(Please pardon this poor quality machine transcription until we can manually edit it to be perfect.)
I'm David Torcivia.
I'm Daniel Forkner.
And this is Ashes Ashes, a show about systemic issues, cracks in civilization, collapse of the environment, and if we're unlucky the end of the world.
[0:12] But if we learn from all this, maybe we can stop that. The world might be broken, but it doesn't have to be.
Now David, today's topic is a little-known but highly impactful industry of producing worthless and disposable Rags with holes in them that people put their arms and next through.
[0:33] Well it doesn't sound very sexy when you put it that way and what Daniel meant to say is that today we're going to be talking about the fashion industry.
[0:41] This is a topic that some people suggested we look into and going into this we knew that it was going to be bad, the business of making clothes is enormous and as a result is going to have some pretty big consequences as we talked about in our plastic episode we already know that a huge contributor of microplastics in the water that we drink. In the food that we eat comes from the synthetic microfibers that go into the clothing that we wear. But once we started researching this in-depth the scope of the destruction and the harm that comes out of the fashion industry. Was just beyond comprehension.
[1:21] I'm really excited for this episode because the fashion industry as a whole and the history of it from the first Creation in the industrial revolution through today, really does a great job just concentrating and encapsulating a lot of these topics and themes that we've been discussing so far in the show everything from environmental problems, to labor to the profitability ranch we got started on and we really need to explore more. Well it's all here it's all dramatic and it's something that we all participate in because we have to wear clothes I guess.
[1:53] How to get a sense of the scale here let's just talk about how much we produce. Scope Of The Industry
[1:58] Adjusting the first 15 years of the 21st century we doubled the production of clothing and at the same time we disposed are closing much faster than ever before, the average American today throws away about 82 pounds of textile waste each year. And this doubling of production equates to about 80 billion pieces of new clothing purchased each year which is 4 times as much as we bought 20 years ago and by 2030 that production will have increased by 63%, to about 102 million tons worth of garments each year which is the equivalent of 500 billion t shirts.
[2:37] These numbers are crazy, I'm not somebody who I mean maybe I'm not qualified to talk about everything we're discussing today because I'm not particularly how would you say fashionable I buy a couple of shirts a year if that and then maybe a pair of jeans, but 500 billion t-shirts equivalent in a year I mean by 2030 is going to be worth 10 billion people on Earth turns continue.
[2:58] Eight and a half billion and billion by 2050 episode.
[3:01] That's over 50 shirts per person that's insane.
[3:04] I mean it kind of makes sense when he starts think about it you know you go to a basketball game you get your free t-shirt. You go to the latest retail store and you can pick up your t-shirt for $5 a pop you wear them for a week or two the style has now changed you go back and you buy another one. And for women it's pretty easy to find a trendy dress for less than $25.
[3:25] And I suppose the fact that these clothing is made much cheaper now and is almost designed to fall apart and be thrown away exacerbate this problem quite a bit.
[3:33] And this cheap disposable production of clothing in the rapidity at which it gets produced. It's something we're going to talk about as a major shift in the way this business works, the following along the side idea of just a scale of this production will along with this massive output of Garmin comes labor and environmental consequences. Right now it's estimated that about one in six people that are alive in the world today are working in the fashion industry in some capacity which makes it the most labor-intensive industry on the planet, in about 10% of those employees are located in Bangladesh something that we're going to be talking about and why that is.
[4:13] It's right Daniel and actually a large number of these laborers are children between the ages of 5 to 14.
[4:20] What David actually this is something that kind of I was embarrassed to realize this because I kind of went into this thinking that, we live in a modern technological advances it surely something as common as a t-shirt is being just 3D printed somewhere right in a technologically-advanced factory.
[4:38] With a blockchain connected printer I'm sure.
[4:40] Yeah exactly what I really thought like surely all this clothing that's all around this isn't handmade.
[4:46] Will Daniel you would be wrong.
[4:48] Very wrong it turns out that the production of these clothing is about as low-tech as it gets and of course, you may have heard the common phrase going around that the fashion industry is now the second most polluting industry on Earth and how we determine that is through a number of factors not least of which the business account for 10% of global carbon emissions, and it's one of the biggest consumers of global Water Supplies. Even when you use more sustainable inputs like organic cotton a single t-shirt can use up to 5,000 gallons of water during its production. Shift In The Industry
[5:24] But before we go into that can we talk about for a second how this industry has shifted over the past couple decades.
[5:30] Yeah absolutely nothing really important point to explore especially with as we discussed the shift in how many of these textiles are ultimately just thrown away.
[5:39] The scale of this production to scale of the environmental destruction that comes as a result, it's all been expanded and leverage by a radical shift in the way this industry functions over the past couple of decades or even less when the first is the way that Trends have changed. So as we discussed in designing deception David the post-war era in the forties and fifties brand new challenges to Industry as a whole, we had all these factories fueled by the war effort that were geared up to produce a lot of stuff but we didn't have the massive Demand anymore that you get from a wartime effort. So rather than scale back production public relations men like Edward Bernays advertisers investment bankers all these people helped encourage the national shift to a consumerist mindset. So that people would buy more disposed more and buy more again.
[6:31] We actually went and use a tool called Google Ingram which charts out on a graph how much show words appear in books newspapers in this massive library of text a Google task and going back hundreds of years. And what are the words that I put in I was comparing the Garment industry the textile industry and the fashion industry and I wanted to see Windows Wars 30 coming in to vote, and being popularized and is Daniel mentioned the appearance of fashion industry as a term to describe this clothing production it really started appearing at the end of the 30s, I from there took off all in World War II and it's an exponential rate through today this correlates strongly with use of advertising to create this industry.
[7:14] Before that the words to describe clothing was simply boring terms like textile and garments.
[7:20] And if you go back further you can correlate this with the Industrial Revolution with the introduction of the sewing machine that's when he started seeing the clothing industry take off and it really grabs really well with the shifts in this industry and our mindset about it.
