The Story of the Notebook

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As I sit here drinking my rooibos tea my eyes stray to the objects that are around me; my phone, my laptop, my notebook, a banana skin and my mug. As I look at them I begin to wonder what it all cost. Therefore I asked some questions that sprang to mind in considering the human cost of my notebook. Some of my questions have hyperlinks embedded in them which will direct you to a short story behind the question, each linking to modern day slavery. These are stories that I have created through a mixture of research, stories I have heard and my own imagination. If you would like to read more into the stories that I have been exploring they can be found in the research and background reading at the bottom of this blog.

Where did the paper in my notebook come from?

Photo Credit: http://ellenturningpages.blogspot.com/2010/04/what-is-in-your-moleskine.html

What type of tree was chopped down?

Who chopped the tree down?

Were they fairly paid?

What cow died so that I could have a leather notebook?

Who killed the cow?

Were they fairly paid?

What is the binding made out of?

Who designed it?

Were they fairly paid?

Who made it?

Or did a machine make it?

Who designed the machine?

Were they fairly paid?

Who made the machine?

Were they fairly paid?

Who packed the notebook in a box to be sent away?

Were they fairly paid?

Was the book shipped from far away?

Who shipped the notebook?

Were they fairly paid?

Who drove the van that picked the package up?

Were they fairly paid?

How many miles did the van drive?

Who handled it in the shop?

Who placed it on the shelf?

Were they fairly paid?

What is fairly paid?

Who sold it to me?

Even such a simple object as a notebook opens up a cascade of questions that digs into a complex supply chain. All of which leads to the conclusion that for a notebook that cost me a total of £10 someone must be missing out somewhere. The notebook company’s website tells me that every endeavor has been taken to ensure that they and their suppliers are ensuring the wellbeing and sustainability of both human rights and the environment. How can you be sure though? With over 40 million people in slavery in the world today [1] many companies are clearly not looking into their supply chains with enough scrutiny. The story might end over here in Oxford with a notebook but it could well begin with the destruction of our planet or even the enslaving of a child. The story told in my notebook is one of stickmen, notes on lectures, some of my own reflections on life and an unfinished plan for a workshop. The story untold in my notebook is the story of the blood and sweat of human beings and of a planet so consumed by ‘stuff’ that it is gasping for air. Which story is more important? Which one needs to be told?

Written by Jonathan Steinegger, Justice in Motion intern

[1] IJM https://www.ijm.org/slavery/ accessed 28.11.2018

Background Reading and Research

https://reporterbrasil.org.br/2017/03/investigation-reveals-slave-labor-conditions-in-brazils-timber-industry/

https://www.ijm.org/slavery/

https://reporterbrasil.org.br/2017/03/slave-labor-in-the-amazon-risking-lives-to-cut-down-the-rainforest/

https://www.freedomunited.org/news/brazil-cattle-ranch/

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/sep/29/victims-of-slavery-farms-in-brazil-para-state-amazonian-rainforest

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jan/09/brazil-ordered-to-pay-5m-to-workers-formerly-enslaved-on-cattle-ranch

https://www.missiontoseafarers.org/blog/the-very-real-risk-of-modern-slavery-in-shipping

https://www.nautilusint.org/en/news-insight/news/modern-slavery-alive-in-the-maritime-industry/

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2010/sep/30/modern-day-slavery-fishing-europe

https://www.equaltimes.org/there-must-be-zero-tolerance-of#.XKSd6XdFzSE