Is chocolate your guilty pleasure? Until you listen to this episode, we can almost guarantee you’re not feeling guilty enough about it! But don’t fret, because we’ll also provide resources to help alleviate some of that guilt and allow you to become part of the problem’s solution!
Welcome to Skeptical Sunday, a special edition of The Jordan Harbinger Show where Jordan and fact-checker, comedian, and podcast host David C. Smalley break down a topic that you may have never thought about, open things up, and debunk common misconceptions.
On This Week’s Skeptical Sunday, We Discuss:
- How the production and consumption of chocolate perpetuates a range of negative impacts, including child trafficking, labor exploitation akin to slavery, deforestation, and climate change.
- The chocolate industry brings in $100 billion annually, but the farmers who produce it make less than $1 a day toiling long hours in the grueling heat, constantly exposed to poisonous pesticides in unsafe conditions.
- High demand for labor is met by children — some as young as five — who are forced into it either by their desperate families or opportunists who abduct and sell them.
- How, despite the health benefits of cocoa, there has been a high food safety concern regarding the presence and levels of heavy metals such as nickel, cadmium, chromium, and lead, both in cocoa beans and cocoa products including, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, cocoa powder, and chocolates.
- How consumers can contribute to positive change by being more mindful of where their chocolate comes from and demanding ethical and sustainable production practices. Vote with your dollars for conscientious producers of chocolate who observe fair trade practices!
- Connect with Jordan on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. If you have something you’d like us to tackle here on Skeptical Sunday, drop Jordan a line at email@example.com and let him know!
- Connect with David at his website, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, and make sure to check out The David C. Smalley Podcast here or wherever you enjoy listening to fine podcasts! If you like to get out of your house and catch live comedy, keep an eye on David’s tour dates here and text David directly at (424) 306-0798 for tickets when he comes to your town!
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Not to be a bummer, but the production of our favorite chocolate brands is associated with a wide range of negative impacts, including child trafficking, labor exploitation, deforestation, and climate change. Even AI darling-of-the-moment ChatGPT is aware of the murky shadow lingering beneath the creation of something that brings the world so much joy, because this is what it told us (on the very first try!) when prompted to “please write us a limerick that illustrates the brutality of the chocolate industry”:
There once was a cocoa trade crude and mean,
That fueled on the sweat of laborers’ gleam,
They toiled through the day,
In scorching heat to lay,
Chocolate bars that we all relish, obscene!
If even a soulless AI can cobble together the pieces to illustrate the inhumanity of the big players in this industry, perhaps it’s worth your time to give this episode a listen and vote for big-chocolate alternatives with your dollars!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
This Episode Is Sponsored By:
- Peloton: Learn more at onepeloton.com/row
Miss the show we did with Vince Beiser — author of The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization? Make sure to check out episode 97: Vince Beiser | Why Sand Is More Important Than You Think It Is!
Resources from This Episode:
- Where to Buy Fair Trade Chocolate | Fair Trade Certified
- Miki Mistrati | The Dark Side of the Chocolate Industry | Jordan Harbinger
- Markets Institute: Shifting the Cocoa Production Paradigm | World Wildlife Fund
- Climate & Chocolate | NOAA Climate
- West African Farmers Produce 70% Cocoa for the Global $130 Billion Chocolate Industry, Yet Remain Poor | TheAfricanDream
- Cocoa: Why the European Union Must Act Now to Eliminate Deforestation and Child Labour from the Chocolate We Love | Fern
- Ivorian Cocoa: A Bittersweet Disposition | Gro Intelligence
- Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry | Food Empowerment Project
- How Much Chocolate Does One Tree Produce? | Bean to Bar World
- On Growing Cacao and the Importance of Bugs | Institute of Culinary Education
- Is There Child Labor In Your Chocolate? | HuffPost
- Spencer Roberts | The Dirty Truth About Corporate Greenwashing | Jordan Harbinger
789: Chocolate | Skeptical Sunday
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to Peloton for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:04] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger and this is Skeptical Sunday, a special edition of The Jordan Harbinger Show where fact-checker and comedian David C. Smalley and I break down a topic that you might never have thought about, open things up, debunk common misconceptions. Topics such as why the Olympics are kind of a sham, expiration dates on food are kind of nonsense, why tipping makes absolutely no sense, recycling, banned foods, toothpaste, chemtrails, and a whole lot more.
[00:00:33] Normally, on The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We have long-form interviews and conversations with the variety of amazing folks from spies to CEOs, athletes, authors, thinkers, and performers.
[00:00:50] If you're new to the show or you want to tell your friends about the show, I suggest our episode starter packs. They're a great place to begin. They're some of our favorite episodes organized by topic. New listeners can always get a taste of everything we do here on the show. Topics like persuasion and influence, negotiation and communication, China, North Korea, activism, resistance, crime and cults, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or take a look in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:16] Today on Skeptical Sunday, chocolate, that bittersweet dopamine release that makes you care less about how terribly your ex treated you. We love to say it's our vice and call it a guilty pleasure, but after today, David, I got a feeling that guilt is going to be about a lot more than just empty calories and sugar. Comedian David C. Smalley with me as always, and no doubt, you're going to ruin chocolate for us, aren't you?
[00:01:38] David C. Smalley: Ironic isn't it, Jordan? I make a living bringing joy to humans through comedy.
[00:01:43] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:01:44] David C. Smalley: Yet, I join you every week to completely destroy something people love.
[00:01:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you're like the grim reaper of happiness.
