A long story of our T-shirt

planetmoney t-shirt

 

 

Visit an apparel store, choose the best, most trendy, or candy-colored t-shirt as you like, pay it, and wear it: these are, in a sequence of events, the same things all of us virtually do.

But hold on a second. Do we really bother to know how a t-shirt gets made, and arrives, in the long run, into our department store? The story itself, if you think deeper, doesn’t turn out to be as simple as we ever imagine. Before we ever set ourselves to go round the planet, the cotton, and the t-shirt afterwards, has preceded us.

Probably our cotton is planted, at its best, in United States, using all the advanced machinery and genetically modified variants to yield the best quality, or at its worst, in Uzbekistan, where millions of people are, in a Hobson’s choice situation, conscripted into the country’s repressive, forced-labor cotton-planting system run by the regime’s cronies.  Probably the cotton is then processed somewhere else in Indonesia, Bangladesh, or in Colombia. Probably the t-shirt gets made in Bangladesh or in Cambodia, where most of the workers are paid decent wages with little safety standards. Or possibly, for happier end, produced in Colombia, where minimum wages are much slightly higher than those in average developing countries.

It takes money, time, sacrifice, blood, and even tears, to bring all these t-shirts to us, customers. 4 million people in Bangladesh, employed in the country’s garment industry, and mostly women, are salaried with one of the world’s lowest minimum wages; still, though, despite all the international protests, particularly after the Rana Plaza incident which killed up to 1,000 people, they feel relatively ‘safer’ than back in their villages; they can afford to pay off family debts; they gain more ‘freedom’ than having to be married off to local men who oftentimes become abusive; and, last but not least, they can provide enough money to pay for their children’s, or relatives’, education and healthcare. With all the hardships going on, they are creating dreams not only for themselves, but also for their families, and indirectly, for the whole nation currently experiencing economic boom, at the expense of their perspiration and hard work.

This is not only taking place in Bangladesh; elsewhere in this planet, either in Indonesia, Colombia, Cambodia, Uzbekistan, or even the United States, everybody is building up better dreams, one t-shirt at a time.

Watch the videos at NPR’s Planet Money to increase your understanding about your t-shirt.

 

NB: the picture above is Planet Money’s t-shirt, the manufacturing processes by which have been recorded, from how the cotton is planted, processed, and made into t-shirt, to how it is shipped back to the States.

Creating a more humane face of cities

bogota colombia

21st century marks the first time bulk of human civilization lives in urban settlements rather than in villages. With urban population expected to surpass 80% of the global numbers by 2030, and with human population expected to reach in between 9 and 10 billion by 2050, a few thousand more new cities will have to be added worldwide in order to sustain the population increase, and the subsequent urbanization that follows. Most of the development, meanwhile, is expected to take place in developing countries, either in Africa or in Asia.

Nevertheless, as cities keep on growing, challenges remain. With overall annual incomes and costs of living rising, social inequality will imminently occur. Some people will get rich, and more of them will end up in poverty. In a string of domino effects that follow, shantytowns will form, urban patterns become addle-pate and unpredictable, and population density will spiral out of control. Solutions have been proposed, ranging from acquiring lands and routes to provide greater public access and greenbelt areas for more populace to creating mass transit public transport systems in low costs, but such ideas can only easily apply to new cities which are going to be built in the 50 years to come. And what about those huge cities which have been existent for centuries, complete with all their seemingly unsolvable problems? The challenges get even trickier.

In this TED talk, Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogota (1998-2000, pictured above), would like to give his hometown as an example how he could reform, once a sprawling, messy, and seemingly brutal metropolis into one with a more humane face.

Excerpt:

We fought not just for space for buses, but we fought for space for people, and that was even more difficult. Cities are human habitats, and we humans are pedestrians. Just as fish need to swim or birds need to fly or deer need to run, we need to walk. There is a really enormous conflict, when we are talking about developing country cities, between pedestrians and cars. Here, what you see is a picture that shows insufficient democracy.What this shows is that people who walk are third-class citizens while those who go in carsare first-class citizens. In terms of transport infrastructure, what really makes a difference between advanced and backward cities is not highways or subways but quality sidewalks.Here they made a flyover, probably very useless, and they forgot to make a sidewalk. This is prevailing all over the world. Not even schoolchildren are more important than cars.