Does Society Run on Slavery? Ethical Sourcing of Materials in the U.S. Aerospace Industry

Burton, Joe, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Wayland, Kent, STS

The modern world relies on the aerospace industry. Essential services including communication, weather tracking, and GPS are only possible with satellites that require rocketry to put into place. Furthermore, Earth is only a tiny fraction of the universe, and space exploration by the aerospace industry is pivotal to improving our understanding of physics, accessing vast materials and energy in space, and discovering if life exists outside of Earth. These functions are all imperative to both society's ability to function currently and to society's improvement and advancement in the future; however, the aerospace industry is flawed, and some of its practices actively contribute to making life worse for some people on Earth. One of these grievances includes the contribution to modern slavery through the unethical collection of resources. Cobalt, an element useful to the aerospace industry, happens to have its largest reserves in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); unfortunately, much of the cobalt extracted from the DRC comes from modern slavery which consists of atrocities such as forced labor, wage theft, violent and sexual crimes, and hazardous working conditions. In order to fully reap the benefits of the aerospace industry, further research and development must be conducted to improve and cheapen the available technology, and the aerospace industries' ties to modern slavery must be severed completely.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Cobalt, DRC, Democratic Republic of Congo, Supply Chain, Supply chain ethics, technology
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