November 26, 2010

Black Friday Musings

So this morning my friend texted me to tell me that she'd gotten a pair of jeans for five dollars. Another posted on Facebook that his iPod had broken, but it was five years old so there wasn't any point in fixing it. All of this is pretty much normal.


If I get a pair of jeans for five dollars, how much of that goes to the cost of materials and production - cotton that has to be planted and grown and harvested by someone, huge amounts of water that go into dying the jeans, not to mention the chemicals in the dye itself? How much goes to the people who actually put the jeans together, probably women in a factory halfway around the world? How much goes to advertising, or to the marketing guy who wrote the advertisement, or into the CEO's holiday bonus?

Five dollars really doesn't seem to reflect the number of people whose work somehow contributes to that pair of jeans that I'll wear for a few years and then throw away.

Or an iPod. Is that made at that same factory in China that had to put up nets to keep its employees from attempting suicide? Are the little bits of different minerals that went into making all the incomprehensible inner workings of the little computer mined in an ethical way? And if all that trouble went into making a little device I can play my music on, why should it stop working and become pointless to fix so quickly? And what will happen when I decide to throw it away - where will the toxic bits end up?

(Can you tell I've been watching The Story of Stuff?)

Not that I don't like the idea of a five dollar pair of jeans or a new iPod. But still, it troubles me to think about where these things come from...

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