A newspaper article in the business section gave me a trafficking scare not long ago. If indeed trafficking is a symptom of increasing pressures over population, jobs, and resources, as I claim it is, than you will understand how I feel that way. Let me explain:
Millions of people around the world still live a subsistence lifestyle, a simple life where tonight’s supper is caught or earned the same day.
Their enemy is often big agriculture. That is because machinery and technology are applied to achieve high levels of production needed to feed the growing population. And that is important too. Technology will be needed to help feed increased numbers of people in the years ahead. But at what cost, what sacrifice.
How has small farming changed – –
Small farmers who feed themselves, their family, and maybe a few others no longer have a place at the farm table. Those farmers and their families have televisions and internet like everyone else. They see the lifestyle others live – and farmers want that too. This a major reason small farmers leave the farm. And why not?
These two issues – technology and desire for a better life – are at the root of rural-to-urban migration, AKA trafficking, often internal trafficking.
Currently there are over one hundred cities in China with population over a million people. That is a recent change because people moved off farms and to cities in recent years as a result of China’s economic growth. This also explains internal trafficking.
And that scary newspaper article said WHAT!
The newspaper article (see the original article here) that gave me a scare was about a researchers in Australia that are showing good success at doing something which has not been done before, designing machinery able to pick fruit. It isn’t here yet. The research is being done by the Department of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the University of Sydney.
Several labor intensive farm requirements can already be done by machine. Machinery has not been able to pick most fruit because fruit is delicate. Machinery can not delivery acceptable fruit to market. But soon it will be possible. Successful tests have been conducted on almond farms.
What will it mean? A few new sophisticated jobs will be created to maintain this equipment and a few more to operate it, but many thousands of low level, subsistence farm jobs will just go away. Many thousands of workers with few other skills beyond picking fruit will be heading for a city or to another country in desperation over what to do with their lives. This will start in Australia where there is a labor shortage but it will soon spread to the entire industry because this is the advantage the large commercial farm industries have over the small farmer.
Tell your stories of job changes that contribute to displaced persons who want a better life – – SEE COMMENTS?
That’s scary! But that too explains trafficking.
Maybe some farm workers, or their children, will find some relief as sex workers. Some will accept dangerous jobs in a factory or on a fishing boat.
And you can be sure some kind hearted people, who have always had a meal on their table, will wring their hands and say those people, those former fruit pickers, are someone’s victim and even modern day slaves. Those kind hearted Americas opposed to slavery will fail to consider that some of those people might feel very fortunate to have any job even if other people think it looks like slavery to them.
But in reality they are people displaced by technology. That is a part of the trafficking issue that does not get the attention it deserves. We attempt crack downs on a few bad guys who are filling a need. And we ignore the issue that created that need.
Post Script: its an urban problem too!
Recently I met a man who is very knowledgable about the theater industry. As we talked he mentioned new technology in theaters. Maybe you have seen large metal canisters that hold reels of film. That’s old news. The older style projectors that used those big reels are rapidly being phased out and replaced with digital movie projectors.
This has had two results: first, this is an expensive conversion and many smaller theaters can’t afford to make the transition and are rapidly going out of business. And, second, a large urban multi-screen theater previously employed 15-20 skilled people to run those old-style projectors. Now they are being replaced by three or four lower paid, less skilled people.
The impact of technology is not just impacting small farmers. It impacts everyone who thinks he/she will have a job as the populations continues to grow.