A 2014 report by the United Nations estimates that tens of millions of people in the world are currently enslaved. Most of them are in the developing world, where they work in mines, quarries or shrimp farms for no money and without hope of escape.
“Slavery is the complete control of one person by another, and violence is used to maintain that control in all forms of slavery,” author Kevin Bales explains to Fresh Air’s Dave Davies. “The adults in that situation know that if they attempt to leave, they may be killed.”
Bales is the co-founder and former president of the organization Free the Slaves. His new book, Blood and Earth, chronicles the lives of people living in bondage and the environmental devastation he says the practice of slavery causes.
From the mineral mines of eastern Congo to the tidal mangrove forests of Bangladesh and India, Bales says that slavery and environmental degradation are often linked. “Every place I was finding slaves I was finding them in situations in which the local environment … been destroyed,” he says.
It’s kind of hard to describe how powerful job satisfaction can be when you know if you put in a good week some people have come out of slavery.
Bales spent seven years researching his book, during which time he visited slaves in a number of countries. He acknowledges that his work is often heart-wrenching but adds: “It’s kind of hard to describe how powerful job satisfaction can be when you know if you put in a good week, some people have come out of slavery. That in a sense is the tonic, it’s the balance, it’s what allows me to keep going in those areas where I see the horror, but I also see the triumph of freedom and that’s just worth it.”
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