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Carbon Offsets = Child Labor

John on September 22, 2007 at 5:39 pm

The Times of London is the first paper I’ve seen to make the connection:

Pumping furiously on a foot treadle in the afternoon heat, six-year-old Sarju Ram is irrigating her impoverished family’s field, improving the crop and – without knowing it – helping environmentally sensitive holiday-makers assuage their guilt over long-haul flights to dream destinations.

But Sarju and her four brothers and sisters working flat out in a clump of trees that provide scant shelter from the sun illustrate a growing argument over claims that British environmentalists’ efforts to curb greenhouse emissions are inadvertently fuelling an increase in child labour.

Sarju’s family is a beneficiary of Climate Care, an organisation that helps some of Britain’s leading public figures and companies to offset their carbon dioxide emissions by funding sustainable energy projects.

The Prince of Wales turned to Climate Care after his environmental adviser, Jonathon Porritt, worked out the prince’s carbon footprint.

Customers of British Airways are among those who have been encouraged to log on to Climate Care’s website and calculate how many tonnes of greenhouse gases their flights will generate, and how much it will cost to neutralise the impact on the atmosphere. A flight to Barbados for a family of four, for example, generates 7.55 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which will cost them £56.64 to offset.

Climate Care uses the money to help persuade families such as Sarju’s to give up labour-saving diesel pumps and buy human-powered treadles instead. It claims that by using the treadle, a family will save money on diesel and hire charges, earn more from increased crops and cut the carbon emissions that would have been produced by the pump.

Last week Indian experts criticised the scheme, saying it was promoting child labour and forcing poor farmers to work harder so that wealthy air travellers could enjoy exotic holidays without worrying about the environment.


Sunita Narain, an environmentalist at the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi think tank, said: “It won’t help global warming if people take more flights to the Seychelles.”

This has to be my favorite line:

Michael Buick, a spokesman for the Oxford-based Climate Care, confirmed that children were working the pumps it promotes, but said that people had to focus on the benefits to the whole family…

“If mum is planting and harvesting, the daughters help out. It’s just a different way of life. The phrase ‘child labour’ is emotive. It implies factories, but these are family farms where everyone gets stuck in, watering the crops and taking a turn on the treadle pump,” he said.

Don’t be so emotive you over-sensitive dummies. What’s a little child labor if it means wealthy Western environmentalists (like Sting) can travel the world guilt free.  But I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Mike Buick doesn’t have a treadle pump at home.

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Category: Climate Change & Environment |

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