A brief summary of some of the ecological violence inflicted by the fashion industry through a recent BBC documentary.
As the hard work of activists all over the world continues to break past the boundaries of secrecy that clothing corporations have put in place to conceal their destructive practices, news organizations are taking notice more and more. A recent documentary by Stacey Dooley from the BBC titled “Fashion’s Dirty Secret” brings us an emotional look into just some of the impact that the fashion industry is having globally on our environment and on the health and environments of its workers. Read on for a summary of key facts which make clear why Fashion is often ranked as the second most polluting industry in the world.
One of the most staggering statistics came near the beginning of the program when we learned that 100 billion new garments are made each year from brand new fibres. With only 7 billion people on earth, this number is unfathomably large, and it is made even more shocking when combined with another statistic: that 6 out of every 10 new garments we make every year end up in a landfill or burned by the companies as overstock within a year of their production.
Not only are we far overproducing, the vast majority of the new clothes we produce are not even used, they are not lasting. We have truly made clothing, once a long-lasting heirloom item, into a disposable commodity, and all of us are paying the price while these corporations make tens of billions in profit each year.
Take a look at these photos of the Aral Sea in Central Asia. On the left is the sea in 1989, on the right, 2014. Since the 1960s, industrial cotton farms, one of the most unsustainable crops, began diverting the rivers that feed the sea in order to grow their textile cotton. In just a few decades, what was once a thriving water ecosystem covering an area close to the size of Ireland has turned into a desert.
This has led to sand and dust storms and extreme weather, which carry harmful pesticides, the loss of an entire fishing industry which sustained millions of people along the coast, and a dramatic rise in illnesses in all nearby communities such as Stroke, Tb, and Cancer due to pollution, to name just a few effects of such large scale ecological destruction as the eradication of an entire Sea.
The fact is that irreversible damage caused by the Fashion industry isn’t just a warning call, it’s already here.
This is nowhere clearer than in the Citarum river in Indonesia, widely recognized as the most polluted river in the world. The Citarum is lined by textile and clothing factories which routinely dump their toxic waste, widely used treatment chemicals across the industry, into the river. Countless communities rely on the river for their water needs, but it has now become so polluted with toxic chemicals, that the smell can be detected from miles away. The water has been found to contain levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic which are far above the threshold of poisonous, and which are known to lead to disturbed brain function, health issues, and death.
All of this, of course, and we haven’t even begun to delve into the destructive labor practices and inhumane treatment of workers (and customers) that this industry partakes in, none of which is unique to this industry alone, but rather pervades all aspects of our modern economic system. Nevertheless it remains a key touchstone for exploring all ethical issues of capitalism, because no other industry so dramatically and uniformly crosses all bounds of decency and ethics across all key issues of justice, as the capitalist Fashion industry today.