I have been down and out lately due to losing my job as a teacher (which I had been secretly hoping I lost anyway and feeling extra guilty about this wish). This morning, still in my funk, I headed to my local Starbucks for a nice cup of joe and a paper. Hoping to find some inspiration from some great New York Times writer, I started reading in my driveway and immediately fell to tears at the article on the front page : “Lead Poisoning in China: The Hidden Scourge” in which I learned about three year old Han TianTian from Mengxi Village, China. Her parents slaved away in a battery-factory which could not have produced a decent income. Based on the photo of their home, the family lived well below what we would call “the poverty line”, but as evidenced by the bicycle with the child’s seat on the back, everything they did, was for TianTian. Heartbroken, her father Hang Zongyuan tells reporters that his three year old daughter, his baby girl, has irreversible damage to her intellectual capacity thanks to lead poisoning brought on by the factory he and his wife worked for. He says “At the moment I heard the doctor say that, my heart was shattered…We wanted this child to have everything. That’s why we worked this hard. That’s why we poisoned ourselves at this factory. Now it turns out the child is poisoned too. I have no words to describe how I feel.”
But Han TianTian, and her parents Wen Yuni and Hang Zongyuan are not nearly the only ones suffering something like this. The entire village destroyed the battery factory responsible for over 500 cases like this in the town. As well they should have. According to the New York Times article, the government f China has covered this up and ignored the illnesses for quite some time.
One may have the urge to say, “Where’s Erin Brockovich when you need her?” Here in the States, we’d like to think something like this could never happen. But it has. Things like this are occurring across the globe, and all so we can have cheaper products. When we start our electric cars, charge our phones, or watch bikers race down the road do we think about who is responsible for the things we have? Do we ever, for a moment, wonder what human hands slaved away for my comfort? Of course not. We’ve all got appointments to get to, new boyfriends or girlfriends to talk to for hours. What do we care if 1/3rd of Chinese children are suffering from high levels of lead poison? We don’t.
And that’s the sad part about it. We don’t care that 3 year old TianTian, or 5 year old Sun Guotai have irreversible health and neurological issues. The batteries are cheap and we need them. We may read this article and tell the person sitting next to us, or post it to our facebook, but the next minute we forget. We forget that our world is tiny and that each and every individual walking this earth is in some way connected. You see, the battery company responsible for this is covering up the problems because they need to compete in this global economy and raise China’s status. They don’t give 100% when thinking of the environment they’re damaging or the lives they’re ruining. Why? Because their consumers – us – don’t care. We have all forgotten that the butterfly effect isn’t just for butterflies. We need to do anything and everything we can to fix occurrences such as this.
China’s children aren’t China’s children. They’re our future. Guatemala’s children, Zimbabwe’s children aren’t their own. It takes a village isn’t what we need to think anymore. It takes all of us to raise these children. To protect them from ourselves. How dare we send them into harms way for a materialistic convenience? for any convenience? We should be angry about this, livid. And we should do something. Start by reducing what you use. Start by voicing your opinion or making others aware of things like this. And keep going until you actually get your hands dirty by putting in actual work – volunteer or donate money to people who will go in and do the actual work. It’s nothing more than our civic and social duty to protect the future.