A provocative but open-ended question about slavery and pollution

January 11, 2024 by Joshua
in Freedom

Keep in mind that nine million people have died per year from breathing polluted air since 2015, a number it took the Atlantic Slave Trade centuries to reach, and we can expect it to increase dramatically. Keep in mind the United States has regions called Cancer Alley and Sacrifice Zones.

There are big differences between enslaving someone and polluting their air, but what of the underlying systems, which are more abstract concepts? I ask as an open-ended question. I can think of some differences, but what do you think: What’s wrong with a system of slavery that isn’t also wrong with a system of polluting?

One difference: any single act of enslaving someone violates their rights, freedom, and dignity. On the other hand, how much difference is there between buying slave-produced goods and pollution-produced goods? In both cases, you’re funding suffering.

It’s tempting to say slavery is incomparably worse, but what do you say to parents of a baby born with birth defects from pollution, among countless ways we suffer from it?

It seems to me that if you defend one system, you defend the other.

ball and chain

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