We’ve all heard of the “environmental footprint” that our society generates, or that each individual represents on the Earth. A whole science has evolved around calculating the environmental footprint of different countries and lifestyles, and most of us have heard the comment that if everyone in India and China adopts the lifestyle of North Americans, three Earths would be required to supply the resources to sustain it.
(Popular philosopher Terence McKenna once remarked on the hypocrisy of North Americans telling people in the developing world to have fewer children — imagining a mother, say, having five or six kids — when that North American man or woman has an environmental footprint over the course of their lives a thousand times that of the impoverished person, akin to having a thousand children.)
So it’s interesting to learn that someone has created a website that allows you to calculate your “slavery footprint.” By entering in certain information about yourself and your purchasing habits, the algorithm tells you how many unpaid workers — slaves — around the planet work to provide your goods and services.
Becoming aware of our link to slavery through the cell phones (precious metals), clothing (piecework), running shoes (child labour), and so on that we buy is as crucial as knowing what makes up our excessively large environmental footprint. Indeed, the two are likely closely linked.