[00:01:50] David C. Smalley: I need to add that to my Instagram bio.
[00:01:53] Jordan Harbinger: I know there's a lot wrong with chocolate. I mean, you get the whispers, and I've done some calls with people about maybe how chocolate is bad, and there was so much wrong. I wanted to do a whole episode about it. That was episode 754 with Miki Mistrati, who did a lot of investigative journalism when it comes to chocolate and human slavery trafficking, really crazy stuff. Again, episode 750. It's actually tough to know where to start because there's so much wrong with chocolate.
[00:02:17] David C. Smalley: Yeah. You know, I like to try to make these funny. I like to do some stuff here. This one is depressing, man.
[00:02:24] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:02:25] David C. Smalley: This one is not going to be as funny, and so I want to apologize in advance for how you know deep this one goes. So, sadly, there's a lot here, whether it's the poor countries where it's made, the farmers who were taken advantage of, the deforestation, its effects on the environment, and of course, child labor and even human trafficking. So, I mean, where do you want to begin?
[00:02:46] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. That is quite a sampler of horrific human events.
[00:02:50] David C. Smalley: Yeah.
[00:02:50] Jordan Harbinger: And climate events, yeah. I see a lot wrong with this, and it's going to be — I'm trying so hard not to use a pun with the word dark, but I'm going to, anyway. I like my chocolate dark, but not my podcasts. I did think this was just going to be about like toxic metals found in chocolate or something like that.
[00:03:06] David C. Smalley: Oh yeah, there's also—
[00:03:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:03:08] David C. Smalley: Yeah. There's also toxic metals found in chocolate—
[00:03:10] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:03:11] David C. Smalley: —by the way, according to the IOP science, and I'm going to quote from them directly. "Despite the health benefits of cocoa, recently, there has been a high food safety concern regarding the presence and levels of heavy metals such as nickel, cadmium, chromium, and lead, both in cocoa beans and cocoa products, including cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, cocoa powder, and even chocolates." I'll actually link to the white paper in the show notes.
[00:03:40] Jordan Harbinger: You know, what's especially cruel about this is cadmium sounds like something that would really taste good, but unfortunately—
[00:03:47] David C. Smalley: You've been brainwashed by those damn bunnies.
[00:03:50] Jordan Harbinger: The Cadbury?
[00:03:50] David C. Smalley: That's the problem.
[00:03:51] Jordan Harbinger: Cadbury and cadmium, I'm starting to think—
[00:03:53] David C. Smalley: Hey, those delicious cadmium bunnies every year for Easter.
[00:03:56] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:03:57] David C. Smalley: Yeah.
[00:03:58] Jordan Harbinger: That's right. Oh man, I heard something about that. That should be enough probably to cover it on a Skeptical Sunday, but unfortunately, there's so much more.
[00:04:06] David C. Smalley: Yeah. Strap in. And this doesn't mean you can't have any chocolate ever. It just means—
[00:04:11] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:04:11] David C. Smalley: As with everything, there are some risks and you may want to go about getting your chocolate in a new way because not all chocolate is created equally.
[00:04:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you know, it reminds me of those Easter eggs that the outside's chocolate and the inside is like sugary cream. That looks like an egg.
[00:04:27] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:04:27] Jordan Harbinger: But it's just sugar. That, but asbestos.
[00:04:32] David C. Smalley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You should get in the marketing for like CVS or something.
[00:04:37] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. All right, so let's start with deforestation. That's one of the least depressing parts of this I think.
[00:04:44] David C. Smalley: Incredibly. You're exactly right. This is like a warmup. So according to world wildlife.org, cacao farmers usually clear tropical rainforests to plant new trees rather than reusing the same land. And that practice has spurred massive deforestation in West Africa, particularly in the Ivory Coast. Experts estimate that 70 percent of the country's illegal deforestation is related to cacao farming.
[00:05:11] Jordan Harbinger: Oof.
[00:05:12] David C. Smalley: And there's a whole underground aspect to this whole chocolate industry that encourages terrible behavior like this. That's going to be kind of the running pattern for today is there's a bunch of illegal, shady stuff going on because of the competitive market.
[00:05:26] Jordan Harbinger: So what's going on with the—? I know why people clear that land, by the way. I used to wonder about this and I went to the Amazon and one of the reasons they burn the forest down and then use it for cattle grazing and then burn more forest down, apparently, rainforest lands somehow it's not actually that good for growing things. So you can grow stuff on it kind of once after you slash and burn everything, and then it's not that great, so you're better off just destroying another acre of land—
[00:05:51] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:05:52] Jordan Harbinger: —planting everything and then moving on.
[00:05:53] David C. Smalley: Exactly. And some of them is also having to do with plant bacteria and growth and like diseases that get in the trees. Rather than replanting and taking the risk of more diseases in those trees, they just destroy it.
[00:06:06] Jordan Harbinger: Ugh. All right. So what's going on with the farmers?
[00:06:09] David C. Smalley: Okay, so chocolate overall is a $100-billion industry.
[00:06:13] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow. That's a lot bigger than I thought.
[00:06:16] David C. Smalley: It's incredible, and you would think this would be very lucrative for everyone involved.
[00:06:20] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:06:21] David C. Smalley: But farmers are making less than one dollar a day. So while most of us feel underpaid and overworked in favor of some corporate giant, you know, taking the lion's share. The chocolate industry is an extreme abuse of this.
[00:06:35] Jordan Harbinger: This can't be easy work either. I've seen farmers in Peru. First of all, it's hot as hell. It's the rainforest.
