anthroessay - Kunal Walia April 23, 2009 TA: Emily Lynch...

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Kunal Walia April 23, 2009 TA: Emily Lynch Rubber: A Useful Commodity A pencil eraser, the tires on a bicycle and gloves all share a common commodity. All of them are derived from the rubber tree, or Hevea brasiliensis , a common crop in many parts of the world, including Africa, South America and Eastern Asia. This widely used commodity can be found in the United States, but also among third world countries such as Africa and East Asia. It has grown with its functionality over the years, and many people have been associated with it. While rubber is grown throughout the world, a rather profitable country in which to grow rubber is Liberia, located in Western Africa. Our focus company, the tire company Firestone Rubber, has been operating a rubber plantation in Liberia ever since its inception in 1926. Now we shall trace the point of origin of rubber, when it was tapped from a tree, to being processed into a tire by one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world. Contrary to popular belief that rubber is easy to produce and handle, the manufacturing of rubber is actually a very difficult task. The climate conditions have to be nearly perfect for just the simple growth of rubber. More specifically, it is only grown in areas fifteen degrees north or south of the equator, in places where there are high temperatures, plentiful rainfall, and humidity at low altitudes (Rao 1998). Henceforth many countries cannot produce the crop, and the poverty-stricken countries have to bare most of the production burden. The cultivation of rubber is very labor intensive, requiring many poor workers to work long hours. In addition, it is very
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time consuming for a seedling to grow to maturity, taking nearly five years. Therefore due to the high chance of the harvest becoming exhausted, there is a need for continuous replanting by many workers. (Geocities) Although rubber does come from a rubber tree, there is a very special process where the “rubber” actually leaks out of the tree in the form of latex. As one rubber specialist claimed, “Rubber is extracted in the form of latex, a white, milky fluid which is found in the inner layers of the bark of the trees, using a method known as ‘tapping’. This involves paring away the outer bark to a depth of about 2mm in a series of spiral cuts using a special knife”(Rubber Bands). The next step takes place when the latex slowly trickles into a collecting can until it
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This note was uploaded on 07/19/2009 for the course ANT 302 taught by Professor Seriff during the Spring '07 term at University of Texas.

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anthroessay - Kunal Walia April 23, 2009 TA: Emily Lynch...

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