Saturday, February 21, 2009

Reading List: "Confessions of An Eco-Sinner" & "Where Am I Wearing"

While being waylaid with a chest infection, I’ve had plenty of time to sack out on the couch and catch up on some light reading. Well, and with the absence of any fluffy tomes on my reading list, instead I picked a couple of “where my stuff is from” books. Both “Where Am I Wearing: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories and People That Make Our Clothes” (Kelsey Timmerman, 2008) and “Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff” (Fred Pearce, 2008) give the reader an insight into where and how everyday items are created. Both books covered “sweatshop” conditions but both challenged the notion that “sweatshop” is always a bad concept. Timmerman traveled to China, Bangladesh, and Honduras to uncover how his favorite items of clothing were made. What I liked most about his book was the photographs and stories he included about the real workers. And while the conditions that these workers are exposed to are what we consider low pay, long hours and toxic working conditions, he debates that if there was a boycott on the items that they make, these people would have even less than they have now.

Pearce’s book expands the search from clothes to other consumer goods such as coffee, computers, where his trash goes and even where his wedding ring came from. His book also opened my eyes to things I never knew existed (did you know there is a gold mine in South Africa that has supplied more gold to the planet than anywhere else on earth and that at any time there are 60,000 men working underground?) but also changed my mind on conventional thinking: (they have noted that it takes less energy to make virgin paper from trees than it takes to recycle old paper into new, that if everyone on the planet emitted as much carbon as the average Chinese person, there would be no climate crisis, that around polluted sewage drains there seem to be a higher abundance of thriving wildlife as compared to clean areas, and that if current population rates continue, the only population crisis will be that there are not ENOUGH people to support the human race.)

Both books are good examples on why we should never stop learning about where our “stuff” comes from and where it goes to once we’re done with it.

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