In CULTURE, DIASPORA TALK, HOT BUTTON TOPIC, LIFESTYLE, Politics on August 8, 2008 at UTC.45.31.

“In 1926, the government of Liberia signed a concession with Firestone (tire company) to lease one million acres of land—for 99 years—at 6 cents per acre. Many Liberians, of course, already lived within these one million acres. They became serfs—convenient slaves or “tappers” to work the land that Firestone calls the “Firestone Plantation.”

As Americans, until now, we never really thought about where things come from. We live a life of convenince that majority of the world can not afford. Yet, we complain about trivial matters that aren’t really of any consequence.

While the growing surge of energy costs is forcing more empathy from us as consumers. Now, because we are forced to we want to know the origins of our oil. Is it domestically produced or is it coming from a country that wants to see the annihilation of our way of life that we so ardently defend?

How many of us would really change our consumption habits if we knew people were being exploited to mass produce raw resources in their “home” country just so we can enjoy the finished product here in the states? The U.S.A. comprises 5% of the world population, however, we consume over 60% of the worlds resources. So, that means people go without in other parts of the world just so that we can have the “extras.”

Do you know the process of refining rubber? Well, one part of the process has “tappers” or workers  tapping the trees to extract the rubber latex and then transport the 70 pound buckets to the factory, a distance which could be several miles. In addition,, there are no modern technological advances like automation. No, everything at the “Firestone Plantation” is still relatively the same since the beginning.

The tappers use hand cranks, and if they are lucky, there may be the occasional wheelbarrow to ease the burden of extreme manual labor. There are no protective face guards like masks or eye goggles. The workers risk life & limb just to meet outlandish quotas that stipulate their pay grade. It’s economic exploitation squared.

“Local water holes and rivers are polluted by the toxic sludge dumped out of the same weighing station to which “tappers” must walk for miles to dump the liquid rubber. The plantation affects the lives of these Liberians.” On one hand, the people are being disenfranchised & on the other hand the land is being polluted, raped & exploited for our excess. Are ypu disturbed by this reality? If not, you should be. It wouldn’t happen in the U.S.? Or, would it?

Is this more permissable because its Africa? Perhaps, however Liberia is an American territory. It was founded to be a refuge for enslaved Africans who wanted to return to their homeland. Hence, the name Liberia meaning liberation. So, I would think that our laws against “sweat houses & worker exploitation” could be used to end this degradation.

“Firestone was barely impacted by the bloody genocidal wars that rocked Liberia in 1989 and 2003. The “plantation” continued to function basically as it did in 1926. The workers were trapped in a medieval nightmare that never ended even as the world moved on.”

You have to wonder who was luckier during the genocide those exploited workers or those rebels fighting for justice & equality? Both situations seem to like extensions of war, that tragically has seen far too much death, destruction & despair…

Let’s hope that with our 24 hour news cycle & America’s revamped sense of “global” concerns for all humanity, especially in relation to energy, that we can establish workers rights, honorable daily wage & modern safety wear.


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