what are the effects of our clothes on peoples employment, quality of life?points to consider; producing the raw materials for clothes and making the clothes (fair trade, conditions of work and pay in LEDC farms, factories/ sweatshops)
As Post 1 mentions, clothes are often made in what we think of as sweatshop conditions. But how should we think about this if those jobs are actually attractive to the people in those countries? Is it better for us to allow them to be exploited (from our point of view) but to at least have jobs? Or do we insist on protections that might cost them their competitive advantage and, thereby, their jobs?
What a great topic! I admit to being confused on this issue myself sometimes. I've finally decided that the best way to be green is to buy less, remake and upcycle, and buy secondhand.
Many people tout buying natural fiber clothing because it is better for the environment than synthetics, but is it really? According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, cotton is the world's "thirstiest crop", requiring up to 2,000 liters of water to produce one tee shirt. According to them, the virtual disappearance of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan is the result of irrigation for growing cotton. This has led to terrible environmental devastation in that area, and has caused many people to become ill because of windborne silt from the dry lakebed. MAny others have been displaced because of lack of water and the collapse of the fishing industry that once provided their livelihood.
It is well known that many companies that major clothing manufacturers subcontract to in countries around the world use child labor, whether it is at the level of cultivating or harvesting cotton or in factories or sweatshops at the level of actual manufacturing. Several companies have had to come to terms with this in recent years, including Gap, Nike, WalMart, and JCPenney. Clothing also has an effect on the environment, as synthetic fibers are made with petrochemicals, and perhaps even more pernicious, cotton is among the world's most pesticide-intensive crops. This is, of course, not to mention the fact that in many developing countries, cotton uses fertile lands and capital resources that could be used to produce food crops. On the other hand, textiles and clothing manufacturing have served as a valuable source of investment and have provided much-needed jobs in developing economies. Like many other aspects of globalization, the clothing industry has had effects that might be described as mixed, both for American consumers (many of whom once worked in textiles and clothing) and for those employed on the manufacturing end.