lunedì 10 luglio 2017

Tutti i guai del consumo etico

Tutti i guai del consumo etico

THE MORAL CASE FOR SWEATSHOP GOODS – Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and a Radical New Way to Make a Difference by William MacAskill
Argomento: lo sfruttamento dei lavoratori poveri, il consumo verde, il fair trade, il vegetarianesimo, il chilometro-zero, eccetera.
How can consumers make the most difference?
The clothing retailer American Apparel, known for selling ‘fashionable basics’ like solid-colour T-shirts, proudly claims to be ‘sweatshop free’.
The popularity of American Apparel is just one example of a trend towards ‘ethical consumerism’, where people spend a little more money on goods that are produced by workers who are treated well,
Sweatshops are factories in poor countries, typically in Asia or South America, that produce goods like textiles, toys, or electronics for rich countries under pretty horrific working conditions.
Because conditions in sweatshops are so bad, many people have pledged to boycott goods produced in them, and a number of organisations devoted to ending the use of sweatshop labour, such as United Students Against Sweatshops, National Mobilisation Against Sweatshops, SweatFree Communities and the ingeniously named No Sweat Apparel, have proliferated in service to the cause. For this reason, there’s significant public animosity towards big companies such as Nike, Apple and Disney
In developing countries, sweatshop jobs are the good jobs. The alternatives are typically worse, such as backbreaking, low-paid farm labour, scavenging, or unemployment. The New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof illustrated this well when he presented an interview with Pim Srey Rath, a Cambodian woman who scavenges plastic from dumps in order to sell it as recycling.
A clear indicator that sweatshops provide comparatively good jobs is the great demand for them among people in developing countries. Almost all workers in sweatshops choose to work there,
The average earnings of a sweatshop worker in Brazil are $2,000 per year: not very much, but $600 a year more than the average earnings in Bolivia, where people generally work in agriculture or mining. Similarly, the average daily earnings among sweatshop workers are: $2 in Bangladesh, $5.50 in Cambodia, $7 in Haiti and $8 in India. These wages are tiny, of course, but when compared to the $1.25 a day many citizens of those countries live on, the demand for these jobs seems more understandable.
Nobel Laureate and left-wing economist Paul Krugman has stated, ‘The overwhelming mainstream view among economists is that the growth of this kind of employment is tremendous good news for the world’s poor.’ Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University economist and one of the foremost proponents of increased efforts to help those in extreme poverty, has said, ‘My concern is not that there are too many sweatshops but that there are too few.’
The four East Asian ‘Tiger economies’ – Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan – exemplify speedy development, having evolved from very poor, agrarian societies in the early twentieth century to manufacturing-oriented ‘sweatshop’ countries mid-century and finally emerging as industrialised economic powerhouses in recent decades.
Bangladesh had a large number of children employed in ready-to-wear garment sweatshops at the time. Out of fear that this act would pass, factories quickly laid off 50,000 child workers. According to the US Department of Labor, rather than going to school or even finding better jobs, ‘it is widely thought that most of them have found employment in other garment factories, in smaller, unregistered, subcontracting garment workshops, or in other sectors’. Considering that transnational corporations typically pay much higher wages than domestic sweatshops, the lives of these youths likely became worse. Indeed, an investigation by UNICEF found that many of these laid-off underage garment workers had resorted to even more desperate measures to survive, including street hustling and prostitution.
The correct response is to try to end the extreme poverty that makes sweatshops desirable places to work in the first place.
Fairtrade certification is an attempt to give higher pay to workers in poor countries. It’s commonly used for consumables grown in developing countries, such as bananas, chocolate, coffee, sugar and tea.
First, when you buy Fairtrade, you usually aren’t giving money to the poorest people in the world. Fairtrade standards are difficult to meet, which means that those in the poorest countries typically can’t afford to get Fairtrade certification. For example the majority of Fairtrade coffee production comes from comparatively rich countries like Mexico and Costa Rica,
Second, of the additional money that is spent on Fairtrade, only a very small portion ends up in the hands of the farmers who earn that money. Middlemen take the rest. The Fairtrade Foundation does not provide figures on how much of the additional price reaches coffee produces, but independent researchers have provided some estimates. Dr Peter Griffiths, an economic consultant for the World Bank, worked out that for one British café chain… less than 1% of the additional price of their Fairtrade coffee reached coffee exporters in poor countries. Finnish Professors Joni Valkila, Pertti Haaparanta and Niina Niemi found out that, of Fairtrade coffee sold in Finland, only 11% of the additional price reached the coffee-producing countries….
Finally, even the small fraction that ultimately reaches the producers does not necessarily translate into higher wages. It guarantees a higher price for goods from Fairtrade-certified organisations, but that higher price doesn’t guarantee a higher price… for the farmers who work for those organisations….
Given this, there is little altruistic reason to buy Fairtrade products. In buying Fairtrade products, you’re at best giving very small amounts of money to people in comparatively well-off countries.
