Greenland Is Melting & Bonded Labor

Greenland Is Melting & Bonded Labor


SHANE SMITH: This week
on “Vice”, Greenland is melting. MAN: This is a crime scene that is so covered
in our fingerprints. SMITH: There
it goes, there it goes, there it goes! SMITH: Then escaping
from modern day slavery in Pakistan. [Conversations
in native language] Don’t point
that camera here! ♪ [Yells command
in native language] [Chanting in foreign language] [Gunshot] FAZEELAT ASLAM: It’s a trap. Once you get someone in,
they can never leave. SMITH: We’re here
on the southern lobe of the Greenland
ice sheet. It’s melting at such
an alarming rate. ♪ Extreme weather events
have been in the news a lot lately. Hurricanes, tornados,
super storms, and prolonged drought are not only becoming
increasingly commonplace but, tragically, increasingly destructive. However perhaps the biggest threat humanity faces as
the earth continues to warm is sea level rise. In the last few years, Greenland has hit
its highest temperatures in recorded history. It has also experienced the first full surface melt
of its ice sheets in our modern era. Now, these two events have
so much potential impact on the world’s oceans that many scientists
have become quite concerned. So we went to Greenland
to see what’s happening on the frontlines
of climate change. ♪ So right now, we’ve been coming in through an old 1930s
glacier boat up the waterway to the actual glacier front
to see all the icebergs. And being a guy who watched
“Titanic,” I’m like, Isn’t it stupid
to go near icebergs? But we’re going right
into a sort of iceberg field, which is a bit odd. You can see here he’s
actually pushing the iceberg. [Chuckles] SMITH: Greenland’s glaciers
are in free fall. Every year, Greenland loses over 140 billion tons of ice. This net ice loss
is now responsible for a significant amount of our
current global sea-level rise. Now, some of the fastest
and most alarming melts are occurring
on the country’s Western coast, where many glaciers meet
the warmer ocean waters, causing massive icebergs
to break off from Greenland’s ice sheet
in a process known as calving. To witness some of these
events firsthand, we met up with one of the world’s
leading experts on Greenland’s ice sheets, Dr. Jason Box. In his role as glaciologist for the Geological Survey
of Denmark and Greenland, Dr. Box has unique insight into the data and science
that helps us understand Greenland’s glaciers
and the factors that are causing
the extreme melt there. Our route out to the ice sheet took us directly over
some newly deglaciated land. Now, this area would
have been totally covered in ice up until recently. But because of the melt,
we had to fly fully five miles further inland just
to reach the glacier itself. MAN: Just ten years ago, much of what you see
here was covered in several hundred feet
of ice. SMITH: Wow. So all this is
brand-new. This is all freshly
deglaciated, so we’ve had
the glacier retreat. JASON BOX: Yeah, yeah. Just this region here
has lost enough ice to supply Los Angeles
with fresh water for about 2,000 years. Wow. BOX: It’s hard
to put numbers on this that aren’t astronomical. SMITH, VOICE-OVER:
When you first see it, the ice sheet itself
seems to go on forever. And in many places,
it’s miles and miles thick. It’s then you realize just how much water
is tied up in it because the ice sheet covers
about 80% of Greenland, which, in turn, is
about three times the size of Texas. SMITH: We’re here
on the southern lobe of the Greenland ice sheet with Dr. Jason Box
to actually measure how fast the ice sheet
is melting because it’s melting
at such an alarming rate. Yeah, ok,
they’re two meters. How much will this shelf
melt in the next year? This site’s been melting
more than anywhere in Greenland
at the surface. Last year we measured
nine meters. Nine meters. Nine meters of melting,
so that’s, you know, like, 27 feet
of ice melt. You know, the size
of a house is this, this is
how much it’s… In one year. Yeah. SMITH: So Dr. Box
is going to put the pole down into the ice. So if you can see
all the way up to there, that’s how much ice
from this shelf is melting. Every year. SMITH: Dr. Box’s method
to track ice melt here is actually really simple. After drilling down
into the ice, he places a long 30-foot
pole into the ice shelf and leaves it there. When he comes back in a year, he measures how much of the pole has been revealed. Now, the ice on this glacier is melting so fast
that the flag you see here will be 27 feet higher in
the air in just 12 months. One of the reasons the ice
is melting so quickly is visible
right on the surface. Contrary to what I thought before traveling
to Greenland, the ice sheets are not
actually vast expanses of gleaming
white ice and snow, because due
to increased pollution and airborne soot, the ice
is actually very dirty. Now, this dirty, or
dark ice, accelerates melt because its color
absorbs the heat rather than reflect it. SMITH: So you can see
that the dark ice here is melting down. Why does that happen? BOX: Well,
the dark material absorbs about three times
more sunlight than if it weren’t here and that’s why it’s
melting more here locally. There’s always been some
dark material on the surface, but we think
that there should be more if wildfire is
increasing and that is documented. The soot comes by
air up to here. Yeah. and the question is if climate warming
creates more fire, that’s going to be
depositing more light-absorbing
material on the ice. And it’s sort of
cyclical. The hotter it gets,
the more fires. The more fires,
the more soot. The more soot,
the more dark ice. The more
dark ice, the more that
it melts. Right. SMITH: Rising global
temperatures are making the natural fire season not only much longer
but also much drier, which in turn leads
to more soot and therefore
more black ice. And another contributor is the massive amount
of industrial pollution that is carried to Greenland
by air currents. These particles land, then literally drill down
into the ice, thereby exacerbating
the whole process. You can see the hole goes all the way
down there. BOX: Yeah.
