The Environmental Costs of Fast Fashion

Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil, at least according to Stacey Dooley’s Google investigation during her latest BBC documentary: Fashion’s Dirty Secrets.

The program is only available on iPlayer for another couple of weeks, but what I’m going to do here is link into the people and issues covered in this excellent documentary.

Issues brought up in the documentary…

  1. Fashion is a surprisingly polluting industry – the reason it comes in at number two is because of all of the pesticides, fertilizer, and not to mention the sheer volume of water it takes to make many of our most basic threads, cotton being the biggest problem, given its popularity. Check out Lucy Siegle’s writings for more info.
  2. Stacey visits Kazakhstan to witness one of the biggest human made environmental disasters in history. The country used to be home to the Aral Sea – which used to span 68K square kilometers. HOWEVER, now most of it has dried up because of dams being put in place to supply water to massive cotton plantations in neighboring countries. The region is now a desert plagued by sand storms.
  3. It takes a staggering amount of water to produce cotton… 15 000 liters to grow the cotton in one pair of jeans, for example.
  4. There’s the obligatory trip to Indonesia… where we see clothes producing factories churning out chemical polluted water into local rivers, and local slum dwellers washing their clothes in said water with strange skin rashes. This article by Al Jazeera covers the same ground.
  5. Not one single Chain store (e.g Primark etc.) accepted an invitation to appear on the show, and even the Department for the Environment gave a ‘standard reply’ not focused on fashion, but rather on their plastic bag policy, strongly suggesting all of the Corporations involved in fashion and the UK government couldn’t give a toss about the environment.
  6. Stacey did interview a few fashion vloggers, thinking that these ‘influencers’ could be a way to get consumers to switch to less polluting threads. They seemed extremely ignorant of the high environmental costs of ‘fashion as usual’, but willing to push the moral imperative to shop for more environmentally friendly brands. HOWEVER, only one of the four interviewed actually took this up on her vlog.

Relevance to A-level Sociology…

mainly relevant to Global Development the material in this documentary is yet more supporting evidence for TNCs not promoting development, and both the Aral Sea disappearance and the river polluting factors in Indonesia are good examples of green crime.

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