The holiday season is full of ads begging us to buy. It's also full of rants against our Western consumer culture. You've heard them all and you're sick to death of them. So am I. It's the same endless arguments that go around and round in circles, with no real conclusions or answers or changes being made. So here's a different approach. Yes, the problem is huge and complicated. And there are things each of us can do to make changes now.
If you want to explore the global impact of finding the cheapest possible t-shirt, there are stories about children working in the cotton fields in Uzbekistan. Egyptian children are being poisoned by pesticides on the cotton they pick. (http://www.marketplace.org/topics/world/children-keep-egypts-cotton-spinning). The environmental impact of cheap fabric production in India and its effects on women is shocking. (http://globalactionthroughfashion.org/for-consumers/the-issues/)
Even the enormous bales of used American clothing going to Africa for resale (and clothing as much as 81% of the population in Uganda) are disturbing. Who would deny people these inexpensive resources? Isn't it a great way to reuse? And yet, it's helping to destroy African textiles and making it near to impossible for any local textile industries to take hold. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/03/business/trade-theory-vs-used-clothes-in-africa.html
And all of these issues can bring me to despair. There is such a push to create disposal, cheap goods for our endlessly consuming culture. It seems so wrong. And these industries are creating thousands of jobs and fueling economies. How do we change this? What can we do?
In the West, we're trained to think of being smart in terms of quantity. Of generating more fame, exposure and financial success. And weirdly enough, that usually means not thinking seriously about the future. Because if we really thought through some of our endeavors towards success, we might see how potentially hurtful that success can be. Not just to other cultures, but to ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, our world.
Of course, there are better and more ethical ways of getting materials and resources. There are organizations for responsible sourcing http://www.sourcingnetwork.org/ and environmental corporate responsibility http://www.asyousow.org/ which can help eliminate this modern day slavery and find sustainable ways for large businesses to work. There are organizations that help us find ethical fashion choices. http://globalactionthroughfashion.org/
These organizations are crucial. We need these efforts. We can support these organizations and make them stronger. We can support businesses that use sustainable and equitable ways to make their money. But most importantly, we can change what we do.
We can buy less. Buy things of better quality that last longer. We can fix the things that are fixable. And remake using the materials and resources we already have.
This is why I encourage remaking. This is why I'm passionate about it. Because it is something we can do in small ways that helps make change happen. Because it comes from our own hands. It gets us back in touch with the process of creating. And it gives us the freedom of choice. We choose how to make, what we make and what we shall do with the things we make.
And finally? No one is trying to sell it to us.
A. Laura Brody
I re*make mobility devices and materials and give them new lives. Sometimes I staple drape.