Slavery from space: an analysis of the modern slavery-environmental degradation nexus using remote sensing data

Jackson, Bethany (2020) Slavery from space: an analysis of the modern slavery-environmental degradation nexus using remote sensing data. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Modern slavery has been connected to degradation of the environment, and has been found to contribute to anthropogenic climate change. Three sectors have been investigated using satellite Earth Observation (EO) data in order to provide a unique insight into the modern slavery-environmental degradation nexus. Remote sensing affords a unique ability to measure and understand these ecological changes over large timescales, and vast geographical areas. A local, regional, and global assessment of sectors known to heavily use modern slavery practices within their workforce has been undertaken using a variety of remotely sensed data sources and products. Fish-processing, brick kilns, and tree loss associated with multiple sectors, have all been analysed.

Levels of environmental damage in the affected sectors have been noted, and measured using satellite EO data. These effects have included: tree loss of mangroves and tropical forests for fish-processing camps and oil palm plantations; the emission of pollutants which contribute to atmospheric climate change; the extraction of resources, such as groundwater and good-quality topsoil; and changes to landcover and land-use in areas that are important for production of food and economic support for large populations.

Over the course of this investigation, ten post-harvest fish-processing camps have been located, and the first replicable methodology for estimating the number of brick kilns in the South Asian ‘Brick Belt’ region has been provided – where open access satellite EO data enabled the estimation of 55,387 brick kilns. The latter has since enabled machine learning methodologies to provide accurate locations and kiln ages which have assisted in the environmental assessment of this large-scale transnational industry. Furthermore, if modern slavery practices were eliminated from this industry, the environmental impact of the brick-making could be reduced by the equivalent of almost 10,000 kilns. Finally, tree loss has been quantified and the policy implications of deforestation and forest degradation as a result of modern slavery have been explored in four countries. Ultimately, there are a large variety of environmentally degrading activities known to use modern slavery practices that may be explored using satellite EO data. Remote sensing throughout this thesis has enabled the exploration of these implications for some sectors, and proved the proof of concept that additional data acquisition from remotely sensed sources, can support in the overall goal of assisting in the understanding and eradication of modern slavery.

Satellite EO is an underutilised methodology within the antislavery community and, as shown within this thesis, there is the power to investigate the environmental implications of these sectors which have had numerous documented cases of modern slavery. In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – particularly target 8.7 which aims to end modern slavery by 2030 – multiple avenues of investigation are required to understand, locate, and eradicate modern slavery. Applying remote sensing to assess the ecological impact of these cases is one such avenue that can provide information to assist in this achievement, and support the success of multiple SDGs.

The author would like to acknowledge that they have written the thesis from the starting point of being a non-survivor.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Boyd, Doreen S.
Bales, Kevin
Keywords: modern slavery; modern-slavery environment nexus; remote sensing; Earth Observation; Slavery from Space; fish-processing; brick-making; tree loss
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
T Technology > TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Geography
Item ID: 61171
Depositing User: Jackson, Bethany
Date Deposited: 15 Sep 2020 13:55
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 04:30

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