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Calculating the size of our slavery footprint

TOWNSHEND—In an instant-gratification society like the United States, Mei-Mei Ellerman worries about how many slaves are in the supply chain feeding America.

People need to stop and reflect on how their daily actions contribute to the slave trade, she said.

In 2005 and 2007, Ellerman, a Brandeis professor and board member of the anti-trafficking group Polaris Project, organized a 10-mile Vermont Freedom Walk along the old slave route between Townshend and Grafton, to raise awareness of human trafficking and encourage Vermont legislators to draft an anti-trafficking bill.

“The response was very positive. An impressive number of businesses, students, church goers, and communities at large from Brattleboro to Springfield, became involved and offered their support and contributions,” said Ellerman. “In 2007, Representatives Carolyn Partridge and Richard Marek greeted weary but elated participants in the walk upon our arrival at the Grafton Elementary School.”

People can visit slaveryfootprint.org to find out the number of slaves working for them.

Ellerman said she was “appalled” to discover 27 human trafficking victims were supporting her lifestyle.

According to the website, even reputable brands don’t know where all the materials they use come from like cotton, coffee beans, or tantalum, a metal used in many electronic devices.

“And it’s a supply chain that enslaves more people than at any time in human history. They’re working for you,” writes the calculator website’s organizers, Made In A Free World.

The California-based organization said the organization doesn’t want consumers to take the survey so they’ll feel bad, but to prompt them to ask their favorite companies to understand, and clean up, their supply chains.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #172 (Wednesday, October 3, 2012).

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