Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Slavery in Brazil

Although many people are unaware that slavery still exists, it is alive and thriving in many countries. In his book Disposable People, Kevin Bales discusses the issue of slavery in Brazil. Slavery has been present in Brazil since it was colonized in the early sixteenth century. The slave trade was officially abolished in 1854 but this did not end slavery within the country. Brazil’s current economic situation has created a society full of poverty and crime where slavery flourishes. Although slavery is unethical and immoral anywhere it is practiced, the world should pay close attention to this area in particular.

Brazilian slavery is directly tied to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, which will continue to have detrimental environmental effects on a global scale. Slaves in Brazil are used in agricultural enterprises. Cheap labor is exploited and the rainforest is being cut down for profit. The world could see a dramatic climate change with its elimination. The Amazon also keeps the production and absorption of oxygen balanced. Throwing this balance off will have damaging effects to the ozone layer, which could increase global warming. Slavery in Brazil should be a main priority of all major countries because of its potential to have these serious effects. There is little concern involving the practice of slavery. If more countries knew the devastation slavery can cause, perhaps they would be more willing to show support for its elimination.

Bales describes the difficulty of trying to end slavery in Brazil, but he also believes that the world is making progress in the fight. Although alerting the media about the situation and putting economic pressure on the people in charge in Brazil has had excellent results, Bales says that this approach is not enough. It is up to the Brazilian people to end slavery in their country. This elimination, however, will be difficult for the Brazilians, especially with such a weak economy. Brazil will need to continue to receive economic support from the rest of the world. Another idea that the world should consider is that better protection of the rainforest may help reduce the practice of slavery in Brazil.

Mark London and Brian Kelly, two of the world’s leading experts on the Amazon, have their own plan to save the rainforest. Supported by the Marriot chain of hotels, they have created protected communities on the outskirts of the forest. The people in these communities serve as protectors and guardians of the Amazon rainforest. In return, the Brazilians that live there receive money, food, and a more modern place to live. This system helps reduce poverty and could help reduce slavery in Brazil.


leecbryant said...

Wow, I agree with you 100%. I too think that slavery in Brazil is the most detrimental because it not only harms the Brazilians but the entire world through the deforestation of the rain forests. How can we let this go on knowing the devastating affects world wide? Destroying the rain forests skews the delicate balance in nature and once enough of the rain forests are gone that balance will never be able to be reversed. In Alan Weisman's book, "The World Without Us," he looks at how and if the world would rebuild itself if humans were to disappear right now. There are some areas that would, in thousands of years, return closely to pre-human conditions, but the majority of the world is so scared by our presence that it will never heal.
The issue in Brazil is a perfect chance to hit two birds with one stone. If we can find a way to solve either slavery or deforestation the other would be directly affected. This is an issue we cannot afford to ignore.

Courtney Martin said...

It is essential that we continue to enlighten the world about the devastations of slavery, but I think a good point was made about how crucial it is to end slavery in Brazil. This problem is not just affecting the county that is practicing slavery, but it also affects the world that we live in.

It is hard for me to justify intruding a country that has differences from our own, and changing them. There has to be a process to which we would go about educating the people and helping to influence them in their ways. This is a different situation for Brazil. Since it is affecting the world, the United States has a responsibility as a leading country to gain momentum in stopping the destruction of the rain forest. Just as Lee has pointed out, it could be a chance to use the environment and have a right to create change.

Cat Rauck said...

I've been reading through the recent blogs and it seems like the issue of slavery and the views posted concerning the matter are inconsistent. The most recent blog pertains to having a "cause-of-choice" and putting slavery before the environment. Yet in response to Thomas's blog here one agrees "100%" and fully supports the interconnection of the evils and the importance of eliminating both evils.

I think that it is important to recognize Thomas's point that unethical practices are often intertwined. In order to tackle these evils one most consider the potential barriers and or connections it has to other matters of destruction. Eliminating evils in the world is a constant process that takes careful evaluation and is not simply a checklist. By simply putting one cause in front of the other one may do more harm than good.

Ryan Carroll said...

For some reason, until I read this post, I really didn't take this specific case of slavery as a special case. The shock factor in each chapter of that book became a little overwhelming to a point where I don't think I was taking each case seriously enough in its individual case. I began to think of the entire book as a case against slavery rather than Brazilian slavery or Mauritanian slavery, in my opinion creating injustice toward each instance. This post is an excellent reminder of this specific cases importance, and it has kind of woken me up about the entire issue once again.

I have always considered the tearing down of the rain forest as one of the most vile attrocities of today, but the fact it is done with the hands of enslaved workers amplifies my moral outrage to a level comparable to my reaction toward genocide or the Hills.