Another major area of ethical consumerism is ‘green living’. Per person, UK citizens emit nine metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent every year. (Recall that carbon dioxide equivalent, or ‘CO2eq’, is a way of measuring your carbon footprint that includes greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide, like methane and nitrous oxide. For example one metric ton of methane produces as much warming as twenty-one metric tons of carbon dioxide, so one metric ton of methane is twenty-one metric tons of CO2eq.) As we’ve seen, climate change is a big deal. It’s therefore natural to want to do something about it, and the obvious way is to move to a lower-carbon lifestyle.
One common recommendation… is to turn off or shut down electronic devices when you’re not using them, rather than keeping them on standby. However, this achieves very little compared to other things you could do: one hot bath adds more to your carbon footprint than leaving your phone charger plugged in for a whole year;
hours. Another common recommendation is to turn lights off when you leave a room, but lighting accounts for only 3% of household energy use, so even if you used no lighting at all in your house you would save only a fraction of a metric ton of carbon emissions.
Plastic bags have also been a major focus of concern, but even on very generous estimates, if you stopped using plastic bags entirely you’d cut out 100kg CO2eq per year, which is only 0.4% of… your total emissions….
Similarly, the focus on buying locally produced goods is overhyped: only 10% of the carbon footprint of food comes from transportation whereas 80% comes from production, so what type of food you buy is much more important than whether that food is produced locally or internationally. Cutting out red meat and dairy for one day a week achieves a greater reduction in your carbon footprint than buying entirely locally produced food.
However, there is an even more effective way to reduce your emissions. It’s called offsetting: rather than reducing your own greenhouse gas emissions, you pay for projects that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere.
While the carbon we release by flying or driving is certain and verifiable, the carbon absorbed by offset projects is less attestable.
Monbiot’s concern doesn’t… provide a good argument against carbon offsetting in general. It just shows we’ve got to do some research in order to find a way of offsetting that’s genuinely effective. That’s what we did at my organisation Giving What We Can….
The charity we ultimately decided was best is called Cool Earth. Cool Earth was founded in 2007 in the United Kingdom by businessman Johan Eliasch and MP Frank Field, who were concerned with protecting the rainforest and the impact that deforestation might have on the environment. The charity aims to fight global warming by preventing deforestation, primarily in the Amazon.
It uses donated money to help develop… rainforest communities economically to a point where they do better by not selling their land to loggers….
Cool Earth claims it costs them about $100 to prevent an acre of rainforest from being cut down, and that each acre locks in 260 metric tons of CO2. This would mean that it costs just about 38¢ to prevent one metric ton of CO2 from being emitted.
Using this figure, the average American adult would have to spend $105 per year in order to offset all their carbon emissions.
George Monbiot claimed that carbon offsetting is a way of ‘selling indulgences’, in reference to the medieval practice in which Christians would pay the Church in exchange for forgiveness for their sins. On a similar theme, a satirical website,, offers the following service: ‘When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere.
the animal welfare argument is much stronger for some animals than for… others, because some sorts of animal produce involve a lot more suffering on the part of the animals than others. In fact, eliminating chicken and eggs removes the large majority of animal suffering from your diet. This is because of the conditions those animals are kept in, and the number of animals needed to provide a given number of calories….
The only quantitative estimates of farmed animal welfare I’ve been able to find come from Bailey Norwood, an economist and agricultural expert. He rated the welfare of different animals on a scale of –10 to 10, where negative numbers indicate that it would be better, from the animal’s perspective, to be dead rather than alive. He rates beef cattle at 6 and dairy cows at 4. In contrast his average rating for broiler… chickens is –1, and for pigs and caged hens is –5. In other words, cows raised for food live better lives than chicken, hens, or pigs, which suffer terribly…The second consideration is the number of animals it takes to make a meal. In a year, the average American will consume the following: 28.5 broiler chickens, 0.8 layer hens, 0.8 turkeys, 0.37 pigs, 0.1 beef cows, and 0.007 dairy cows; in the UK people eat less meat on average but, like Americans, consume far more chickens and hens than cows. These numbers might suggest that cutting out chicken has a far bigger impact than any other dietary change. However, most broiler chickens live for only six… weeks, so insofar as we care about how long the animal spends in unpleasant conditions on factory farms, it’s more appropriate to think about animal years rather than animal lives. In a year, the number of animal years that go into the average American’s diet are as follows: 3.3 from broiler chickens (28.5 chickens consumed, each of which lives six weeks = 3.3 animal years), 1 from layer hens, 0.3 from turkeys, 0.2 from pigs, 0.1 from beef cows, and 0.03 from dairy cows. Combining these two considerations, we arrive at the conclusion that the most effective way to cut animal suffering out of your diet is to stop eating chicken, then eggs, then pork: by doing so, you’re taking out the worst suffering for the most animals for the longest time….
Psychologists have discovered a phenomenon that they call ‘moral licensing’ that describes how people who perform one good action often compensate by doing fewer good actions in the future… Amazingly, even just saying you’d do something good can cause the moral licensing effect. In another study, half the participants were asked to imagine helping a foreign student who had asked for assistance in understanding a lecture. They subsequently gave significantly less to charity when given the chance to do so than the other half of the participants, who had not been asked to imagine helping another student….