[7:34] Okay so post-war you had the need to create a consumerist economy so the idea of fashion and some kind of creative component of the clothing that you wore got introduced and you used to have, fashion season, you have the fall collection or the summer collection where models would showcase the latest designs and then the clothes coming out with the inspired by these themes until the next year season replace them. And this was all a huge shift in the way that we bought clothes if your starting point is 1950 but because our economy is built on the Assumption of indefinite growth once business has grown to a certain level, well you don't just stop you have to push the boundaries into New Frontiers you have to keep going get people to buy more. And to do that you have to change consumer patterns and lifestyle which is why today we don't have four seasons. We have a minimum of 12 and with some brand friends come and go every single week. The time it takes for a garment to go from design to the retail store racks can be as little as 3 weeks.
[8:36] How to get people to buy enough clothes to support this increase Kayla production. Well business had to offer close at ridiculously low prices and encouraged the rapid disposal of them once they've been bought. This is why trains are so short if a shirt you bought a week ago was already out of style well it's time to go buy a new one what's the big deal when it's only $10.
[8:56] David I had an epiphany when researching this topic and this really highlights and finally explained why I hate shopping for clothes and one of the things that has confused and frustrated me for over a year now, I have a pair of shorts that I bought about a year ago at a popular cheap retail store and I like them they fit really well, and when I find something that fits that I want to stick with it and possibly get an identical pair so I can have you know in this case of Blue pair and a tan pair of shorts. So I kept going back to this clothing brand to try and find its identical pair of shorts and a different color but I could never find it they would be similar clothing but it wouldn't fit right it would be a little bit different style. It drove me crazy I would even go online to this Brands online store. But online that have so many different options and none of them had unique identifier so I could never be sure if they were the same. Like I said this drove me mad and I think why is it so hard to find these shorts, why does it spread not identify what they are well now I finally realized that these pair of shorts were probably part of a single order that was fulfilled once it was delivered to that store for a week. And then it disappeared never to be seen again there is no twin brother to my pair of shorts because everything being pumped into that store, is constantly being redesigned and replaced.
[10:18] It's heartbreaking Daniel I'm really sorry you couldn't find the perfect pair of shorts shorts so if anybody knows where to find Daniel short shorts please let us know.
[10:28] Are you just assuming that they're short shorts.
[10:30] I know I know they are.
[10:32] And as tragic as your story is Daniel feet process that enables stores to constantly have these cycle out Styles and constantly switching stocks will it's actually really complicated and impressive from a supply-side standpoint I guess if you want to, take the human element out of this but to allow this increase production business had to shift labor around just a little bit so for illustration in the 1960s. 95% or more of all the clothing Americans war with made in America today it's down to only about 2%. And now you ask how did that happen well the globalization of the economy happened which basically means if you're a brand you find the lowest cost possible. You asked local factories to produce your product at dirt cheap prices and if they stay they can't you just threaten to take your business somewhere else.
[11:20] And I want to talk about how this labor supply chain Works David but first let's expand a little bit on this fact that our clothes are so dependent on human labor it really is surprising how little of this is automated let's take a pair of designer jeans for example okay. Once these huge rolls of raw denim are delivered to the sewing house a person will cut the rolls into big squares and then make them into piles. Strips of paper with outlines of different Gene parts will get laid on top of these piles. And then people come over in manually saw the denim into the component parts of the gene these components are then deliver to workers that are sitting at sewing machine. Amy Lee get to work sewing a pair of jeans together, no someone else might sell the buttons and the brand labels on and if these jeans are going to have some designer effect like those crease lines you see will someone has to physically draw those on, or sandblasted Jean someone is going to hang these jeans up one by one. And then use a special hose to Spray sand at the sheets until they have the right look through have you heard of stone washing before.
[12:22] Do they check jeans down mountainsides.
[12:25] Enough to get a pair of jeans to look quote stone-washed what would you guess that process might look like.
[12:33] I don't know do you wash them with stones.
[12:37] David this time you're right okay a person throws a Pala jeans into an industrial scale washing machine and then takes up about a hundred and twenty pounds worth of stuff.
[12:54] Stone washed jeans.
[12:56] Yeah it's basically the same thing I used to do when I was Kid, and I got this rock tumbler and you know makes those like polished smooth rocks and yes I was a big nerd and that you just like you put a bunch of rocks in there with other rocks and you spin it around and then your Rocks come out smooth and stone Watson. Anyway. Labor
[13:13] So the point I'm trying to make your day but is that as ridiculous as Stone washing a pair of jeans is there human labor involved it every step of the way. And because of this you cannot get a t-shirt that's been manufactured. And ship Halfway Around the World to sell at a $5 price point with 82% profit margins by the way without squeezing the wages of that human labor.
[13:39] Yeah that's right Daniel so there's so much labor that goes into producing every single piece of clothing that you wear whether it's a shirt whether it's pants. Whether it's under where it all takes a lot of effort and a lot of manual human labor to create and as we know labor is expensive so the savings have to come from somewhere. A 2012 study that looked at 50 major apparel companies found that the cut make trim level that's his process to Daniel just mentioned 98% of companies do not provide a living wage to their garment workers.
[14:10] Which means they don't make enough to support their basic needs food shelter education.
[14:16] Institute for Global labor and human rights found that women selling NBA jerseys that will eventually sell for as much as $140 will they themselves make less than $0.25 for Garmin. And if that's not bad enough 250 million children between the ages of 5 to 14 are forced to work in these developing countries sweatshops and put the number perspective that's one out of every. Children on Earth that's a lot of Labor.
[14:43] There's a lot of people out there David that will try to tell us that the sweatshops of these companies provide in these developing countries are offering these workers away out of.
[15:00] A little bit to me when 98% of these workers don't make enough money to provide basic needs for themselves and a significant portion of them are child labor it sounds a little bit like slavery to me.
