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Salt of the Earth

My latest adventure was called the "Ship Breaking Yard Atelier" weekend in Bangladesh; where we flew in to Chattogram, formerly called Chittagong, to see how ships are repaired and decommissioned, visit a garment factory, peruse the fish market, walk along the train tracks into the slum areas, and understand how salt is processed from the sea to delivery.

People don't enjoy salt. They enjoy what is salted. We are the salt of the Earth. We do not exist for ourselves. - John Piper

What I found reinforced my persuasion that humans are deeply grateful for Being Seen for the work, gifts, talents, and impact they make on the world – whether that impact is local or beyond a country's borders – and the encounters bolstered my hope for humans to live in community with one another. In Chattogram, we saw hard work and a brief glimpse of hospitality in warm smiles and invitations into the lives of the people we met. I've never been in a place where so many people showed so much hospitality to strangers – to experience their work, to see how they live, dress, and sustain themselves and their families. We witnessed the threads of life woven together to create the fabric of communities.

We also saw unmatched pride in craft and trade in Chattogram. The laborious tasks we witnessed were delivered with efficiency; filling one basket of salt from a boat at at time, lofting it onto the crown of one man's head and strong neck after another, walking a series of planks to the shore, to a scale, and to the processing plant. At the plant, the salt gets washed, iodized, bagged, and loaded into trucks for delivery. The intricate network has been fine-tuned over time and operates like clockwork as soon as a boatload of salt reached the dock.

Watching the salt operation, I felt honored to be a brief part of this every-day life experience – and to be able to take these photographs back home. Salt is such a basic element to our daily diet, that we infrequently (or never) think about how it is harvested from the sea as a mineral and makes its way to our table. My photography from this visit may capture the humanity of this trade more vividly than any set of images I've taken before. Please take the time to look at these industrious men in the eye and see their valuable work – I hope you're as grateful for their contributions to our world as I am; they certainly enhanced the flavor of my day in Chattogram.

But these few are the salt of the earth; without them, human life would become a stagnant pool. Not only is it they who introduce good things which did not before exist, it is they who keep the life in those which already existed. - John Stuart Mill

I've been involved in many conversations involving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) and sustainable and ethical business practices. If you're not familiar with the 17 global SDG initiatives that aim to provide peace and prosperity for people and our planet – like no poverty, good health and well-being, decent work and economic growth, and responsible consumption and production – it's time for you to check them out – and then adopt some of the principles, and contribute to making the world a better place.

I've never been fond of fast fashion and the trend of weaving our clothes out of plastic (be it polyester, nylon, rayon, spandex, acrylic, acetate), but after visiting the garment factory, it's brought even more awareness to the social sustainability of our buying habits. The factory we visited was clean, the garments currently on the assembly line were made of cotton, the production was well-organized and appeared safe, and most staff seemed happy to have a productive job – and pose for a photo or two.

But this visit made me think deeper about the social impact of our consumer habits? How does our money trickle down to the people who catch our fish, make our clothes, repurpose our ships, and harvest our food? Does paying more for items mean the people who labor over them see that profit margin in their paycheck? When we purchase items, do we care about how they are made and what they are made of? In this garment factory, the people were working with cotton, but what of those clothes and toy manufacturers who are constantly breathing polyester and nylon fibers? And then what happens when we put those micro plastic fibers on our body day-in and day-out? And what happens when we wash those items and the fibers leach into our water system? These questions are as much about social sustainability as they are about the environment.

There is no doubt that the areas we visited were impoverished and part of a developing nation. It is also clear that the Nation is industrious with an enormous human capital in a hard-working population. I pray that the first, the impoverished part, doesn't mean the second, the industrious human capital, is exploited; though I know this must happen – it does in every country and corner of the world. But I know we all can make socially responsible decisions that reduce this and support those UNSDGs.

I hope that Bangladesh is at the dawn of discovering a new thriving economy built on the work ethic that we saw during our weekend away. This likely means relying on some humanitarian support as the markets mature – so don't forget to contribute to trusted aid organizations who provide basic services to developing nations and make positive decisions that impact developing countries..


The trip to Bangladesh in October 2022 was booked through Trekkup Dubai. This blog is not sponsored.

© 2022 Andrea Rip | The Earth Ink. All rights reserved.


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