[00:06:44] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:06:45] Jordan Harbinger: You've got a lot of people working. The sun is just relentless and chocolate farming, I looked at a video. I don't do research before these really, that's sort of your thing.
[00:06:53] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:06:54] Jordan Harbinger: But I did see some videos that were like, "Hey, here's people chocolate farming." And I'm like, this is not easy.
[00:06:58] David C. Smalley: Yeah.
[00:06:59] Jordan Harbinger: This is a lot of manual labor. It's like strawberry picking, but in way it's much hotter. It's more dangerous, and it just seems like a hell of a lot more work.
[00:07:08] David C. Smalley: Yeah, you're talking long days in grueling heat.
[00:07:10] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:07:10] David C. Smalley: So chocolate only grows about 20 or 21 degrees north or south of the equator?
[00:07:15] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:07:16] David C. Smalley: So about 70 percent of the world's chocolate comes from four countries in West Africa. So we've got Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. And the workdays are long, the farmers are in dangerous conditions. They're exposed to pesticides. And there's not a lot of shade or some comfy way to harvest this product. I mean, most places are still having people climb trees and use machetes and chainsaws and other manual labor. So you're exactly right. They have to climb these trees and chop down these cacao pods in order to get to it. And so there's not some machine way to do that.
[00:07:47] Jordan Harbinger: For a dollar a day? I mean, I assume there's plenty of chocolate farmers that make more than that in other places. But are you saying the majority make a dollar a day or is it like—?
[00:07:56] David C. Smalley: Vast majority.
[00:07:57] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:07:57] David C. Smalley: Yeah, vast majority. So farmers in general make about six percent of the chocolate bar you buy at the store while the giant manufacturers take about 80 percent.
[00:08:06] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:08:06] David C. Smalley: So the next time you want to boycott some company over not having a union or safe working conditions, go for it. It's important, but also think about which chocolate you're stuffing in your face because nothing is fair about the way people are treated throughout this chocolate process, but it gets much worse than just unfair. I'm just fair warning.
[00:08:25] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. So I'm guessing the farmers don't have a lot of choice. You know, the common argument is, "Hey, just get a different job." And usually, I can get behind that, especially if we're talking—
[00:08:32] David C. Smalley: Yeah.
[00:08:33] Jordan Harbinger: —about a more developed area. But when you're talking about countries where maybe there aren't any other jobs. It becomes like, well, it's less of a choice.
[00:08:41] David C. Smalley: Right. Yeah. The Ivory Coast grows about 40 percent of the world's cacao, and that's like 15 percent of their overall GDP. It takes up two-thirds of the entire country's jobs.
[00:08:53] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[00:08:54] David C. Smalley: So if you refuse to participate because of poor working conditions, you're just unemployed.
[00:08:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:59] David C. Smalley: There's no other option.
[00:09:00] Jordan Harbinger: So they pretty much have to do it to survive, which is one of the reasons that they are taken advantage of.
[00:09:05] David C. Smalley: And why they in turn take advantage of others? So you know, the old saying, sh*t rolls downhill.
[00:09:10] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:09:10] David C. Smalley: And not to make excuses for the mistreatment of people. This is a terrible thing that's happening that I'm about to get into. But the facts are many of the farmers who are bullied by these giant corporations, they turn around and then bully their workers out of pure survival and they even get into child labor, which inevitably leads to trafficking. I mean, it's pretty clear, and I know you'll agree with this. I personally believe, if you can't make a living in your business without exploiting workers and children, you should go out of business.
[00:09:39] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:40] David C. Smalley: But when it's your country's 15 percent of the entire country's GDP, there's a ton of pressure to keep that machine moving regardless of who it hurts, and that's devastating.
[00:09:49] Jordan Harbinger: Right. You can't really just sort of unplug that at that point. And also, if there's no other way to survive, you start looking the other way. It's like, "Well, okay, then I can't afford to feed any of these kids. All right, maybe they can work for a few hours a day in the grueling heat after age 12."
[00:10:03] David C. Smalley: Yeah.
[00:10:03] Jordan Harbinger: And then it just becomes, hey, there's a lot of kids who don't have anything else to do. We should put them to work.
[00:10:07] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:10:07] Jordan Harbinger: I understand that slippery slope.
[00:10:10] David C. Smalley: Yeah.
[00:10:11] Jordan Harbinger: So, yeah, it's a sad situation. And what you're getting at from the sound of it is we contribute to it by keeping the demand high.
[00:10:17] David C. Smalley: Exactly. And it's also about how much work produces so little chocolate. So one cacao tree only makes about two pounds of chocolate.
[00:10:26] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow. That's like nothing That's nothing.
[00:10:29] David C. Smalley: Right. I mean, you'll buy that in one gift basket sometimes.
[00:10:32] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, I essentially eat that as an appetizer on Easter, Christmas, and many other holidays that don't involve any reason for me to go to See's Candies, but anyway—
[00:10:41] David C. Smalley: And then, you've got the disease that often occurs in the cacao trees, which brings production down. But there generally isn't the funding for farmers to treat the plants properly, like we were saying earlier. And then, with the changing weather conditions and things like that, the plants are already not producing reliably and there's not enough money to develop these like climate-resistant alternatives. So that's just what they have to deal with.