[15:12] I really hate this are you going to hear it all the time and it's something that the IMF and the World Bank constantly repeat that goes hand-in-hand with their extreme level of poverty arguments, which is something we can explore death at some point and maybe I'll touch up on just a little bit here and the efforts of these organizations to quantify. All games in society really have done a terrible job in illustrating problems and making people feel good about something that is actually in that bad, so what you mentioned is almost no one that's paid a living wage in this industry, but even more than that there are minimum wages in a lot of these nations but even those are ignored by a lot of these producers in some places as much as 87% of women aren't even paid the minimum wage. And not even mentioning all the other problems they faced in the workplace which will explore later but this is already a huge problem those children who are working maybe not against the law of some of these nations will there working in these factories instead of getting an education. Which puts a damper on their future earning possibilities as well as doing them to a life of work in the sweatshops until they die. People say you know oh it's okay they're getting paid that used to work here no one is forcing them to be like this they're can't possibly be slaves that's the argument out of his hair right.
[16:23] Let's explore that for just one second. Slavery In Our Modern World
[16:26] Slavery as we think about it today is always couch in the should tell slavery of the United States that is the Cotton Fields of the American South, the reason that the Civil War happened and yeah this is where the worst form of slavery that's probably ever existed in human history people were locked up, people were literally change they were beat they were separated our own George Washington was famous for pulling the teeth out of his slaves it was a horrible horrible industry is what I'm going to call it here and there are more slaves, emotional slaves today than ever before we're going to go to whole episode on this at one point, I'm on slavery exist today at still a grand scale this wage labor that were talking about here usually isn't group into that. Let's explore the history of slavery for just one second I would just want to illustrate how this is actually very similar to slavery as a husband throughout history, searching back to ancient Greece for just one second I know we're getting off topic.
[17:21] Ancient Greece.
[17:23] So we look back to me the Greeks as a shining Beacon of what we want Western Civilization to be a democracy of Education of the Arts.
[17:31] What we want fashion to be.
[17:32] Yeah let's go back to the toga I agree well slavery was also common in many of the states of Greece.
[17:39] See Sparta for example there slaves actually had a lot of freedom and if I was a slave owner and most people were. You were basically responsible for your slave and their family that means providing housing and it making sure they were fed and happy and if you were to beat or hurt your slaves if they weren't provided for, well then people would come and take them away from you you would get disciplined by the community and you were considered the person the fast forward to today, people aren't able to work enough to have moved to have to work 18 hours they live in tiny little lumps Shaq's because that's all they can afford on their $2 a day wages at the IMF celebrates asked out of extreme poverty.
[18:18] Is functionally slavery the big thing that we link with slavery is like will you know they could stop working at any point they could leave they can move somewhere but is that really true, sure and are Greek example those slaves were bound there they couldn't leave but at least they had everything provided for functionally now in places like Bangladesh. How can you afford to go somewhere else you can't. You're too busy working to try and survive you are a wage slave and that is no different than slavery across all of human history except compared to the Very extreme horrible examples that America set digital slavery. Is really is no different and this is a global problem what was the status you said they know how many people are working in this industry in Dysfunctional suede slavery.
[19:01] 1 and 6 globally.
[19:03] That's a lot of slaves.
[19:05] Anthony considering the people bought and sold a market so it still happens in open air markets in places like Libya today but like I said we're going to explore this in more death in a future episode that I really don't want to just gloss over this point but there are more slaves now, never before in human history and that's not even counting people like this trapped in an industry that abuses their labor that takes advantage of them and turns them into functional slaves.
[19:29] That's pretty heavy David whether or not slavery is involved with this industry and something we can certainly talk about that when we take a step back for a second to look at how the supply chain, Works in this industry and some of the impacts it has on the environment and we can maybe also touch on some of these labor issues. And of course the supply chain as a whole of the fashion Industries extremely complex it's really hard to unravel there's so many. And put some of the output and they're coming from different countries of origin. But if we look at it very generally we can think of it in terms of what you start with is the raw material and this is usually the cotton that is grown to produce the fibers or.
[20:09] Or in terms of synthetic clothing it's the plastic that you're creating, and then these raw materials get shipped somewhere and compiled into more usable materials like fabrics and these Fabrics are then treated by stings like dies and other chemicals to achieve color or Texture, and then these Fabrics are sent to basically the manufacturing process these and sewing factories that will then compile these Fabrics into the clothing that we wear. And of course then you enter into the consumer use in the disposal side of the supply chain equation so let's start first with the raw material the very first step in the supply chain. Supply Chain: Raw Materials
[20:44] And one of the most important raw materials is cotton and so you may not think of the fashion industry David in terms of land use and terms of.
[20:58] Drone the cotton is harvested and get spun into yarn that yarn get sweet into fabric like we talked about and then it gets sent to these factories. Incontinence such a great example of the Agricultural and environmental destruction, it's being robbed by this industry because it encompasses a few different components the water use land use chemical and puts the human suffering. It goes along with all of this. First look at water use currently the fashion industry uses up about 80 billion cubic meters or 32 million Olympic swimming pools per year. Of water and that use will increase another 50% over the next 12 years. And because we will be facing a major shortfall at that time in terms of the global Water Supply and the global demand it means that some of these water stress and big cotton growing countries like India, or China they might have to choose between providing drinking water and satisfying the fashion industry. As you might expect it takes a tremendous amount of land to grow this cotton and other crops which is land that will compete with food crops and other important uses, the fashion industry even Harvest trees from forest in order to create cellulosic fiber, and this industry is on track to expand their land use by 35% during the same period that Global Food needs will require a 60% increase in agricultural production. And David in Dart industrial agriculture app so we did touch on the chemical inputs to just the crops that we grow for food will cotton itself is actually one of the biggest users of these chemicals.
[22:33] Why only 2.4% of the world's total cropland consist of cotton that consumes over 10% of all chemicals used in agriculture and 25% of all insects.
[22:45] The part of the reason for this is the genetic modification that goes on with cotton that create what are known as Roundup Ready species their little bit more resistant to the chemicals that were spraying on our field, which allows you to instead of just spot treating the land for certain weeds because this cotton is more resilient you can just fly over and spray insecticide spray herbicides in Mass, which of course as we touched on damages the soil gets into drinking water all these types of problems. And of course associated with these problems is going to be the human element the human suffering that goes along with not just this pollution and use of resources but directly the farmers that have to deal with this plant some of the pressures put on them to produce.
