Power, Money & Fashion?

Written by Dayna Lindo


When we think of pollution, we envision coal power plants, strip-mined mountaintop,s and raw sewage piped into our waterways. We don’t often think about the shirts on our backs, how they get to us, and where they end up once we no longer need them. The impact the fashion industry has on our planet though is quite grim.

It would shock many fashion lovers (It definitely shocked me) to find out the clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world, just a smidgen cleaner than the oil industry. An extreme demand for quick and cheap clothes is destroying our environment.

It’s very likely that the shirt you are wearing traveled to you after coming halfway around the world in a container ship fueled by the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

Pollutants such as pesticides used in cotton farming, toxic dyes used in manufacturing, and the waste of discarded clothing play a role in the destruction of our planet. Add ot that the extravagant amount of natural resources used in extraction, farming, harvesting, processing, manufacturing and shipping.

Another issue, and arguably the most overlooked, is the physical and mental warfare the fashion industry wages on workers, farmers, and citizens in third world countries. The battle is joined by the pressure the West places on industry executives in the countries where people make the clothing.

It is painful to admit that fashion and the pressure to keep up with it has ahuge negative impact on not only third world countries, but the entire world. But it is also understandable that, frankly, people love fashion. Should we have to sacrifice what we love for our world?

We don’t have to.

Safia Minney is a British social entrepreneur and author. She has done amazing things to combat the negative impact the fashion industry has on our planet. She is a well-known spokesperson and campaigner on fair trade and ethical fashion. In 1999, she initiated World Fair Trade Day which is endorsed by the World Fair Trade Organization and their members. It is celebrated on the second Saturday of May each year.

bPerhaps her greatest accomplishment has been the birth of People Tree. People Tree is recognized by customers and the fashion industry as a pioneer in fair trade and environmentally sustainable fashion. For over 20 years, People Tree has partnered with fair trade artisans and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco-fashion collections. Minney and her team make it their mission to create a new way of doing business by creating access to markets and opportunities for people who live in the developing world.

Minney is not the only person seeking to transform the fashion industry into something more environmentally friendly. There are many other organizations such as Fashion Revolution, the Sustainable Apparel Coalitiondoing similar work. As a fashion lover, I realize it is the responsibility of the consumer to invest in these organizations to start the ball rolling. Be mindful of the effect your dollar has because with great power, comes great responsibility.

Each week the editors of the Corral will be highlighting their favorite blog posts from the department of Communication’s senior seminar course. This semester the course focuses on the issues of income inequality and poverty in the United States. Check out the class blog here. A link to Dayna’s original post can be found here.

R.I.P to the American Dream

Written by Steven Mahoney

If, like many Americans, your American dream is to build a better life for your children, you might be better off moving to Denmark, Norway, Finland, or Canada.

single_moms_business_deskAn article by Miles Corak for Pathways magazine analyzes vast amounts of data surrounding intergenerational earnings mobility, or the percentage change in child earnings for each percentage change in parental earnings.

In the U.S., 40 to 50 percent of income inequality is passed on to children through generations. This is closer to countries like Peru, South Africa, China, and Brazil where 50 to 60 percent of income inequality is passed on generationally. On the other end of the spectrum is Denmark, Norway, Finland and Canada, where less than 20 percent of inequality is passed down generationally.

ladderThis may come to a surprise to many Americans, especially those who believe the American Dream is still intact. Corak finds that money isn’t the only thing that matters for increasing intergenerational earnings mobility. This is a better system, Corak said, because children need more than just money to flourish. In a high-mobility country like Canada, a much higher percentage of parents read to their children on a daily basis regardless of parental education level.

In the United States, a higher percentage of mothers are in poor health. Why? We have expensive healthcare and no federal paid sick leave policy. A higher percentage of mothers are forced to work full-time jobs to make ends meet. That’s not the case with countries with higher economic mobility. The United States also has more children born to teen moms, and less children who live with both biological parents.

Corak says that there are three takeaway from this information: stable and secure families are central to childhood development and must be promoted, work-family balance needs to shift in favor of families, and the playing field needs to open up to the disadvantaged early on because it’s more difficult to create opportunity after the fact.

Each week the editors of the Corral will be highlighting their favorite blog posts from the department of Communication’s senior seminar course. This semester the course focuses on the issues of income inequality and poverty in the United States. Check out the class blog here. A link to Steven’s original post can be found here.