It all started in the 1980’s and the introduction of free trade agreements says Klein. Im in a packed RDS hall listening to Klein open the International Literature Festival in Dublin. This was the time of NAFTA and the fall of the Berlin wall she continues. It opened up borders, relaxed policy and introduced free market capitalism and globalisation. This in turn reminds me of my college days and reading Kleins book ‘No Logo’ and the likes of Thomas Friedman who was some great books and insights on these subjects. His well known book ‘The Lexus and the Olive Tree’ proposes that the world is currently undergoing two struggles: the drive for prosperity and development, symbolized by the Lexus, and the desire to retain identity and traditions, symbolized by the olive tree. I wouldn’t argue with that personally.
The turn of the century saw capitalism and consumerism celebrated and in effect begun the seperation of the elite 1% from the 99%. Weak policy exacerbated this difference in wealth and equality. These alongside celebrities are now the people we celebrate when in reality, they are the one’s we should fear most. Neoliberalism and the drive to privatise natural resources and public transport is incredibly dangerous. Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. The recent Panama Papers was opened a door to this world for what it really is. As Naomi Klein documents in The Shock Doctrine, neoliberal theorists advocated the use of crises to impose unpopular policies while people were distracted.
We live in a throwaway culture; we throw away things, people and even places. Europe’s migration crisis is further evidence of this. I tend to focus on clothing when it comes to waste as I cannot understand people’s mindset in the era I have grown up in. Americans now buy five times as much clothing as they did in 1980. In the USA alone, over 10.5 Million TONS of clothing is thrown away every year – 95 percent of which is recyclable, yet only 15% is recycled or donated. Consumerism, Advertising and Capitalism drive this industry for the benefit of the few. In fact many people are harmed and underpaid for their benefit.
H&M probably talks about sustainability more than any other fast-fashion brand. It produces a Conscious collection made using sustainable and recycled materials, creates glossy ad campaigns to encourage garment recycling, and has a voucher program offering discounts to those who donate their old clothes at its stores. On April 18, it kicked off a major project intended to collect 1,000 tons of used clothes, called World Recycle Week, that it’s promoting heavily, even making a music video in collaboration with rapper M.I.A. This is all set against a background where pressure is being applied for them to speed up improvements to the factories in Bangladesh where more than 1000 people lost their lives in unsafe conditions. All this so we can have a t-shirt for the price of a coffee. Why focus on clothing? Because the clothing industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, largely thanks to fast fashion companies like H&M. A simple cotton t-shirt needs 700 gallons of water to be produced. Speaking of water, there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.
Klein ended with a couple of notes. The first was The Leap Manifesto – a call for Canada based on caring for the planet and one another. Her final words were recalled from a friend of her’s who was asked ‘what can i do as an individual?’ to which he replied ‘what you can do as an individual is to stop thinking of yourself as an individual’. When top down does not work, perhaps bottom up is the way to go. The facts are there and if we do not keep to the agreement set out in Paris recently “Holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels”, then I worry if our kids will see the world we and every generation before us grew up in.
Stop buying shit. Buy less, buy better and recycle.