[23:29] Like we saw in the human suffering of the slave industry of the South and the cotton that went along with that will it continues today in the farmers around the world but especially. In India. The farming is expensive something we've discussed in the past and will continue discussing future episodes that's a lot of money to have land to plant crops to water at the fertilized it. To treat it with this round up or whatever other pesticides you decide to use and ultimately the harvested continent instead of crop to harvest. It's expensive so many farmers have to take out loans to pay for this and they get caught and vicious death Cycles things we talked about in the past and recently this is been exacerbated by the micro loan industry, maybe you've heard of these loan programs that they depicted as Charity which I don't really know how it works cuz, normally when I give to charity I'm giving money away I don't expect somebody to pay it back but.
[24:20] We know it's interesting I remember when this microlearning concept came out they were actually places online where you could invest your money, and they would direct it to these micro loan programs and they tell you hey not only are you making money but you're also doing a wonderful thing for these poor people who. Don't have access to finance and you're providing this loan they can start their small business. And it was really cops in terms of hey you're doing a good thing in the world and by the way you know you're going to be able to make it 12% return on your money or whatever it was.
[24:51] Well I mean they're not all based on returns like that means 12% is crazy that says boarding on Usery but some of these have like very low interest rates, equivalently no interest rates would have to be paid back but a lot of people can't have a default, or they ultimately killed himself because of a micro loans have been tracked with a dramatic rise in suicide and Link directly to the suicides of these Farmers but it's not just microloans it's somebody's 8 programs do you win, usaid these are all sitting aside money in these loan programs to these Farmers they can't pay them back in the ultimately kill themselves India just saw dramatic march on, the capital by hundreds of thousands of farmers complaining about this complaining about the conditions in Indian government said we hear you we understand but nothing is being done at the moment when were sent back home. And just to put this in perspective of how big of a problem this is in the past 16 years. Quarter of a million Farmers 250,000 people have committed suicide over this problem.
[25:47] Justin India.
[25:48] And this happens all around the world it's most visible in India because there's a lot of tracking of these deaths and then we're willing to report them as suicides and lot of other nations are but it is a serious problem and this fashion industry is the one ultimately exacerbating.
[26:03] And I know you said farming is expensive David but it's not because it's inherently expensive some of these companies make it that way on purpose there are companies for example. We mentioned how a lot of this cotton is engineered genetically to be resistant to Roundup the companies that.
[26:19] Let's name and shame Monsanto were talking about you were talking about Monsanto.
[26:23] Short but I'm sure there's other companies are doing this to.
[26:26] But Roundup is owned by Monsanto it is their personal license.
[26:30] To Monsanto creates the seeds that are genetically modified and because they're patented. The company can set their own price for them that farmers have to pay and usually go into debt in order to do it but then in addition, the farmer has to go into debt in order to afford the pesticides on the chemicals that he has to mass spray these field and oftentimes breathing in these chemicals with, as a medical cost of this down the road but because these crops are so chemical dependent it destroys the soil and that initial boost and yield that you get from using these chemicals, well because of soils not asteroid that you'll starts to plummet, Farmers can't pay back the loan to Monsanto they can't pay back the loan to buy these pesticide and now the company comes and says your land is now our land. That's probably the point in which the farmer goes into his feels drinks a bottle of Roundup and is found a day later.
[27:20] Neglect to say this stuff is serious this is Ron this is what they put on everything and it is repeatedly being blocked by the FDA. To look into the health effects of it but it's very likely linked with a lot of brain problems intelligence things but Monsanto won't let them do anything to monsanto's being bought out by Bear right now so they're going to be.
[27:38] Oh awesome so so bear can produce the drug secure all the illnesses that we get from there.
[27:46] The Reliant on chemicals like Roundup largest in Cotton but also in die houses in tanneries where leather is processed and they result in major health problems for humans. The places where these guys are produce water is contaminated with chemicals because it's just simply dumped into local rivers and freshwater reservoirs people that live in and around where the Seth Lewis is dumb, developmental health problems children are born with birth defects and brain damage and often times parents of these children have no choice but to slowly watch their children die. The same thing happens near tanneries wear leather is processed come for India is a big leather region and every day up to 50 million. 13 million gallons of chromium contaminated Wastewater.
[28:31] Poured out and makes its way into drinking water and into the agricultural soil as a result of mini locals develop jaundice liver cancer and other fatal illnesses.
[28:41] But let's not forget the argument that these sweatshops these die houses these tanneries are providing the locals with valuable alternatives to living that it just wouldn't have otherwise. David I want to talk next about the supply chain once we get past the agricultural raw input once we get past the dies in the making of the fabric, only get to the part where we're doing the actual manufacturing because I think it really shows how these Financial pressures built into the system create so many problems. So once we've taken that cotton respondent we believed it weave dyed it will now we send this fabric to the factory that's in Bangladesh or India Pakistan, turkey China Eastern Europe wherever and everything up to this point in the consumer use and Disposal, will contribute the most in terms of the environmental destruction pollution and health effects but this second. Supply Chain: Manufacture
[29:32] Manufacturing half the supply chain will now contribute the most in terms of human right abuse human suffering and exploitation. So before we go into specifics on what that exploitation looks like let's examine how the supply chain is set up. Please start with Your Big Brand retailer that selling the t-shirts and the pair of jeans or whatever. Will they have purchasing agent and those agents are responsible for flying around the world and making deals with Factory owners to deliver X number of garments at y price. The agent knows that if the retailer is going to sell that t-shirt for $4.99 or $19.99.
[30:12] That 82% profit margin will give in the cost of raw materials to transportation and all the other Associated factors this agent has to find a factory willing to make a million of those t-shirts. And sell them back at $0.20 a piece. All the factories that can actually promise that type of price are going to be in areas with no regulation no labor rights no health and environmental standards the things that might add to the cost of manufacture. That's where the agent goes. And what I find interesting David is that the factory the agent ends up doing a deal with is often not the one that will do most of the production it's just the one that appears to have good standards.