[00:11:05] Jordan Harbinger: So what should happen in a perfect world is the farmer should say, "Hey, we own the trees. Here's the price of the goods that I planted. These are my crops, and that price should include some form of fair pay, fair-ish pay, decent working conditions. Maybe a fricking tarp wouldn't kill you, a little pole barn for people to sit in and eat. And all of the decent things that it takes to operate a good business that's not massively exploitive.
[00:11:32] David C. Smalley: Right. I wish they could do that because they really do have the leverage when you think about it. But it's hard to see that you have the power when you're forced into desperation. And by the way, there's a country right next door willing to pick up your slack—
[00:11:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:11:44] David C. Smalley: —if you don't toe the line. So, they do this to stay competitive.
[00:11:47] Jordan Harbinger: Right. It's a race to the bottom. "Hey, we want to pay our workers more. We have fair trade chocolate." "Cool, well I'm going to Ghana then because they don't give a crap about their workers." "Well, fine. Now, I'm going to Nigeria because I can have human slaves that I kidnapped from a train to work in my jungle field.
[00:12:02] David C. Smalley: 100 percent.
[00:12:03] Jordan Harbinger: You all think I'm exaggerating or stereotyping, but that's probably in these notes because I may have cheated and looked at this a little bit earlier.
[00:12:10] David C. Smalley: Yeah.
[00:12:10] Jordan Harbinger: Because it was fascinating. So what exactly is the child trafficking link here? Because in my opinion, this is the most disturbing aspect of this.
[00:12:19] David C. Smalley: Okay. So yeah, this is where it gets really dark. So according to foodispower.org, child labor has been found on cacao farms in Cameroon, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Ghana. And evidence is also surfaced of both child labor and child slavery on cacao farms in Brazil. This is a direct quote from Food is Power. "The farms of Western Africa and Brazil supply cocoa to international giants such as Hershey's, Mars, and Nestle, as well as many small chocolate companies revealing the industry's direct connection to the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and slavery." So in just those last two countries I mentioned, Ivory Coast and Ghana, we're not talking about 50 kids or a hundred kids. 2.1 million children—
[00:13:13] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[00:13:13] David C. Smalley: —work on cacao farms, most of whom are exposed to the worst forms of child labor. Now, let me just clarify this because people may be thinking child labor is child labor. No. You go down to a corner store and there's a family that owns a convenience store. They'll have their 10 or 12-year-old helping stock the shelves or running the cash register. They're part of the family business. They're making money for the family. There's nothing technically illegal about that. They're helping the family earn money. As long as they do it within proper hours and things like that. It's just like if you worked on a farm in the 1800s with your dad. It's not like you have a labor commission to support you, right?
[00:13:51] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:13:51] David C. Smalley: So, that's child labor. That is technically child labor. I've gone to skeptic conventions and my daughter went with me at 13 years old and she helped me set up my mixer and then helped me sell t-shirts at the table. That's technically child labor. It's not at—
[00:14:04] Jordan Harbinger: Shame on you.
[00:14:05] David C. Smalley: —all it's not all necessarily negative, but when they talk about the worst forms of child labor, you're talking about this exposure to pesticides, dangerous conditions, long working hours, 14 hours a day, by the way, usually no pay. And the farmers do all of this to keep their prices competitive because they're pressured by these big corporations.
[00:14:26] Jordan Harbinger: So they are pressured by the big corporation. I guess there's an inherent sort of disparity in power if they can just take all of their funding away. Ugh, yikes. Okay. That's terrible.
[00:14:34] David C. Smalley: Yeah. And it's easy for the companies to look the other way—
[00:14:37] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:14:37] David C. Smalley: —like you were saying. Look, I was a part of a group that was helping produce children's books for a while and we shopped around for American—
[00:14:45] Jordan Harbinger: Were using slavery, child slavery, in your production of the books?
[00:14:48] David C. Smalley: Well, listen, I don't know.
[00:14:50] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, no.
[00:14:50] David C. Smalley: This is what I was going to get into. We shopped around and it was like eight dollars a book from the manufacturer, and we were like, "Well, wow, the publisher wants to take four or five dollars a book. We're going to have to sell this thing for $30 a piece if we go at these prices." So one of our distributors found a production center in China. That was able to do it for like $1.76 a book, and we go, "Oh, great. Maybe the materials are cheaper or whatever." I'm hoping that's what it was. But if they were using child labor in those warehouses, there was no way for me to know it because it's not like they're advertising that.
[00:15:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:15:20] David C. Smalley: So it makes you wonder. If you want to keep things American made, you're going to pay eight or 10 times worth of what you're going to pay to have things produced in China. And sometimes you don't know what they're doing. And I think these giant chocolate corporations are like, "Hey, there's no blood on our hands. We don't know for sure how they're doing it so cheap, you know? We just demand the prices."
[00:15:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Kind of don't ask, don't tell.
[00:15:41] David C. Smalley: Yeah.
[00:15:41] Jordan Harbinger: We just want the cheapest cacao and we don't care how you get it.
[00:15:45] David C. Smalley: They won't care unless we care.
[00:15:46] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:15:46] David C. Smalley: And that's what this entire episode is about.
[00:15:48] Jordan Harbinger: You know what's probably not produced with child slavery? The fine products and services that support this show. We'll be right back.
