myself included), a clear stance would be taken on the issue and a call to end child labour would be declared. But since so few of us could actually put an immediate end to child labour based merely on our own moral convictions, the next logical alternative would be to have an intention to personally boycott the company in question; hoping that if others follow suit, the company would get the message in the form of a lower bottom line and decide to change its business practices.
Of course, that is assuming that the original boycott plan is followed through by some, or even one.
See, as a group we seemingly accepted the story as OK because an explanation was given that these boys were grateful for the opportunity to be working in the factory; for having a chance to be off the streets; for being able to provide for their family; for giving their younger siblings the chance to attend school and obtain an education. So maybe – just maybe – child labour isn’t that bad after all … And if we still feel uncomfortable about the situation, we change the subject of the conversation or we hope that … someone else … will do something about it.
If you watched the movie Darwin’s Nightmare that Jacques referred to in his blog, you’ll see a group of European trade commissioners who were talking to the media and applauding the great opportunity that lies ahead for the nation of Tanzania – that by exporting the 50 tonnes of nile perch (type of fish) per day from its Lake Victoria, that the people of Tanzania will prosper. But did the commissioners not see the locals starving throughout the entire country – that the locals were given only the bug-infested rotting skin and carcasses of the fish remains to eat – but not for free of course, they had to pay. Did they not realize that the local Tanzanians are outlawed from going near the lake to fish for themselves, let alone afford to buy the flesh of the fish from their own backyard? Did they not consider the impact on the ecological system of the lake when the nile perch was introduced into Lake Victoria – rendering almost every other species in the lake dead as a result of this human-intervention to the ecosystem in the 1960s? Or did these European Commissioners simply not care? Maybe they went to Tanzania to simply ink a lucrative financial deal and didn’t really give two hoots for the long term impacts or the sustainability of the ecosystem or the society there?
This leads me to wonder whether or not sustainable development is really an issue about which people care. Or is it merely a notion for the academics to consider – and not even a concern for the average lay person?
Consider this: “Eighty per cent of Americans got their information from television.”
I came across a summary of the Commission on Sustainable Development’s special panel discussion on “The Media and Sustainable Development”
A few quotes of interest:
“Jim Laurie, Vice-President of News and Current Affairs for Star TV, Hong Kong, China …. hardly ever uttered the words “sustainable development”, which had little meaning for ordinary people. Out of 60 magazine reports broadcast since January 2001, only about 10 per cent dealing with sustainable development were aired.”
“Snuki Zikalala, Executive Editor of News, South African Broadcasting Corporation, South Africa … most of the time, development issues were not headliners. It was difficult to put sustainable development issues onto commercial television stations.”
And my personal favourite …
“Barbara Pyle, former Corporate Vice-President of Environmental Policy for Turner Broadcasting in the United States, and CNN’s former Environmental Editor …. [delivering the message of sustainable development] would be a tough sell in a difficult environment due to what was going on with Afghanistan”
So, sustainable development – do we really care?