[30:53] This is where a big system of subcontracting and so-called Shadow factories comes into play. This original Factory promised a million garments at $0.20 a piece but in reality it can produce 80,000. So they have to call others in the area they know and subcontract out the rest of the work. But because the original Factory is getting $0.20 from the retailer it agrees to buy from the subcontractor or Shadow Factory for only $0.10 per garment.
[31:21] And the only way to make this work is to cut cost by cutting Corners this means slashing worker wages of course but also skimping on things like bathrooms safe building and anything that might add to the cost. But I wanted to know why does this happen why can't the original Factory just say we can't produce t-shirts at $0.20 and pay our workers at the same time.
[31:43] Well that's easy the agent would just go somewhere else and find someone that could.
[31:48] Exactly but it's not just that they would go to another Factory they might go to another country and this is something the government doesn't want they depend on the international trade just as much as the individual worker depends on a decent wage.
[32:02] Exactly and so what this ends up meaning is that governments themselves will support the system.
[32:08] And there are Financial incentives by these governments to keep these factories producing, one thing the government will do is offer cash credits to companies for reaching a certain export size which encourages factories to accept orders they can't possibly fulfill. And on the banking side financial institutions will make loans to these factories not based on what they can actually produce but on the size of the sales orders that they can make, and so when does subcontractors skip on things like wages they skimp on safe building standards terrible things can happen in terrible labor conditions result.
[32:41] You might remember in 2013 of hearing about a tragic building collapse, in Bangladesh killing over a thousand fashion industry workers whose was an enormous tragedy that got International intention and really started to highlight some of the labor practices going on in Bangladesh and in the fashion industry as a whole at the time. People began looking up factories realizing they were cutting corners and all these Labour's and even the buildings in cells being unsafe this random plaza building collapse as it's known really started to look like a promising turn for the fashion industry. Things are going to get better from here by learning from this tragic loss of life but here we are five years later and really little has changed.
[33:19] And in addition to the safety conditions there's a lot of sexual harassment that goes on of course in India women who try and defend themselves against sexual harassment are often beaten, and forced to work overtime, or simply terminated and in China 70% of women in Guangzhou factories claim to have been sexually harassed and feel they have no option to escape the bad treatment.
[33:40] And as we started to mention a moment ago the reason they feel they have no option to escape is that the government is complicit in this they support the system by actively refusing to enforce labor and safety standards, and Wendy's workers try and collectively ask for better conditions will the government sides with Factory owners in dramatic fashion in 2015. Strike
[34:02] Thousand garment workers in Cambodia went on strike and then better treatment and better wages please confronted them with deadly force to break. Killing at least five people were they asking for some unreasonable salary or crazy vacation time.
[34:17] $160 a month that's less than $2,000 a year before taxes basically nothing.
[34:24] This is such a great example of how these International pressures pervert the whole system David the government's want to trade, Police In Fashion?
[34:31] which is only possible through factories that exploit their workers so when these workers try and ask for a little dignity a hundred fifty bucks a month, that will help them feed their families the government sends police on whose side with the factory workers, they kill a handful of Strikers and make sure that business-as-usual continues in the introduction of the police into this equation really raises some questions if you try to fit police into the traditional Narrative of what their function is, that is to protect people and fight crime because in this situation not only are police not enforcing laws and regulations that might be in place to protect workers. They are actively oppressing people asking for those basic standards to be enforced. It's a purpose of police is to fight crime and how do we Define crime in a modern society because apparently, it's a crime to protest against unfair work but it's not a crime to force people into slavery making them work in unsafe conditions denying them basic things like bathroom and under paying them so they cannot even provide the basic necessities of life.
[35:36] And if you think these crackdowns on protest or something that only occurs in developing nations will you need to look at home. In the u.s. dozens of states have police lobbying groups working with their state legislators to introduce bills that criminalize protest. Criminalize covering your face that criminalize blocking highways that criminalize delaying and impacting business effectively making it illegal to complain.
[36:00] And this raises questions it may be true that police are in the business of protecting people but who do they protect.
[36:07] And they may be in the business of fighting crime but who is defining crime. And like you pointed out there but these questions are not unique to these developing countries they just become more obvious the closer you get to the Pure Source of the systems that support modern society, in the United States the business of policing has always been about protecting those in power. In fact modern policing involved in the American South from night watches and slave patrols these were group set up to make sure that black stayed home or didn't leave their Master's Plantation. In London modern policing was modeled after direct military control of colonists populations in the late 1800s and early 1900s, police did not even ostensibly function to fight crime but we're directly controlled by political bosses to extort protection money from local business manager illegal businesses like gambling and to make sure that those in power.
[37:08] Themselves and they were incentivized to do this by cash and other bribes but also from the knowledge that if their boss lost election the new one would fire everyone on the police force and replace them with his own agent.
[37:21] They said once again maybe sounds like some developing Nation but this is New York City this is Chicago this is the developing American police force that. Emergent what we see today it has me thinking and wondering what is right in terms of our crime in terms of the laws we have is it okay to protect the thing something that doesn't have any effect on someone else's life by punishing human life. Meet at the question and we need to explore in more depth in the future episode.
[37:47] Will David maybe we got a little bit off topic talking about least I think the real issue is what are police officers going to update their wardrobe in the ride David. Pink
[37:56] You're right Daniel this is actually something I thought about it a lot of death and it sounds silly at least at first but I really truly believe that all police uniforms should be pink.
[38:07] Pink police.
[38:09] Well I would want to be a police.
