Documentary Analysis – The True Cost (2015)
The documentary, The True Cost, was released in 2015. Directed by Andrew Morgan, the film is about the impact that the problems in the fashion industry had on people and the planet. We saw the broad picture of the environmental, social, and economic sectors of the fashion industry. Most viewers, including those in the fashion industry, were receptive and acknowledged the problems. They changed their lines of production to have fairly traded clothes that were free of toxic chemicals and reduced human illnesses.
Morgan was inspired to film about the problems in our capitalistic system. He read in the news about a factory collapse in Bangladesh where 1,000 people were killed. The workers protested to have the building fixed, but they were forced to re-enter. Morgan knew the brands that they were making clothes for. Up until the 1960s, clothes that were sold in the US were made here. The sustainability issues covered in this film include trafficking, environmental issues, psychological pressure and stress, and chemicals that caused human illnesses.
Local Perspective on Sustainability Issues
From a local perspective, consumers have not gained satisfaction from what they bought. Psychological research showed that consumers were pressured to buy something when sold an idea. A marketer, Tim Kaiser, explained that when materialistic values rise, so does psychological stress. Economist Richard Wolfe added that it was taboo to question the economic system which has effected psycho-social expectations.
On a social level, some people assumed that workers had a better chance than living in poverty. It seems to be the only alternative. Yet poverty is seen as an excuse for authorities in the third world to put the homeless in factories or prisons. Although consumers in the western countries assume they avoid the system but not buying from these businesses, the economic system still runs. The way that business operates needs to change.
Environmentally, fashion is creating things that can be disposable which means that clothes end up in landfills. The fashion industry is now the second largest polluting industry in the world, behind the oil industry. These take 150 or more years to decompose and emit greenhouse gasses into the air. Cancers have resulted from chemicals in the plants. Pesticides sprayed on the plants end up in the clothing. Likewise, men aged 45-55 have had lethal illnesses due to chemicals in oil and agricultural industries, including an organic cotton corporation in Texas. The Texas Organic Cotton Cooperative. dealt with people who want to and sell locally. Consumers don’t realize the global issue of pesticides having effect on the clothing that they buy. To save human labor, the cotton stripper machine automatically drives through the fields, taking the bulbs off the plants.
Another solution is shopping for fairly traded goods. This gives jobs to people with less of an advantage than others, access to healthcare, schooling, transportation, various other facilities. An additional option, with its criticism, is shopping in thrift stores. However, charity is not a sustainable solution either. 10% of things are sold in thrift stores, and much of it ends up in Haiti.
Global Perspective on Sustainability Issues
Monsanto opened different companies and has been known for genetically engineered crops. They owned a seed that had bacteria to produce a toxin that would kill insects. However, the seeds were sterile. Farmers had to buy seeds every year. Also, they still needed pesticides. Farmers who could not afford pesticide end up committing suicide. There have been 250,000 reported suicides in the past 16 years in this region. The more the pesticides were used, the more the plants needed them, yet the farmers couldn’t buy it. In every village in Punjab, there are people with mental retardation and physical handicaps due to pesticide. In India, there is a dramatic rise in cancers, birth defects, and mental illness because of pesticides. 800 mill Indians rely on the Ganges River, which is polluted, 50 million liters of toxic water. Chromium 6 infects the water and crops, which is accountable for health and the environment. It is the only drinking source in this area. Consequences include adrenal problems, numb limbs, and stomach illness. Jaundice is another disease from chromium 6, causing liver cancer. In Cambodia, workers demanded higher wages.
Socioeconomically, workers toiled long hours. Parents were unable to bring their kids with them. They send them to family and friends outside the city. They saw them once or twice a year. Fast fashion industries place order 1.5 mil. jeans for 50 cents each. Five workers were killed and 23 were arrested. In Haiti and other third world countries, jaundice was carried in the clothes passed down from thrift stores that are not able to sell clothing. Consumers were also pressured to buy things with money they did not have on things they did not need. The only people that benefited were the owners of fast fashion brand.
The scope of the film’s topics were wide enough to show environmental, social, political, and economic factors. The visuals were also very helpful, from the landfills of clothing that could not easily biodegrade to the working describing deaths and protests in Cambodia or poor working conditions in Bangladesh. Like the director of this film, his target audience are people who are consumers who are shocked about learning about how our products are made and under what circumstances. The purpose of this documentary purpose is to give many angles as possible to the problem. I do agree with the speaker with economic dredgers that the economic system is the biggest stumbling block. Although he did not go on to way that he thought the system should fall, I do think that it should before any rational reform should take place.
I thought that the film was for people who wanted to be informed about the scope of the problem behind our lifestyle of consumption. I think that this film does perk some of our empathetic tendencies and quenches our confusion and inability to respond to information given the director encourages a search into other areas of the problem, incidentally, by interviewing people from different parts of the world with different lifestyle choose and ideas, whether they are within the system of production or outside of it
The director did an articulate, in-depth analysis into analyzing the system that is corrupt. That system is production of goods based on human trafficking. Overall, I think this documentary is effective. One of the reasons is because there isn’t any shaming or loss of communication that holds the viewer's attention. It also gives some possible solutions. Fair trade was certainly a solution, but the director did not go into the criticisms, such as fair trade not reaching all poor people. One such author who attempted to go into the critique was Ngondo Sylla. However, this film came out one year after the book, The Fair Trade Scandal.
This film communicated the need for action by showing how we are all connected to each other’s actions and to the environment and its impact due to our actions. I might integrate this documentary into a behavioral change campaign by understanding for myself issues and what we can do to resolve and improve and encouraging education toward improvement. For the sake of a business’s success, nature’s economy not counted. The economic and environmental factors were not accounted for in producing goods.
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