And then it looks like this fracture here,
it may have been that the water filled up and then forced
this crack open. We call it hydrofracture, and that’s when water
drains down into the cracks because water’s heavier
than ice and it actually can force
the cracks open. SMITH:
The melt water actually hydrofracks down into
the interior of a glacier and lubricates the entire
glacier from within, causing it to break apart
and calve into the sea. BOX: Then the next thing is, OK, how fast is it melting? And how quickly
would that contribute to sea level rise? Climate change has outpaced
the worst-case scenarios that was observed
20 years ago. And so it’s just melting
as fast as it can here. SMITH: If all
of Greenland melts, how much would
the ocean rise? BOX:
Well, Greenland contains about 7 meters, or 21 feet, of global sea level
equivalent. 21 feet. Yeah. So if it melted,
21 feet. SMITH: So just to be
clear on what that means, if all of Greenland’s
ice melts, which is now being argued as a distinct scientific
possibility, then 80 of the world’s
hundred biggest cities would be under water. To illustrate his point, Dr. Box took us to see what sea level rise looks like in real time. BOX: Now we’re heading to the ice front
where it’s calving. Here’s where the ice
is going really fast, like several kilometers
per year, and this is like,
kind of like a sports car glacier
because it’s very steep and it’s just shoving
a lot of ice into the sea. It looks like
the Palace of Jor-El. Superman threw
his krypton in there and it… Yeah, it became
the Fortress of Solitude. Fortress of Solitude. Yeah, absolutely. Wow. That is wild. That’s amazing.
Holy shit. Yeah,
that whole front is going to come
off there. There it goes! BOX: There it goes!
There it goes! Holy fuck! Whoa! Look at how much
the water is… Yeah, that’s it, man. An apartment building
just fell over. Wow. A lot of this water that’s
bubbling up at the front… Yeah. That’s another part
of the story. Because that turbulent
water is forcing a heat exchange between this warm ocean
and the cold ice. Right. So that mixing that’s actually
forced by melt water is squirting out at depth and then it rises because
the freshwater’s lighter. It’s undercutting it
and promoting calving. SMITH: One thing
that’s hard to describe about what’s happening
in Greenland is the scale of it all. For example,
these ice cliffs are hundreds and hundreds
of feet high. And they are continually
calving into the sea. SMITH: Look at that. BOX: That’s crazy. Wow. Look at that. SMITH: Dr. Box suggested we set up camp next
to the glacier to witness just how fast
it’s breaking apart. SMITH: So it sounds like there’s a thunderstorm
going on right now, but it’s odd because it’s not coming
from the sky, it’s coming
from below us. Literally whole mountains, thousands of tons of ice,
are just falling into the sea, or the fjord, as we are talking
by the fire about climate change. It’s pretty sobering. It scares the piss out
of me, quite frankly. If you look
at the latest data, we’re 60 years ahead of
the worst-case scenario. That worst-case scenario
is staggering. So what happens
if 80 years from now, we’re 60 years ahead of
those worst-case scenarios, like we are today? Then we’re in
a catastrophic situation. Well, that seems
likely because the trajectory
that we’re on right now is toward climate
catastrophe. There does reach a point where it becomes
unmanageable. SMITH: Now,
the worst-case scenarios Dr. Box and I were
talking about were based
on the recently released Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change, or IPCC’s, fifth report which concludes that we have dramatically exceeded our previous worst-case scenarios. Now, in order to understand
what the findings of the latest IPCC
report really mean and to make sense of
what we had just seen in Greenland firsthand, we wanted to talk to someone
who could give us a consensus of what the global
scientific community thinks about these issues. So we contacted
Dr. Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist at NASA
and a well-respected voice in the oftentimes
contentious dialogue that surrounds
climate change. So the IPCC five report
just came out, which shows
that we’re well ahead of worst-case
scenarios that we had from the past decade. Can you give us
some context of what is going on? Change in
the Arctic Sea ice is way ahead again
of the projections that we made
even five years ago. You know, we have a sea
level rise coming from the melt on Greenland. We have more sea level rise
coming from glaciers in mountains around
the world that are melting. We have more melt coming
from West Antarctica. And then we’ve got