[38:10] There's a lot of reasons why I'm I mean to the dark blue traditional police uniform it's difficult to see, you can blend in people don't notice you and that's bad because a lot of what police do with preventive policing the walk around and by being present and seen discourages crime but they're hard to see you you know that it's not working but a bright pink uniform. That would help make them more visible and Beyond just the police in component of this it's also a safety factor for police officers so in fact. The majority of police injuries and deaths are from suspects they're not from gunfights or something like that they're merely getting struck. Buy vehicles in car accidents and most of that is because police officers are difficult to see when they're wearing their traditional blue Garb switching to prank police vehicles and pink police uniforms would help drastically. With disability and very much cut down on police deaths pink is a calming color there's been a lot of studies done that show that when people are interacting with pink there's a lot more calm, and so contrast that with the great tactical blue and black uniforms at police wear nowadays and it sort of UPS the situation and how tense it is instead of letting it down and allowing it more peaceful resolution, and then there's a high possibility for marketing you can tie the scene with the Susan G Komen Foundation or find NYPD and I want to Market myself because everyone's coming in and buying you NYPD happen so how much more. Iconic would you be if NYPD was New York's pink Police Department there's so many reasons I think pink garments are probably be cheaper to save a lot of money this is a something I very serious about.
[39:45] Right now we're way off topic.
[39:46] You're right that's something interesting to think about for sure. At the stairs back on topic we did talk a little bit about the supply chain but there's one aspect of this I think we should just briefly touch on and that's the end of a garment life. Supply Chain: End Of Life
[40:00] Most of them honestly just whine up in a landfill. But there has been a big market for used clothing over the years donations would make their way to developing countries and even entire Industries would pop up to take used clothing and turn them into other products like relief blankets for disaster victims. There's a region in India for example that used to be the world's largest recycler of garments made of wool and It produced cloth used in disaster relief blankets used to make about 90% of the blankets used for Relief global. But because of this new business structure this recycled Market cannot compete with new production. A recycled blanket might cost $2 but China is now producing brand new polar fleece blankets at a price of $2.50. So now instead of focusing on recycled material taking this wall and making blankets out of it, the same factories in India are rejecting the second-hand garments in favor of switching to the production of new synthetic microplastic producing blanket for.
[41:00] Petition. But it's not just this rejection it's a problem but the wholesale donation of clothes and importation of very very cheap garments from used clothing into developing nations especially in Africa.
[41:13] Ruined local Industries so where before I could have survived as a garment makers at Taylor as a seamstress now when this close comes in what there's already tons of product out there it's super cheap. Even organizations like toms that purports to do lots of good with you buy one pair here they sing one pair were there well that's destroyed local economies and put hundreds of thousands of people out of work and wiped out a whole generation of knowledge about clothing production. And there's so much clothes going out to these places the t-shirts the pants while they're just piling up in the huge mountains of unwanted.
[41:48] Okay so we've got most of the facts out of the way we talked about a lot of things on the side we got distracted a couple times. We really want to try in and talk about a couple of very broad scope Concepts in this last half of the show and to do that I need to sort of. Bloody History Of The Textile Industry
[42:04] Pink one point in touch on some things already mentioned but tying does overall history of the fashion industry, and again it wasn't call the fashion industry back when we're discussing here but the textile World garment clothing manufacturing it enough until modern day fashion as we see it now. And it's always been a dirty bloody industry. Like we mentioned with cotton into slaves it kicked off the Industrial Revolution for the first things that people were producing and using this excess energy for was mostly textile production. So then just Revolution was let us down this path of climate change it got kicked off by a need to produce clothing cheaply, and that need to produce clothing cheaply is the problem that has played this industry, since its Inception and continues to cause the suffering is environmental damage through today and its environmental damage of climate change with the kickoff of the Industrial Revolution through the pollution and carbon use that happens today as well as labor sufferings and automation. We talked about how much manual labor goes into clothing and it is a lot, but it used to be entirely handmade looms were done by hand everything was Stitch but I just started adding more tools that is large Mills industrial scale sewing machine, people who could take a piece of clothing and make it from scratch but it started losing their jobs he's very skilled artisanal workers they were seen as useless.
[43:20] People can afford their labor they were too expensive and they got angry to the UK where the Industrial Revolution in textiles kicked off a lot of people. Put out of work by this because their labor was simply too expensive for the industrial scale production of clothing and people reacted badly to it. You might have heard this term before Luddite. It's an insult that we have today that refers to someone who's afraid of technological change but they want to be some sort of cave person stepping out of society because the tech is too scary or confusing.
[43:49] A person.
[43:50] Economic policy called the Luddite fallacy based on this idea of mocking these people. Who writes World War group of artisanal workers very skilled garment manufacturers. Realize they're put out of work who were kicked out because they cost too much and led a revolt against these Mill workers against the UK to try and get their places back. Their name turn into an insult that we still have to today. In the Luddite fallacy by the way is the simple observation from Economist that technological innovation does not in fact cause a loss in labor ultimately if the changing amount of Supply from the reduced Imports increase the mat and dust. Spread more labor across economy and its held mostly true throughout time but, I think that as we get into a lot more thorough Automation in the coming decades as computer start replacing a lot of are normally White Collar jobs that this is going to completely fall apart which is something we'll explore, I'm very soon.
[44:48] What day were the luddites showed up on the scene in like the early 1800s and that's time when the landscape of technological change looked much much different and probably much more to do than it does today I don't know if you can even compare, our modern technological world to the type of Technology the luddites were wrestling with at that time. The Triangle Factory
[45:07] And it jump forward a hundred years maybe you've heard of the triangle factory fire. I was actually wondering around New York the other day by NYU and I walked across this building to have his bike in front of it and it mentioned that this was the Triangle Factory building is now owned by New York University but this was the scene of one of the greatest tragedies in fashion history. So 1912 is Factory mostly filled with women produce shirts at an industrial scale, they were very strict restrictions on the women working there they wear shirts coming in and out of the factory for trying to steal garments their purses were look through and when they were their doors were locked so they couldn't sneak out taking textiles. Will the very strict control of these women ended up causing tragedy. Factory caught fire people can escape because the doors were locked 60 women jumped from Windows to the death and another hundred women died from Planes in the building. It was a national tragedy people reacted very badly and it's all the introduction of a lot of new labor and safety policies in the United States which is one of the only positive things that come from such a tragic event and many people hoping he would learn from this that things will get better. But here we are in 101 years later 1100 people died. Bangladesh my factory collapse what have we learned in that time the only thing the industry is learned is our violence or exploitation or cutbacks are cut Corners we're going to ship them far away out of sight out of mind. Is that the only way that industry can exist we cannot create clothes cheap enough for people to buy without cutting corners. Without cutting back on wages without cutting back on safety because it's too expensive to create as much clothes as we want without sacrificing something and in this case it's people's lives.
