It would be hard not to have noticed catastrophes such as the collapse of a clothing manufacturers building in Bangladesh and other similar disasters in recent years – that have resulted in the death and injury of many textile workers in countries like Bangladesh. One of the reasons why they have managed to make the news is that so many well-known brands and retail outlets in Australia have been supplied by them.
Why should this matter to us – new clothes have never been cheaper – in fact it is hard to find op shops that have t shirts for the price are being sold for in some of our variety and department stores. It is only a few years ago that cheap t shirts were the result of a holiday to places such as Bali or Thailand. No longer, the cheap t-shirt is found stores here. Is that a problem?
If we bemoan the fact that we no longer have a viable textile industry in Australia – largely because of cheap imports then, yes it is.
If we see that our cheap clothing is coming off the back of what can only be described as the slave labour of other countries – and this is particularly the case for women in those countries then yes it is.
We talk a lot about sustainability – but sustainability is not just about caring for our environment – it is about having some balance in the world. Of course it is not hard to mount an environmental argument against cheap clothing as well. The quality of the fabrics and stitching – using inferior grade products means that many of these items end up in landfill in double quick time. Then there is the amount of miles these products travel to get here.
But worse than that are the appalling conditions faced by the largest female or child labour who are charged with producing masses of cheap goods for western countries such as ours. Slavery might have been abolished in America 150 years ago but there is an argument to say that all we have really done is move it offshore.
If we are going to be truly sustainable then we have to look more closely at how we live within the whole world. We are not just citizens of Horsham or Dimboola, or even the Wimmera or Victoria – not even Australia – we are global citizens and it is about time we started acting like it.
I was thinking about the word sustainability the other day – very difficult to get a good definition.
In fact there is no simple definition of ‘sustainability’. It can be an idea, a property of living systems, a manufacturing method or a way of life. In fact, there may be as many definitions of sustainability as there are people trying to define it.
However, most definitions include:
- living within the limits of what the environment can provide
- understanding the many interconnections between economy, society and the environment
- the equal distribution of resources and opportunities.
Maybe we need to think about that a bit more before make many of our purchasing decisions.