[00:15:58] This episode is sponsored in part by Peloton. In the past couple of years, I've been paying a lot closer attention to my health, and one way is by being more active, especially because my job doesn't require a whole lot of movement other than using my vocal cords, which are a little sore right now. Getting that workout in. It's been tricky for my schedule. I'm off and on, back-to-back calls. I read a lot as you all know. I research a lot. I'm preparing for the next interview. I don't want to spend time getting in a car and looking for parking just to get some movement in. Really that drives me crazy. I want to get the whole family to be more healthy and more active. That is one of several reasons why I love Peloton. And first of all, one membership is good for the whole family. It drives me crazy when they won't let you use something for the whole house. You got to know people are going to share Pelotons. Cool with that. You can have a little friendly competition with each other inside the house. Also the convenience factor. You really can't beat that. Peloton makes top-notch machines. Everything feels good, looks good. The classes are taught by world-class instructors and Peloton has been known for their amazing bikes. You've heard those ads of bajillion times over the past few years. They've sort of really crushed it with that. We have one of those bikes at home. They also make a really, really awesome rowing machine. Same type of quality as the bike. Really, really high end. Really, really nice. Feels good. Looks good. Rowing is great for a full-body workout. It's good for improving your cardiovascular endurance. I like getting my heart pumping in the morning before the kids wake up ideally. I can also get in a quick class if somebody cancels a call and I'm not just stuck picking my nose for 30 minutes. Also, with Peloton, the power of community is kind of a big deal. I know it sounds a little cheesy, but a lot of people say they like going to work out at clubs because there's a lot of other people in there that keep them motivated. For me, I tend to ignore people at the gym but I like the online element. It's just enough people where I don't have to smell them. I think that's what I like about the Peloton online community. I can talk with them. We can motivate each other. Their sweats, not on my machine or on me at the end of the workout. And with Peloton, you can see who's in class with you. You can do virtual high fives with each other, thus, pandemic-friendly high fives. The instructor is really engaging. They might call you out during a live class, give you a little shout out. You can add friends, you can be competitive. There's leaderboards, all that stuff, I find motivating. I won't say addicting, but it is something that keeps you motivated and keeps you running through the exercise, which is for me, kind of key. Also, it's a supportive place. There's not a whole lot of negativity. When you feel like your workouts are in vain, you're trying to get over the hump, one of your butt cheeks is on fire, the community element is a great motivational tool to really keep you staying healthy, staying active, getting your butt out of bed, and either getting on the bike or getting on the rower. Right now is a great time to get rowing. With Peloton Row, you've definitely never rowed like this before. Peloton Row offers a variety of classes for all levels and game-changing features that help you get rowing or advance what you can already do. Explore Peloton Row and their financing options at onepeloton.com/row.
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[00:18:57] Now for the rest of Skeptical Sunday.
[00:19:01] Okay, so I don't really know what goes into chocolate farming. Like I said, I watched like a two-minute video. The guys are—
[00:19:08] David C. Smalley: Yep.
[00:19:08] Jordan Harbinger: —outside picking what looks like, sort of pea pod-looking things, what kind of work are the kids forced to do?
[00:19:14] David C. Smalley: Yeah, you're pretty much spot on what you saw — they're probably not going to let you film children doing it.
[00:19:19] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:19:20] David C. Smalley: Unless the kids are older. But you nailed it. I mean, these kids, they're climbing trees. They're using chainsaws to clear forests. Other children are climbing the cacao trees to cut bean pods using a machete and these are the standard tools for kids. Like it's completely normal to just hand kids a chainsaw and a machete and tell them to go harvest this row of trees. And using dangerous things like that as well as the pesticides that they're exposed to, all of this violates international labor laws and the UN convention on eliminating the worst forms of child labor, but they do it anyway. There's just not any oversight.
[00:19:56] Jordan Harbinger: So are the kids, the farmer's kids, the workers' kids, local kids? Or are they like tricked into, are they kidnapped into a farming labor situation? How do they end up there?
[00:20:08] David C. Smalley: Yeah, so the answer is yes.
[00:20:09] Jordan Harbinger: Oh no.
[00:20:10] David C. Smalley: It's kind of all over the place. So here's one direct quote from Food is Power. They say, "Some children end up on the farms because they need work, and the traffickers tell them that the job pays well." So the first group of kids are like, "Hey, I need to go work for my family."
[00:20:25] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:20:25] David C. Smalley: "And instead of you paying me, you send the money to my mom and dad and I'll work for you for a year, or I'll work for you for two years. And from the outside, that kind of looks like someone's being sold, right? It's like—
[00:20:36] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:20:36] David C. Smalley: —money for the family, but if the kid's going to work to support the family anyway, that's kind of the point. So the kid thinks they're helping their family and they kind of are, right? But in other instances, they kind of know that the kid's not coming back because there's a history of this, right? Once the kid is there and they lose contact with their family, it's not like they can write a letter home or shoot a text, right?
[00:20:57] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:20:57] David C. Smalley: So they just get there and they're on these farms with these people and they're kind of held captive and forced to work and the parents can't get involved to kind of keep them safe. Other children are literally sold like by their own relatives.
[00:21:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's what it sounds like.
[00:21:13] David C. Smalley: And these relatives are like unaware necessarily of the dangerous working environment. So they don't know that there's like a lack of provisions or lack of education. The people will just lie to them and say, "Oh yeah, we'll take care of them. We'll make sure they get a good education. We'll make sure they get three square meals a day. They're going to work six, eight hours a day. But once they have your kid, they can do whatever the hell they want, and there's no way to find out if they're keeping those promises. So once that started happening, traffickers start going, "Oh, wow. So if I bring you kids, I can get money for it." So traffickers are now like abducting young children from small villages in the neighboring African countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali, which are two of the poorest countries in the world.
