The Apple factory, Foxconn manufacturing in china & why I make stuff in the USA.

If you buy stuff, especially Apple products, you owe it to yourself to go listen to the Jan 06, 2112 edition of This American Life.

Basically a guy went over to China to see where the Apple products he loves so much are made. He came home and turned it into a one man show that is absolutely riveting and totally supports my decision to make stuff in the USA (or any developed country).

Having just heard Rick Pope on The Itinerant Angler podcast I think it an appropriate time to post this. If you go back in the archives you can also hear Tim Boyle of Columbia and Yvon Chouinard wax poetic about being “international” manufacturers on earlier Itinerant Angler podcasts.

Keep in mind when listening to the This American Life show that Foxconn, the factory where many of Apple’s cool iProducts are made is a high profile high tech company, and the conditions are probably better than the places where many of our clothes and garments are made. Garment manufacture in some places is a dirty business. Dyes are used, washing systems and abrasion systems are used to distress the denim we wear. Resins and epoxy coatings are used to coat the technical fabrics we wear.

Who is making sure that the leftovers of the resins and dyes aren’t poured into the creek? Who is making sure they don’t burn the remnants because its cheaper to buy new than recycle the old? Who is protecting the workers? Who is looking out for them? Who is looking out for the environment around the factories?

A big thing I heard loud and clear in the This American piece is that things are still largely DONE BY HAND. No matter how crazy that sounds, it makes sense. Robots are expensive and take a LONG time to train. (i.e. program) People are pretty smart by comparison and learn quickly. So it makes sense.

I’m not one of those people who think everything should be made by an artisan in a workshop one at at a time. I appreciate that, and seek it out whenever possible and this blog celebrates because it’s rarity in our wold today. But for the general population that kind of manufacturing is a luxury that we can’t afford. Just like hunting all your meat and growing all your own veggies. There simply isn’t enough room for that to apply to the entire population of the world. If we want to make things sustainable we need to find a middle ground where we can take care of our environment and our workers and make things that people can use.

During the industrial revolution the United States and Europe went through what Asia and the developing world is going through right now. They owe it to the world to take the lessons we learned from history and not repeat them. Leap-frog over those problems and get to the good stuff.

Also we owe it to ourselves and to the world not to support grievous violations of workers rights, like 34 hour shifts.

When I had a good idea for a new line of products I used US based manufactures.

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