Pumping furiously on a foot treadle in the afternoon heat, six-year-old Sarju Ram is irrigating her impoverished family’s field, improving the crop and – without knowing it – helping environmentally sensitive holiday-makers assuage their guilt over long-haul flights to dream destinations.
But Sarju and her four brothers and sisters working flat out in a clump of trees that provide scant shelter from the sun illustrate a growing argument over claims that British environmentalists’ efforts to curb greenhouse emissions are inadvertently fuelling an increase in child labour.
Sarju’s family is a beneficiary of Climate Care, an organisation that helps some of Britain’s leading public figures and companies to offset their carbon dioxide emissions by funding sustainable energy projects.
The Prince of Wales turned to Climate Care after his environmental adviser, Jonathon Porritt, worked out the prince’s carbon footprint.
Customers of British Airways are among those who have been encouraged to log on to Climate Care’s website and calculate how many tonnes of greenhouse gases their flights will generate, and how much it will cost to neutralise the impact on the atmosphere. A flight to Barbados for a family of four, for example, generates 7.55 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which will cost them £56.64 to offset.
Climate Care uses the money to help persuade families such as Sarju’s to give up labour-saving diesel pumps and buy human-powered treadles instead. It claims that by using the treadle, a family will save money on diesel and hire charges, earn more from increased crops and cut the carbon emissions that would have been produced by the pump.
Last week Indian experts criticised the scheme, saying it was promoting child labour and forcing poor farmers to work harder so that wealthy air travellers could enjoy exotic holidays without worrying about the environment....MORE