Suppose hypothetically that the world economy starts booming again and everyone can purchase most everything they want. What could all that unbridled consumerism result in? Most people don’t even have a clue about how the products they buy are produced. If civilization fell tomorrow some of us would starve in a field of wheat not even knowing what it was.
To a large degree I doubt most people even want to find out. Ignorance is bliss, why even look at the scary pictures and warning labels?
This results in much damage being done to our environment as shown by this article on the fate of the African Elephant: Ivory Trade Threatens Elephants The article explains that the elephant is threatened with extinction because of the illicit trade in ivory fueled by consumers who are clueless of the origin of ivory.
The same type of thing happens with local consumerism here as well – you walk into the dollar store and see a large wreath of feathers for a buck but have no notion of where they came from. Who knows how many songbirds lost their lives to make that wreath and how many of us would choose to purchase such an object if we did? Most dollar store items end up on the trash heap very quickly. If we knew it was made from left over feathers from a chicken processing plant some of us at least would feel much better about it, but there is no way to find out.
Requiring Disclosure in Manufacturing
In this day and age it would really be helpful to know more about a product than the “Made in China” label, yet even the people working in production control rarely know much about the origins and production of some of the materials they source. This causes issues and prevents people and companies who really want to make good ethical choices from doing so.
For example, if you purchase a diamond ring (or an Avocado in this day and age) it really should come with a traceable history showing where the materials were obtained and how. Most reputable business will try to provide this information to protect not only themselves but their clients. If there is resistance to it there is likely something that people are trying to hide.
Governmental requirements for labeling can only go so far in addressing the problem but would be a great first step. Unfortunately I doubt this will ever happen in an plutocracy but please do prove me wrong.
Even such things as the fuel we purchase should come with public records of how and where it was refined, where the raw materials came from, what city centers the flammable materials went by train through on the way to the pump, what Arctic wilderness was drilled in, etc. We could have a lot number on the pump and people could look up such information.
Trace the Money
Lets say your one of the good guys and want to fully disclose how you make something and where your sources are. You make widgets and you require so many wadgits in the processing. You put out your orders to your suppliers and cut them a check – end of story right? How do you trace the fact that your suppliers are using a sweat shop with child labor to provide your wadgits?
With traditional cash and checking it is very difficult to trace the money and it is easy to hide behind the facade of non-disclosure. Governments try to prevent it but the fact remains that it is still possible to launder the money and make purchases of weapons or contraband. I doubt we can plug all the holes the world over to prevent this. Rather than focus so much on regulations why not make discloser voluntary and easy to do?
Cryptocoin block chain technology could become instrumental in letting people voluntarily show how the money was spent to produce a product. You could pay your contractors with a contract on the block chain that requires that in order for payment to be released they need to attach documentation or pictures detailing specific steps in the manufacturing process for the lot provided. As a public record people could then look and see how parts were sourced. It could still be possible to spoof the system but if you made your certification ridged enough and verifiable it would help. (Some of this technology could be used like this now with lots of active development being done this year; it is a good time to check into things)
Many organic farms and other business would most likely be happy to provide such information if it was easy enough to do. Making informed consumer choices would let more people feel better about making purchases that are in alignment with themselves. Consumer choices could help support companies that are really trying to make positive changes.
It seems appropriate to state that these are merely the opinions of someone called Lightplasher, a small cog in a giant wheel. These opinions may possibly change tomorrow based on new knowledge or experiences.
As far as I know mostly electrons were using in creating this blog which were generated through hydroelectric power around here. (Not counting my labor – is the brain hydroelectric?) 😉 The software used is open source. No child labor was used, however, I’ve tried to instigate a “no allowance unless you clean your room rule” but it has met with much resistance by the rest of the family members – go figure. 🙂