the warming of the oceans. We are pouring,
effectively, enormous amounts of heat
into the oceans year on, year out and that’s causing
the oceans to expand. All of those things
add up to the sea level rise that we’re seeing, and we anticipate that
that’s going to accelerate over the next 50, 100 years. To slow down the current
rate of sea level rise, we need to stabilize
glaciers in Greenland and stop adding so much
heat into the system. We need to cut emissions
of, mainly, carbon dioxide by about 80%. Eight-zero percent? Eight-zero. So we have to cut
emissions by 80% in the next… In the next few decades. What happens
if we don’t? Well, then we’re talking
about a scenario where sea level rise
is accelerating. It could reach levels by
the end of the century of four, perhaps five,
perhaps more feet. And then
it will continue on. And our emissions are
going up, not down. And our emissions are
going up, not down. How much of this
crisis is man-made? All of it. We look for
the fingerprints of change that are associated
with the sun or from volcanoes or from natural
variability in the ocean. And we looked for each
of those fingerprints, and they don’t match. This is a crime scene that
is so covered in our fingerprints. There is no credible way that you could say it was
somebody else. And it’s not going to stop. Even if we stabilize
temperatures, we’d still be seeing
sea level rise continue for centuries
to thousands of years. So even if we stop,
sea level rise is going to continue, it just hopefully is
going to slow down. That would be the hope. What happens if,
going forward, we keep beating
our predictions? Well, then we’re talking
about a scenario where cities like Shanghai,
New York, Kolkata– all of these places
are going to have to either retreat
from the coast or build barriers
to protect themselves. And if you’re not in a city
that can afford that, you’re going to be
out of luck. Those cities are just going
to more and more disappear. SMITH, VOICE-OVER: Now,
this would all be bad enough if it were just Greenland, but now Antarctica,
the largest deposit of ice in the world, is starting
to experience large amounts
of net ice melt as well. What happens
if Antarctica and the Arctic start
melting at the same
rates as Greenland? West Antarctica, we’re seeing
very rapid changes there, so it could well be that Antarctica
will start to melt at the same rate
as Greenland is. If Antarctica starts
melting at the same rate
as Greenland, we’re in
for trouble. Indeed. Sea level rise
is the one problem where there are
no winners. Now, if you have a change
in rain patterns, if you have a change
in temperature, you know, somebody might be able
to benefit from that. Sea level rise– nobody wins. ♪ Slavery is alive
and well in the world. In fact, it’s estimated
that there will be nearly 30 million people living in some
form of economic bondage in 2014. In Pakistan alone, there are millions upon millions
of people living as slaves
or as bonded laborers. Now, in an effort
to combat this problem, the Pakistani government
created the Bonded Labor Act
in 1992, which banned the use
of forced labor. Sadly, however, not only does
it continue to this day, it does so
on a massive scale. So we sent Fazeelat Aslam
to Pakistan to see how slavery
can exist in our modern age. ♪ [Children speaking
native language] FAZEELAT ASLAM:
It’s a little after 6 AM, but this is already
a couple of hours into the workday
of a brick kiln worker. ASLAM, VOICE-OVER: There are between 3 million to
8 million bonded laborers across Pakistan working
like slaves, many in kilns like these. Families must make
a thousand bricks before sundown every day
all year round. Many of the workers are
children. Some are as young
as 3 years old. These kids look strong,
but it’s not like they’re eating a lot. [Conversation
in foreign language] Workers don’t earn enough
to pay for a single decent meal
a day, let alone their clothes,
bedding, and other needs. They become
badly malnourished, leading to sickness, which
they can’t afford to treat. [crying] This is 21st-century
slavery. To understand how something
like this could be happening in 2013, I went to speak with the director of
the Human Rights Commission in Pakistan, I.A. Rehman. ASLAM: Displaced workers
come to brick kiln owners with no money. They ask for loans for as
little as a hundred dollars in order for themselves and
their families to survive. The kiln owners, in turn,
take advantage of their desperation. The worker comes
and takes a loan from the brick kiln owner. The brick kiln owner
then says, “You work for me, and you’ll
eventually pay off that loan,” but they never do because