[00:21:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:21:54] David C. Smalley: In one village in Burkina Faso, almost every mother in the village has had at least one child trafficked onto the cacao farm.
[00:22:02] Jordan Harbinger: That's terrible.
[00:22:04] David C. Smalley: Jordan, traffickers are literally just kidnapping children and then selling them to farmers. And the farmers benefit because you don't have this sort of lingering, "I have to give this kid back in two or three years or at the end of a year for this dollar amount." They just literally buy the kid and we're seeing modern-day slavery.
[00:22:25] Jordan Harbinger: You know, when I was a single guy, I'd be like, "Wow, that's really terrible." Now, as a parent, that's absolutely heartbreaking to think that my kid would be playing with his friends or in the yard or I don't know, getting walked somewhere and someone's like, "Oh, he's old enough to work on the farm. I'm just going to yank that kid and sell him for, I don't know, a couple of hundred bucks," whatever a kid's worth. Unbelievable.
[00:22:46] David C. Smalley: Yep. Absolutely. And so while these farmers are victims too, right? They're victims of this, they're also perpetuating child slavery, so they're not the good guys here either.
[00:22:57] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah, that's brutal. How old are the kids that are working on the farms? Are we talking about like six years old, 16 years old? What are we looking at?
[00:23:04] David C. Smalley: So the average age is like 12 to 16.
[00:23:07] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:23:07] David C. Smalley: But reporters have found children as young as five years old.
[00:23:11] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that's twisted.
[00:23:14] David C. Smalley: It's disgusting. And about 40 percent of the children are girls and the girls have a harder time getting out.
[00:23:20] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:23:21] David C. Smalley: A lot of the women end up, just working on the farms throughout adulthood because they just don't know anything else and don't have anywhere else to go.
[00:23:29] Jordan Harbinger: So, okay. The families are sometimes selling the kids to the farms. Sometimes, they're getting abducted, which is, I don't even know. Is that worse than being sold by your parents or getting kidnapped? I get it sounds like it is because the parents are more distraught. But if you're selling your kid, you're also kind of a bastard and the kid still suffers. I don't know.
[00:23:45] David C. Smalley: They look at it like, okay, it's like a working camp. Like you pay us X amount of dollars and your kid works there for two or three years, so the kid thinks they're like helping and they kind of are.
[00:23:54] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:23:54] David C. Smalley: But then, some of the families who do this just don't know any better. So it's not, look, they can't unionize or have chaperones or it doesn't seem like anybody really gives a damn how they're treated.
[00:24:04] Jordan Harbinger: Sure, no, that makes sense. What are they going to do? Yeah, how are they going to organize it?
[00:24:07] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:24:07] Jordan Harbinger: And who's going to say, "Hey, you know what we're doing here is not right. They're just out on their ass the next day?" and so once they have your kid, what are you going to do about it? If you're from Burkina Faso, if you're from Mali, right? You don't lawyer up when you're from a village over there.
[00:24:22] David C. Smalley: Exactly. Look, they're poor villagers. They're not going to start some kind of movement. You know, they're terrified. They're mostly ignorant of what's even happening. Those of us with teenagers know this. And I want you to get ready for this because I know you have—
[00:24:35] Jordan Harbinger: They're young.
[00:24:35] David C. Smalley: You have the younger version, yeah. Those with teenagers know that they go to work, they get treated like sh*t by their 23-year-old. Their boss lies to them about break times and labor laws and their own rights. They tell them they have to work off the clock if they don't finish cleaning up, blah, blah, blah. They tell them all kind of nonsense. And then we have to step in and put our foot down and go, "You're not going to treat my kid like this. I'll turn you into a labor commission or whatever. Don't make me come down there."
[00:25:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:25:00] David C. Smalley: Type situation.
[00:25:01] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:25:01] David C. Smalley: Because our kids come home every day from work or our kids can shoot a text from the grocery store and be like, "My boss said I have to stay three hours off the clock if I don't finish," and then I'm at the grocery store in 10 minutes going, "Who the hell do you think you are?"
[00:25:13] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:25:13] David C. Smalley: Well, not only can these kids not text their dads from work, they don't know about their rights and in many cases, they don't have rights.
[00:25:20] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:25:21] David C. Smalley: And there certainly isn't some labor commission to report anything to.
[00:25:25] Jordan Harbinger: I would imagine also these farms, if they're that big of an industry, even if there was a labor commission, it's like who's going to go in there and go, "Hey, you know what? This massively profitable operation that kicks up to us legally or illegally. You really need to stop this practice that's making you and us so much money."
[00:25:42] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:25:42] Jordan Harbinger: Because it's morally reprehensible. I mean, that's—
[00:25:45] David C. Smalley: Yep.
[00:25:45] Jordan Harbinger: We're talking about some of the poorest countries in the world rife with corruption. It's just not going to happen. It's a lack of oversight, all fueled by a ridiculous appetite for chocolate.
[00:25:55] David C. Smalley: 100 percent. And so rather than going further into the process of how chocolate is made or other issues within the industry, I want to spend the rest of this episode, if it's okay with you, just to focus on what we can actually do to have our voices heard. I don't want to just come here and talk about something terrible and then say, "Peace out, come to my comedy shows." Like, I want to leave something here that we can actually have an impact on this.
[00:26:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, we should do this because — look, I love chocolate as much as the next guy, but who the hell wants to be a part of this now? So is there a way to enjoy the occasional asbestos-filled treat without knowing that we are participating in this inhumane industry?
