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Riverblue Documentary, Global Issues - River Pollution

Nichole Golden
Dr. Kim Reimann
POLS 2401
June 1, 2020
Writing Assignment: Riverblue
The process of making textiles in areas like China, India, and Indonesia produces
a massive amount of chemical waste, which is then dumped into the rivers. Furthermore,
these places often do not recycle the water they are using, wasting millions of gallons of
fresh water with chemical contamination. To put in perspective, when learning about
Xintang, the blue jean capital of the world, it was revealed that a single pair of Levi
jeans uses 920 gallons of water. This output of waste dumped into the rivers has affected
the local communities that live near the river and in some cases, such as the Buriganga
River, wiped out all life living in those rivers. One example of how detrimental textile
pollution can be to the people who live nearby is Dhaka, India. Two-thirds of all
pollution there is caused by the tanneries. Most of the workers in these factories are
underage, male and female, and, according to Pinaki Roy, a Daily Star Reporter covering
tannery issues, he believes the reason many of these workers are young is that dealing
with these harsh chemicals and work conditions every single day shortens their life
spans. The fashion industry is connected to these textile and tannery industries because
many big-name brands buy from these unethical factories because of the low cost with
high output. This very aspect however is what contributes to the suffering of the people
in these areas.
Thankfully, there are many who work together to speak out and spread awareness
for these happenings. Namely, Mark Angelo, a celebrated river conservationist who has
traveled the world to spread awareness of river pollution and has even worked with the
UN and created events like World Rivers Day which encourages the cleaning of rivers in
over 60 countries. Others such as Ma Jun and Tianjie Ma in China or Syeda Rizawa
Hasan, an environmental lawyer in India, work to spread awareness and research further
into the issue to combat against textile industrial pollution. IGO’s such as Greenpeace
and the UN engage with both individuals and corporations in hopes to create effective
efforts against textile waste. Greenpeace has staged worldwide protests, released reports
of pollution, and largely advertised a push for a “detox” in large name fashion brands.
Some of these brands being Adidas, Puma, H&M who have bought cheap labor
textiles from China, and the many brands purchasing from PT Gistex, an Indonesian
textile company known to have dumped tons of chemicals into the rivers of Bandung.
Brands recorded to have been purchasing from PT Gistex are the Adidas Group, Brook
Brothers, Gap Inc., H&M, and Marubeni. This film also opened my eyes to the
environmental deprivation caused by blue jeans. The chemicals in the dyes can contain
heavy metals which can travel through the entire world water system. Along the way
these toxic materials are ingested by animals and travel into nearby agriculture, which is
ultimately then consumed by humans causing various health problems. Many of the dyes
in these textiles are often correlated to cancer, such as azodyes. Learning this has made
me aware of the health damage caused to locals, as well as the fact that we are wearing
harsh chemicals on our bodies. When learning about how harmful and damaging these
cheap textiles can be it reminded me of the cheap Chinese fashion websites spread across
the internet and even made me think hard about the growing popularity of apps like
Wish, infamous for its ridiculously cheap products. It’s actually become a trend on
Youtube where many prominent personalities have made it a challenge to see how well
the products they receive are, and more often than not they are mediocre at best.
However, while involuntary, this trend has definitely sparked a use of the app and
increased the common consumer’s purchase of these shabby textiles and items.
As said in the video, the best way to decrease this fashion created industrial
pollution starts with the consumer and our responsibility to choose to purchase ethical
fashion. Many fashion and textile creators are making break throughs right now on how
to resolve this issue such as Orsola De Castro, a leader in sustainable fashion who makes
her clothes completely from recycled materials, combatting fast fashion. Because of
denim playing such a large part in this problem some brilliant minds such as Italdenim
and Jeanologia have invented ways to cut chemicals used in the process of dying and
distressing jeans, and with no extra cost. Such inventions are Jeanologia’s discovery of
using air and light to distress jeans without sanding and Italdenim’s investment in
recycling equipment and discovering how to use “chitosan” to reduce dye usage.
The main challenge that arises is in brands and consumers taking responsibility
and accepting the fact that the current way of processing textiles is severely damaging
our rivers and freshwater, which makes up a mere 1% of all water on earth, and with
textile industries using up 3.2% of that available water. My idea for a solution is that we
need to spread awareness. I did not know half the stuff I learned today from this video,
and while organizations like Greenpeace are doing their best, we as individuals need to
educate and tell others about this issue. Show them. Show them pictures of Buriganga,
and the Ganges, the dyes being poured into the water and inform our peers. Furthermore,
we need to promote and spread more awareness for companies like Italdenim and
Jeanology, which I did not know existed till previously. Let the consumers know there
are ethical companies with cost-effective products that they can direct their consumption
Personally, I was having a conversation with a fellow classmate and we were
discussing why this issue was more prevalent in areas of Asia more so than Europe and
America. I remembered from the video that the people in these areas were less likely to
speak out about environmental issues to their government and industries. During Pinaki
Roy’s report about the children workers in Dhaka, India, he stated that “they complain
but they feel like this is their fate”. I feel that as the younger generation grows and
globalization further brings together our large world, they can see more of what rivers
could be, like the rich and diverse Zambezi river in Zimbabwe. I think this globalization
needs to go both ways in where we here need to be exposed more to the harmful culture
of textile pollution, but also if we can show the people over there the beauty of what
their rivers could be, they will know something better is possible and gain the motivation
to fight for it.