Workers unions in the United States have lost some of the muscle they struggled so hard to acquire in the last century, and watching The True Cost makes it very clear what a dangerous slope that is. It also makes clear how complicit the American public is, albeit unknowingly, in the exploitation that makes “fast fashion” so affordable.
In the 1960s, 95 percent of the clothing sold in the U.S. was still made here. Now it’s dropped to only 3 percent. Sure, clothing is cheap, but the cost is horrific. We’ve lost thousands of American jobs, and the $3 trillion fashion industry has made enormous profits by hiring cheap labor and getting unprecedented tax breaks.
Cheap fashion rides on the back of workers—predominantly woman and often children—in countries such as Bangladesh and India who earn less than $3 a day and live with toxic byproducts of manufacturing. Cancer and birth defects are rampant; in just one village in Punjab, there are 70 to 80 mentally retarded children as a result of toxic waste, and there’s no money to care for them.
Add to that 250,000 reported farmer suicides in India due to problems caused by chemical companies such as Monsanto and you start to see the extent of the negative impact of our consumption on just one country.
Our media bombards us with the message that, “The way to solve the problems in your life is consumption,” notes renowned environmentalist Vandana Shiva. We can’t all afford the big-ticket items, so we buy a total of 80 billion items of new clothing a year.
Many more grim stories and alarming statistic are in this film, but you owe it to yourself to watch it, especially if you have a fast-fashion habit. Your bank account and the environment will be grateful, and chances are you’ll spend less time at the mall. (Bullfrog Films)
This article is a part of the Transformation Issue – December 2015/January 2016 issue of Whole Life Times.