[46:44] Maybe this is a conversation more for the what can we do section of the show but we really need to start thinking what can we afford when it comes to close. We talked about blood diamonds on the show we talked about blood stand but maybe the clothing that we wear every single day has blood on it.
[47:00] And so we need to look more towards sustainably and responsibly. Ethically created clothing but back to the matter is that clothing is expensive and for most of us paying $50 or whatever it might cost an actual labor to produce a shirt. It just isn't realistic even if we cut down a wardrobe to just a few items like has happened in most of human history well we'll all of us just can't afford that. Can We Have The World We Want?
[47:23] It's always run into this problem that we find so much in this show as we explore these issues we're the world that we want the things that we've come to expect and even go so far as to say that we need what's not compatible with a sustainable ethical. World and we have to start asking why is that the case why can't we have clothing products that are made responsibly and be able to afford them. Maybe the answer that is just our lifestyle itself is unsustainable.
[47:49] David maybe it's debatable whether or not we can afford the price of these clothing but there's no doubt that we cannot afford the cost of this industry. Last week we talked about geoengineering solutions to climate change and how silly and ridiculous many of those ideas are the only solution really to possibly mitigating climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels. But I'll be the first to admit that that's not going to happen certainly not overnight and there are many things we have to use energy for. Alternative sources of fuel like solar panels for instance they require fossil fuels to manufacture and transport, so what I'm trying to say is that the future includes fossil fuels to some extent no matter what and this raises a very important question in the context of this topic. We are facing. Existential crisis on the heels of this climate change we are facing critical shortages in so many vital resources like the ones that go into our food system. In this context doesn't make sense is there any sense at all and using up what little resources we have left soil. Fertilizer water oil and destroying the world in the process all for the sake of cheap disposable t-shirt.
[49:05] Is that what we're willing to throw everything away for really.
[49:08] Well when you put it like that it seems pretty obvious but thank you forget I'm chasing profit.
[49:15] Yeah in and that is why apparently it's not so obvious too many did this lack of attention to this very basic question, it's something that I found so surprising the some of the facts regarding labor and resource use in this episode came from a 72 page report by the Boston Consulting Group, in which they belong with the fashion Industry Group discuss these problems they say. Oh no we are running out of resources oh no we have overshot the Earth's capacity to sustain ourselves and oh no there's too much pollution people all over the world are paid next to nothing.
[49:51] But what is their conclusion. They say essentially well the industry is on track to grow by 60% over the next 13 years and there are big opportunities for increased profitability by tending to some of these concerns.
[50:05] You kind of have to stop and think about the level of cognitive dissonance going on in one of the most respected Consulting groups in the world by the way. To claim that a business is literally destroying the Earth and employing slaves and then in the same breath suggest increasing profits as what the business should be focused on. But this is the Paradox of trying to think ethically and morally while making profit the goal and it goes back to what you alluded to David a couple weeks ago when you said that nothing is profitable. Profit is a surplus it must come from somewhere. It is extracted when you extract something there's a consequence there is a cost and like they say in economics there's no such thing as a free lunch, what when you experience a profit by underpaying a worker you didn't create wealth out of thin air, you took it from the ground you extracted it from the ground that workers help the workers ability to feed herself educate her children, and even in strict economic term that has a cost that matches the extracted Surplus its the cost of a less educated people. The cost of cleaning the toxins from drinking water sources that workers drink. Or more realistically since the water never gets cleaned it's the cost of her health bill that must be paid from somewhere either from her own pocket Society. Our family or the Undertaker that buries her dead body.
[51:27] Defenders of this system and globalization broadly will say something like Sweatshop provide for people with better options than there Alternatives would be. Even the World Bank the supposedly Arbiter of what constitutes poverty in our world, I what do you make give or take $2 a day or not they wrote a report in which may not only defend the existence of slums but say that the growth of slums is a sign of economic progress because for some reason, a subsistence farmer who can live off the land Colton ate enough food or livestock to support himself and their family and live as part of a local community but makes no money. Is Warsaw in a woman living in open sewage on the outskirts of a city not able to provide education or food for her kids but makes $2 a day Petaling course around on the bicycle for 12 hours. Or working 18 hours in a sweatshop I know millionaires in the United States considered a luxury to retire to a simple way of life on a small farm. And you telling me that that same lifestyle and I quote developing country is more deplorable and sleeping in a 6-foot by 6-foot scrap metal cage. You either delusional or disingenuous especially since institutions that take this position to claim that ending poverty is their mission you just be honest and say that you're looking to get rich off the backs of others. Well maybe then I would be more inclined to believe you.
[52:48] But David maybe this is why we have to fundamentally change the way we view the world in the way we track and measure so-called progress because economic growth has proven itself to be an unworthy candidate for that.
[53:02] Or whatever economic growth with experience in the past 100 years or more psychological Destruction has only gotten worse. The exploitation of women has gotten worse the practice of slavery as expanded. The ability for people to sustain themselves and their communities across the globe has plummeted. Two of our economic models are telling us that we are improving those models are seriously broken. Actually David I studied Finance in college and the way I view the world has really shifted dramatically certainly since then but even in just the last year because of some of these realities. Before I was interested in those economic metrics things like GDP but today there's only one thing that matters to me anymore and that's this how are the lives of those on the very bottom impact. How is the environment at the most heavily stress locality impact. Because I think those two perspective tell you so much not just about the sustainability of our practices but the quote progress being made and all the values that should actually matter to The Human Experience. What we tolerate at the individual and local scale only gets exploded out to the large-scale if a company and its consumers are willing to tolerate it t-shirt at the expense of human life what else will be tolerated.
