Where It All Comes From
Reach out and put your hand on an object nearby.
What is it? Where was it made? If it’s mass-produced, there’s usually an origin mark.
Where did you get this object? Where did the people you got it from get it? How many hands have touched this object on it’s journey to you?
What raw materials were used in making this thing? What countries did those come from? How were they mined or extracted or grown? What is life like for those miners or farmers?
What processes did the raw materials go through to become the object in your hand? How much electricity was used, how much oil or coal? What waste was produced in its manufacture? What’s life like in and around those factories?
Here in the US, our early childhood consumer training is just to want things, not to ask questions about where they came from. where things come from. We’re only trained to want things,
But as consumers and producers of global commerce, we are unwitting participants in whatever damage was done upstream, before the product gets to our hands.
And we should make an effort to at least be curious about the vast amount of manufactured stuff that surrounds us.
We know there’s damage in the things we buy, sometimes for the workers, and the environment, and sometimes for us. But just because there’s damage doesn’t mean we should look away. We need to be clear-eyed about the stuff around us. We should be asking more question about it’s provenance.
The time of magical thinking is over. We can no longer expect stuff to be on the shelf when we want it, without giving a thought to how it got there.
None of us can be an expert on every product we use. But that shouldn’t stop us from asking questions about where it all comes from. Even more true if the reason we’re not asking is that we won’t like the answers.