[00:26:35] David C. Smalley: Yeah, so the good news is, yes, you can enjoy your flavored asbestos if you want.
[00:26:41] Jordan Harbinger: And cadmium cream egg is what I'm looking at. That's what I'm buying right now.
[00:26:46] David C. Smalley: Yeah. The gooey cadmium deep inside your chocolate.
[00:26:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm. The nickel finish.
[00:26:52] David C. Smalley: So that can simultaneously, help those who are doing it ethically and then drop demand by those who aren't. A website I want everyone to write down right now is fairtradecertified.org, fairtradecertified.org. If you're only going to ever visit one website I ever mentioned, please make it this one, fairtradecertified.org. They focus on products that are ethically sourced and they have a specific area of their website that's dedicated to chocolate. Here's a quote from that portion. They say, "Chocolate products go through a lengthy process to earn the Fair Trade Certified seal. Producers and businesses we work with adhere to strict labor, environmental and ethic standards that prohibit slavery and prohibit child labor and ensure cocoa growers receive a steady income regardless of volatile market prices. It's not an easy process. You can thank them for their commitment and incentivize even more sustainably-made chocolate by enjoying fair trade chocolate in its many forms."
[00:27:54] Jordan Harbinger: So, okay. I love the idea that there's strict labor environmental ethics standards that's free market at work, right? Pick the supplier that's doing a good job.
[00:28:04] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:28:04] Jordan Harbinger: I know I'm going to sound like a total a-hole. What's the steady income, regardless of volatile market prices? Shouldn't things be varied based on market prices, volatile or not?
[00:28:15] David C. Smalley: Technically, yes, but I think—
[00:28:16] Jordan Harbinger: Communist, David C. Smalley, what do you think?
[00:28:20] David C. Smalley: Well, I mean, look, every industry is going to going to weigh left or right, but if you're working at IBM or you're working for Apple and you're making $25 an hour, $30 an hour, and computer prices drop by 30 cents, they don't come to you and say, "Sorry, we now have to pay you nine dollars an hour for the next two weeks."
[00:28:38] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:28:39] David C. Smalley: You have a steady income, right? And that's how you can plan your life and sustain your life. And so I think that's all they're really talking about.
[00:28:47] Jordan Harbinger: Gotcha.
[00:28:47] David C. Smalley: For the workers who are producing this product, sure, if the entire market tanks and farms have to go out of business, that's going to happen in any capitalist society. But you know, you shouldn't be rolling in billions of dollars in profits as a giant corporation and being able to pay a farmer one dollar for cranking out hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of materials for you to the point that they're enslaving children just to be able to compete for the clients.
[00:29:14] Jordan Harbinger: Right now, of course, I think, even sort of the most die-hard free-market person, it's like, "Can we up the price by a dime? So you don't have to have five-year-olds picking chocolate pods in the 90-degree heat."
[00:29:24] David C. Smalley: Exactly. And the website, the Fair Trade Certified goes on to say, "The 35 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified cocoa are imported from around the world annually, predominantly from the Ivory Coast, Peru, Dominican Republic, and Ecuador. Through your purchase of Fair Trade Certified chocolate since 1998, nearly 14 million has been invested back into communities of cocoa producers resulting in life-transforming projects such as building schools in those areas. And according to the most recent reports, cacao farmers earned over $3.2 million in community development funds within the span of one year."
[00:30:02] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, interesting. So they invest back in the community. It's almost like a sad comedy. Like "What do they need schools for if the kids are working all day?" I mean, it's just—
[00:30:08] David C. Smalley: Yeah.
[00:30:09] Jordan Harbinger: —awful. So where can people actually buy — this sounds like a sponsorship. It's not. Where can people actually buy the product?
[00:30:15] David C. Smalley: Yeah. No, and it's not for one particular product either. I believe this Fair Trade Certified is a nonprofit.
[00:30:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:30:21] David C. Smalley: I could double-check that. But some of the products are available at Target. I mean, some of them are on Amazon. They just have that seal on them that say Fair Trade Certified. And the website I gave links you to the producers of each product. So you can read about them, you can click on them, you can do your own research, which I always encourage. And you can just click the chocolate section. You can take your pick. You can either buy it directly from the manufacturer or you can click where to buy and they'll list stores and prices and things like that.
[00:30:46] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. "Do your own research" is something we definitely have to say because a long time ago, I don't know if I told you this, we did a show about greenwashing where a lot of those, like dolphin-safe tuna, it's just nonsense. They basically bribe some website or the fishing companies make the website and then give the seal to themselves and it's completely meaningless. They just go, "Yeah, we didn't kill that many dolphins on our last years of tuna fishing.
[00:31:10] David C. Smalley: Kill less dolphins, buy our tuna.
[00:31:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, right. It's called greenwashing where they're like, "This is green." And it's like, no, it's just some nonsense award that you give yourself or you buy.
[00:31:19] David C. Smalley: Yeah, I did do some vetting on this, and the couple I looked into, I was able to corroborate what this website was saying. So again, I encourage everybody to go and look into it, but man, it's definitely a step in the right direction for sure.
[00:31:31] Jordan Harbinger: All right, so speaking of prices, is this one of those where chocolates, instead of being $12, now they're $38 for the box?
[00:31:38] David C. Smalley: So in some cases, it's more, but people aren't buying like pallets of this stuff, right?
[00:31:42] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:31:42] David C. Smalley: I mean, it's a random Hershey bar is going to cost you like $1.59, but these ethically sourced chocolates, usually like two or three dollars.