[54:19] But now if you tell me you created a fantastic product and everyone loves it and it improves efficiencies and X & Y areas but you can't create that product without enslaving someone. You can't create that product without destroying the drinking water of a distant Village that I think your product is garbage worse than garbage and we should reject it we should support it in any way. But the only way to get to the point where we actually can do that. Is to replace these flawed economic metrics for measuring progress things like growth GDP how many people live on $2 a day and start measuring progress in terms of human dignity quality fairness. Sustainability and environmental health.
[55:02] This is something we've mentioned briefly in the past and I want to explore and much more detail going forward but this urge to quantify everything, has really had a huge detrimental effect on society and to be fair a lot of it is motivated by the fact that measuring progress is hard, into looking at simple metrics like money earned GDP the gini coefficient is one way to try and track the consequences of actions in a metric that can be easily graph, what are we really trying to look at here maybe things like happiness satisfaction in life what do you go home every night.
[55:42] Easily measured tract quantify into the swept under the rug and we get these useless metrics that are easy to lie easy to manipulate City.
[55:56] Maybe there's one way to make it easier to track these changes currently. We put too much emphasis in our modern technologically savvy World on improving things at the margins and things like efficiencies through Tech innovation. When it's dead maybe we should be concerned with Aggregate and cumulative. So we applied when Tech improvements make a car 10% more fuel efficient but if Total Car missions are rising. Nothing has improved in fact it's getting worse in terms of our global climate change but see this is the Paradox of growth if you can't question the fundamental need to grow you will never measure the right thing. It's so first we have to accept the fact that some of these industries need to diggro maybe even be dismantled. In the fashion industry for example this means we don't praise them in the event they find a better way of cultivating cotton while still consuming more agricultural land note we should demand the total land use for the industry decline. That total water consumption to climb that worker wages increase to living standards. If the industry can figure out how to do that and still produce clothing then more power to them. Maybe that type of pressure would actually lead to the type of technological innovations that we really need. But ultimately if the industry cannot achieve those things then their current methods are not actually profitable in the first place and we should not tolerate the extraction of iron.
[57:23] Shareholders another Financial stakeholders.
[57:27] Those are beautiful words Daniel and it might sound impossible at first listen but I truly believe it's something like this is possible and more than that is necessary for the continued success of humanity as a whole. What Can We Do?
[57:39] So we sort of started already transitioning into this what can we do component of it and while we discuss some of our more radical ideas about this. There are a couple practical things that we really think are important in addressing me these problems that we touched on in this episode. And all these problems do need to be fixed at the industry level but there are a couple things that we can do as consumers and one of those first things are if you can't afford it by Less close by better clothes and buy clothes responsibly. This means skipping those $5 $7 t-shirts that I know my doors are filled with and it said looking for something that is produced ethically and sustainably.
[58:14] Perhaps a little bit more expensive but one that you can wear for much longer. I think the point you made David about buying less clothing I think that is ultimately the most important thing whether or not you're buying from a quote-unquote sustainable company. Buying less clothing is the only way to reduce that cumulative that aggregate impact on the environment that impact on human labor it is the pressure to produce so much clothing that has driven Factory, to these deplorable conditions.
[58:42] That's right we need to degroat is fashion industry and to do that we need to buy less stuff. And of course that means we're going to have to buy better stuff too because there were just buying less than throwing it out when it breaks while we're just back in the same situation we were before but buying less buying better clothes or last longer, that is one of the biggest things that we can do reducing the needs of input in terms of Agriculture production that's the pesticides as the water as well as dies chemicals, and then the actual labor going into this every piece of clothing that we don't buy as a huge effect on reducing the negative impact that we have on Earth, and on other people's lives. Much more so than buying a lot of sustainable or ethically produced clothes which is something that we should try and do anyway but the important thing is just buy less.
[59:28] But in terms of those n puts a lot of that starts with the design process so if you are in the fashion industry in your designer we need more awareness among designers, about how these clothes end up getting made depending on the fibers that are chosen depending on the dyes used in the materials involved because this is going to affect the raw material production is going to affect the cost need in terms of these factories. And it will also determine how the consumer uses it whether it's more durable or whether they're going to need to throw it out after a couple weeks of use.
[59:59] In the same building we need to shift to better materials organic cotton can have a quarter of the environmental impact of traditional cotton, and some natural fibers like flax or hemp maybe more by degradable but again it's not enough to say how can we grow the industry while switching to better practice but shifting these better materials while scaling back even mantling much of the industry itself.
[1:00:19] Currently there's very little accountability in the fashion industry there are very few organizations watching and putting pressure on these companies is little regulation and little demand from consumers for change to take place. Do all of these areas need more attention.
[1:00:35] What are the biggest things you can do in this area is purchasing clothes from Nations that you know are much more strict on labor practices that means if you're in the United States may be buying American made clothing. The other countries the same but remember that's not a cure-all there sweatshops in every nation that made in Italy tag doesn't mean it's made by well-paid Italian. In many cities they're huge hidden sweatshops staffed with Chinese laborers, or other people so you need to be conscious of this look around as much as you can and maybe spend a little time researching a manufacturer or piece of clothing before you purchase it I know that's a lot to lay on people but it is something important that we need to be thinking about.
[1:01:13] But again David if that's too complicated if that's too hard just by Les.
[1:01:19] And I do want to add as we're close enough to show that we are not against the fashion industry. Itself just the practices of it there's nothing wrong with clothes as an expression of who you are of the artistic merits of it in fact we encourage this exploration is a lot of great things in the fashion industry like there are people all which is something I can't wait to talk.
[1:01:53] Style of humanity that might be the easiest solution here.
[1:01:57] David I got to hit the gym.
[1:02:00] We got to get that that Beachbody going.
[1:02:02] I'm not ready for that.
[1:02:03] Everybody start working out now so I'm going to switch to nudism will be ready to go. Well that's a lot to think about and hopefully have some not so scarring images on your mind. If you want to learn more about any of the topics recovered read that NASA's 72-page report we mentioned or read a full transcript of this episode you can do that at our website ashes ashes. O RG.
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[1:03:00] Ashes ashes cast next week we got a really great show on a big topic that spends a lot of what we've been talking about across this show so far so we hope you'll turn in for that until then though this is ashes ashes.