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FEATURE

The Case for Informed Citizenship





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by Janet Ritz


With reports of the use of child labor in horrific conditions that supply tobacco to Philip Morris cigarettes, the ongoing destruction of the Gulf of Mexico, the denial of unemployment extensions to the millions who've exhausted their benefits, the suicides by technology workers in China, the widespread use of child labor to produce chocolate, the conflict minerals used in cell phones, has the time come for citizens to look in the mirror?
Human Rights Watch, the group best known for documenting governmental abuse and war crimes, plans to release a report on Wednesday showing that child and forced labor is widespread on farms that supply a cigarette factory owned by Philip Morris International in Kazakhstan, in Central Asia.

While child labor should be condemned in any setting, the report said, employing children on tobacco farms is particularly hazardous because tobacco field laborers are exposed to high levels of nicotine while doing their jobs.
In a society that runs on oil, on gas, on coal, on supermarket produce sections piled high with colorful fruits and vegetables that many around the world would see as equivalent to the gold in Fort Knox, we have distractions from the consequences of our choices. If we stop to think about what went into the production of that phone, that tank of gas, that bar of chocolate, what will we see in ourselves? Are we, by our own obtuseness, responsible for those who toil in unsafe conditions, who find themselves looking out at a destroyed Gulf of Mexico, who mourn for loved ones buried in an unsafe mine?


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