The Weight of the World; Comparing Burdens

I was pondering one of those confusing moments of indecision that the modern world has foisted on us. I was in the kitchen having just blown my nose and I honestly had no idea what the advice is between swing-bin and recycling. I chose recycling then suffered the disturbing image of a Chinese child on crust removal duty, so fished it out and gave it to the swing-bin. I went back to my TV then suddenly it occurred to me that paper isn’t kept and ironed out to be re-used, it’s simply chucked into a huge hopper and pulped down for future products. Here’s me contributing to the destruction of the rain-forests out of my pure ignorance. I went back to the kitchen and fished it out of the rubbish and gave it to the recycling bin, but then back at my rolling news TV show, I suddenly imagined your cereal box with a tiny bit of me embossed within the… you get the picture. Swing- bin was the final decision.

Back to the rolling news and I realised where I got the image of the Chinese child. The story was of our TVs being sent to the developing world where they’re scrapped by scavenging hordes of poor people who have no sense of health and safety norms. We’re now told that our discarded electronic goods are poisoning the developing world, but the developing world needs some kind of jobs. Is starvation a lesser form of evil?
Development economists tell us that the reason shanty towns exist is because there is only enough work in the city for a third of the people who arrive, but far from irrationality, the young will still leave the rural subsistence of their parents in the hope of being the one-in-three who succeeds. When we see TV pictures of young people scavenging for pennies worth of scrap copper by melting wires and circuit boards, they are the ones who plan on being the one-in-three. They say we’re poisoning them, but perhaps their priority is food in their stomach and the possibility of a future opportunity in something better. Should we impose our priorities on them?
So does this mean that their lives are cheaper than ours? I did an immigration case earlier today; an African man in his twenties. He’d been caught bang to rights with false documents. When I told him he’d been caught because he’d registered with a GP he nodded to me and I knew. He wasn’t an economic migrant; he was here because he didn’t want to die. He was sent home, back to Africa, back to his fate. Life is cheap if you’re not from the west.
Oh, well. Unlucky for some, ay? I still don’t know whether it should have been the recycle or the swing-bin. I sometimes wonder if people in the developing world realise just how much we have to worry about here in the west.

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