Reports and debates surrounding the factory fires in Bangladesh have swept across news sources. Many articles have set out to change the buying habits of the average American because of the conditions these workers were forced into, urging people not to buy from certain stores.

But expecting people just to overturn their borderline religious dependence on large, abusive corporations because of a mere article is asinine.

Even so, our awareness needs to increase about the original sources of products, and about the truthfulness of information surrounding the products we buy, instead of just focusing on how much things cost.

An incredible spectrum of issues concerning human rights and environmental threats are often swept under the rug because misinformation is so easy to believe.

Take a moment and think about a softball. Leather on the outside, laced up with red string of some sort, used recreationally. You can pick up a softball at the local sporting goods store for a couple bucks. Have you ever taken the time to think about the person who put it together?

A friend of mine traveled to China on business multiple times a few years back. She had the opportunity to tour a factory that supplied sporting goods to a large corporation here in the United States. She was nearly in tears watching a woman about her age hand lacing a softball. The procedure was taxing. The woman mindlessly threaded and yanked, threaded and yanked, all day, for barely enough money to survive.

What entitles us as Americans to be "above" these manual labor jobs that are so often exported to other countries? What entitles us to fairer pay for our labor? Why aren't these peoples' rights being actively fought for and publicized?

Again, I am not telling anyone where to spend and not spend their money. But would you want to be supporting these kinds of operations? People pay attention to where their money goes for taxes. Why not know where your hard-earned income is going when you voluntarily spend it?

Everyone has seen some sort of media publicizing the meat industry's cruel treatment of animals, but most brush it off with the thought that these are extreme cases. No one wants to complicate their image of Old McDonald's farm. Yet that very ignorance is what fuels factory farms' continued growth. Not many think about where that succulent pork chop came from, and those who do simply stop buying from the company the news highlights, regardless of who or what is actually to blame.

It would be unrealistic of me to hope that by reading this people would move away from a diet based on meat or from clothing found at the cheapest price -- despite the conditions under which it was produced. Changes like these aren't feasible for the majority of Americans. But by increasing your knowledge on subjects like these, you become much more aware of the power of your dollar and vote.

We Americans have a great amount of power. Educate yourself on the issues facing us today. Realize what is going on so we can make educated decisions as a society instead of blindly supporting things that aren't in our best interest.

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Alex Holland, of Cold Spring, is a student at St. Cloud State University.