Archive for the World Category

A Stickman Story of Conscious Consumption

Posted in World on April 27, 2008 by ahchen

Annie Leonard, an expert in international sustainability and environmental health issues, gives a fast-paced walkthrough of the Extraction, Production, Distribution, Consumption, and Disposal phases of the consumer goods life cycle in The Story of Stuff.

Informative and fast-paced, the video aims to raise public awareness of consumerism and global corporations with Annie’s passionate narrative and simple stickman illustrations. It’s an excellent presentation style.

However, the issue raised on dipping pillows in brominated flame retardants (BFRs) before selling them seems too extreme and frightening to ah chen. My 香香枕头 has been killing my brain cells all this while?!

Blogger Andy Brian did some research on BFRs after being freaked out by Annie’s claim, and so far there’s no concrete research findings to back up Annie.

From the perspective of a ex-NSF fireman, restricting the use of fire retardants is a tricky issue. On one hand we need to protect consumers from an industrial chemical, on the other hand we can’t compromise the fire safety of firefighters. You’ll only understand if you’ve experienced the heat. My *ahem* shrank when I was inside a burning warehouse.

There’re other areas of the video which aren’t well-supported and sound biased (covered pretty well by Andy), but given the time constraint of 20 minutes, it was a commendable feat in driving home the message of sensible and conscious consumption.

Capitalism has its benefits and rewards those who strive for their best, but it takes a narrow view of assuming humans are one-dimensional beings concerned with only the pursuit of maximum profits and utility. The Story of Stuff and China Blue both suggest that this system is in need of some modifications and tweaking.

Below is my favourite part of the clip. The animations depict the mindless rat race perfectly. Catch this provocative video in its entirety here!


Putting a Face on “Made in China”

Posted in World on April 27, 2008 by ahchen

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind whenever you see this label?

Cheap products? Inferior quality merchandise? Globalisation? Outsourcing? Human rights exploitation?

China Blue, a documentary with a title that seems more appropriate for a X-rated film, takes the viewer into a jeans sweatshop and provides perspectives from the factory’s boss and a teenage worker, Jasmine.

I shall leave you to explore the film’s webby for a thorough synopsis, information on the jeans business and some behind-the-scenes bites.

The documentary is almost an hour long, but ah chen guarantees it’ll be time well-spent. Considering the state of media control in China, Micha Peleg‘s efforts in producing the film is already worthy of support. Slip into the Levis’ you bought for CNY, and see how 17-year old Jasmine and her friends slogged to earn RMB$1 of your $100.

Edited: something’s funny with the embedded video, watch it here.

Ultimately I think we, the consumers, are the root cause of Jasmine’s working condition. I’m guilty of that. I want quality products at low cost, and I want my stock portfolio to yield a steady stream of dividends. Such expectations from consumers and shareholders keep the capitalism machine running, and 20years later, we’ll see documentaries titled “Uganda Blue” and “Haiti Blue” on PBS when companies shift their manufacturing bases.

So, are there any solutions for a more humane working condition for Jasmine? Allow me to finish “Creating a world without poverty” and see what I can pick from Muhammad Yunus’s brain. At the moment, Diana Saw, a Singaporean social entrepreneur is playing a part in alleviating the labour rights problem in developing nations. Do drop by Bloom Bags if you have the chance to go Cambodia.

I’m thankful that I chanced upon China Blue at Diana’s blog, Cambodia Calling. for I’m a more conscious consumer now. The next time I come across a “Made in China” apparel label, the least that I can do is to send my well wishes to the Jasmines out there.