the contract that they’ve signed they can’t read
because they’re illiterate, and so the brick kiln owner
basically makes up the rules as he goes along. Today you have
this much more money to pay, tomorrow you have
that much more money to pay. It’s a trap. Once you get someone in, they can never leave. How much longer
do you think you’ll be stuck
in this debt? When do you think
you’ll get out? ASLAM, VOICE-OVER:
This is the false hope that all owners give
laborers to entrap them. The truth is,
the owners fabricate more debt over time so the workers are forced
to bring their children in to help, creating
generations of bonded laborers. I wanted to learn
about the tactics of the owners, but they
refused to appear on camera. I went to speak with
two sisters–one 14 years old and the other just 4 years old– who had recently escaped
from the kiln. ASLAM, VOICE-OVER:
Stories like these are just one amongst thousands that
become worse when you realize that their debt can be paid off
with just a few hundred dollars. These laborers
have very little representation, but there is one person
determined to fight for them. [Marchers chanting
in native language] ASLAM: This is Ghulam Fatima. She runs the Bonded
Labor Liberation Front, one of the only organizations
in Pakistan taking action
against this modern-day slavery. [Men shouting commands] Over her lifetime of work,
she’s been beaten, tortured, and imprisoned for her cause. ASLAM: How do you continue to do
this work? Aren’t you afraid
for your life? [Speaking
native language] Could you
explain to us why don’t these people
run away from the kiln? ASLAM, VOICE-OVER: Laborers
are under the constant fear of retribution
if they try to escape. The kilns are
in the middle of nowhere, so even if they run,
they can’t hide. The laborers need someone
to help them escape safely. At the Bonded Labor
Liberation Front headquarters, laborers from a kiln arrive. Back at the kiln,
everyone thinks they’ve gone to get food, but they’ve actually come
to ask Fatima to help rescue their family. ASLAM: Fatima is one of the only
people that rescues these people
from kilns. And she gets people
coming to her door all the time. ASLAM, VOICE-OVER:
The relatives fear for their lives. Fatima decides to rescue
the family tonight. She takes the relatives
to the police station with jurisdiction over the kiln. It’s common for the police
to accept bribes from the kiln owners, so helping Fatima is not
in their interest. ASLAM: So right now
we’re at the jail, and basically they have
to go and file the case so that the police
accompanies them to the brick kiln so that they have security
when they get to the kiln. ASLAM, VOICE-OVER:
Fatima will need to give enough information
to satisfy the police. But she cannot tell them
exactly where the kiln is for fear they
will tell the owners. The guy in charge
wants to know exactly which kiln it is, which means he can tell
them that we’re coming and hide the people
we’re trying to rescue. [Aslam speaking
foreign language] ASLAM, VOICE-OVER:
After a long interrogation of the family’s relative, the head policeman
makes his decision. ASLAM: They know what
kiln we’re going to? They don’t know which kiln
we’re going to. ASLAM, VOICE-OVER:
The presence of our camera puts pressure on the police. They agree to escort
us to the kiln in a separate vehicle. They have not been
told the exact location for fear they will
tip off the owner. After 3 hours,
we arrive at the kiln. The kiln owners
have near absolute power. With incredible wealth
and influence, they can take complete advantage
of an already corrupt system. The police would
rather be unlawful than upset
the brick kiln owners. Once inside,
we will only have moments before the alarm is raised. The police
won’t let the family take any of their belongings. They’re afraid
of what will happen if the owners
catch them helping the laborers escape. Everyone’s trying
to get out before the brick kiln owners
realize what’s happening. They got
everyone out, but the owner’s
just here now. Wait. Uh-oh. The owners are here. Ok, the owners are
here. so… Ok, so the owners have
stopped the police. ASLAM, VOICE-OVER: If the owners
get a hold of the escapees now, they could be beaten severely
or even killed. Fatima makes the decision to ditch the police
and make a break for it. We return to the Bonded
Labor Liberation Front, where the family
will finally be safe. ASLAM, VOICE-OVER: Even
though the family has lost all of their possessions, they are overjoyed to have
gained their freedom, and they’re finally safe
from the kiln owners. ♪

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