[00:31:49] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:31:50] David C. Smalley: I mean, even if they double it, it's not going to break the bank unless you're depending on chocolate for you're three meals a day in which you probably have a lot more issues than budgeting at that point.
[00:31:59] Jordan Harbinger: You're not going to live very long, so you can afford to spend that money on chocolate.
[00:32:02] David C. Smalley: Don't worry about all the nickel absorption you're going to be fine.
[00:32:05] Jordan Harbinger: The metals are what's going to kill you at that point.
[00:32:07] David C. Smalley: Yeah. I mean, I found a pack of brownies from the site. That's available at Target. It's only six dollars and 39 cents which is pretty much on par with other brands, so in some cases, there's no price difference at all. It just feels much better.
[00:32:18] Jordan Harbinger: So eventually, these bigger brands are going to have to get on board if people start shifting demand to the fair stuff.
[00:32:25] David C. Smalley: Yeah, and just to be fair, I did search some of the larger chocolate brands and I combed their websites for something like ethically sourced statement on this or, "We do it the right way," because they like to do that when they do it the right way. I found nothing, I couldn't find it. I'm not saying it's not out there, I'm saying I couldn't find it. They'll tell you about their history. They'll give you allergy information. They'll help you pick the right chocolate for your special occasion. They'll even talk about diversity and inclusion. Nothing about where they get their chocolate from. So I encourage everyone, once again—
[00:32:56] Jordan Harbinger: "The kids we kidnap and make work on the farm are from all walks of life."
[00:33:00] David C. Smalley: Oh my God, that was dark—
[00:33:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:33:03] David C. Smalley: —chocolate.
[00:33:04] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:33:04] David C. Smalley: So I encourage everyone to visit fairtradecertified.org. You know, I almost wrote a joke in there, Jordan. I almost made the inclusion joke. But you nailed it.
[00:33:14] Jordan Harbinger: I went for it anyway. Yeah.
[00:33:16] David C. Smalley: You went for it anyway. I decided to leave it alone and look at you.
[00:33:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yep. I can't resist. And then, I laughed at my own joke. That's how pathetic I am these days. No,
[00:33:24] David C. Smalley: it was amazing. And I'm glad you said the thing for the editor to take out instead of me.
[00:33:28] Jordan Harbinger: No. We'll leave it in unless it's that bad. Wow.
[00:33:32] David C. Smalley: So yeah, I encourage everyone to visit fairtradecertified.org and I actually provided a link to their producers for the chocolate section directly for the show notes. So sorry, this one wasn't funnier. Damnit. And now—
[00:33:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:33:44] David C. Smalley: —I can't even go enjoy chocolate to make myself feel better.
[00:33:47] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:33:47] David C. Smalley: That's what we have today.
[00:33:50] Jordan Harbinger: Well, there's always whiskey.
[00:33:52] David C. Smalley: And hey, whiskey actually has some benefits, so I'll have to cover that on a future Skeptical Sunday episode.
[00:33:57] Jordan Harbinger: Sounds good to me.
[00:34:00] Thanks again everybody for listening. Love your topic suggestions for future episodes of Skeptical Sunday. That's where we get ideals like this. So definitely email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Give us your thoughts, give us your suggestions. And if something is way, way off, you can let us know that too. A link to the show notes for the episode can be found at jordanharbinger.com. Transcripts in the show notes. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn. You can find David Smalley at @davidcsmalley on all social media platforms, at davidcsmalley.com. Or better yet, on his podcast, the David C. Smalley Show. Links to all that in the show notes as well.
[00:34:35] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and of course, Gabriel Mizrahi. Our advice and opinions are our own, and I'm a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer, so do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. Remember, we rise by lifting others. Share the show with those you love. And if you found this episode useful, please do share it with somebody else who needs to hear it, maybe a chocolate lover. Why not take some joy out of their life, right? In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[00:35:08] We've got a preview trailer of our interview with Vince Beiser. It's all about sand. You heard me sand. It's actually quite fascinating. There are even sand mafia killing people over sand. So stay tuned for that after the close of the show.
[00:35:21] Vince Beiser: If anybody had told me three, four years ago that I was going to be spending my every waking hour thinking and talking about sand, I would've just laughed. It's actually the most important solid substance on earth. We use about 50 billion tons of sand every year. That's enough to cover the entire state of California every single year. Every year, we use enough concrete to build a wall, 90 feet high and 90 feet across right the way around the planet at the equator.
[00:35:52] A bunch of sand might get broken off of a mountaintop, washed down into a plane somewhere, and then that sand gets buried under subsequent geological layers and pushed down under the earth and compressed and turned into sandstone. And then that sandstone may get pushed up again by geologic forces over hundreds of thousands of years and worn away again and again broken down back into grains. So an individual grain of sand can be millions of years old.
[00:36:23] Jordan Harbinger: We're fully eclipsing the rate of creation here.
[00:36:27] Vince Beiser: You're probably sitting in a building made of just a huge pile of sand. And all the roads connecting all those buildings also made out of sand. The glass, the windows in all those buildings also made of sand. The microchips that power our computers, our cell phones, all of our other digital goodies also made from sand. So without sand, there's no modern civilization. And the craziest thing about it is we are starting to run out.
[00:36:54] Jordan Harbinger: For more on why sand is the next petroleum-like resource and some crazy stories about sand pirates and the black market for sand, check out episode 97 with Vince Beiser right here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:37:09] Once again, special thanks to Peloton for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show. We really appreciate your support.
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