(A.K.A. ECOCRITICISM 101)
Note that this is NOT the current website for Eng 22.
This is an archived website from 2020-2021.
A new site will be posted in the Fall of 2021-2022.
(Jump down to Syllabus)
I just stumbled on this page. What’s this all about?
This website contains a university course on ecocriticism. It is a complete course and completely open to the public. Although the only way to receive university credit for the course is by taking English 22 at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), it is nonetheless possible to access all of the lectures for that course on this website, free of cost.
Why is English 22 also called Ecocriticism 101?
The URL associated with this material is “ecocriticism101.com.” However, the UCSB course that this is based upon has the designation “English 22, Introduction to Literature and the Environment.” Sorry for any confusion – as this is hardly an ideal situation – but this is how UCSB designates its courses. Nonetheless, Eng 22 is a 101 (i.e. introductory) course on ecocriticism. Why not stick with the name “English 22” throughout? The simple fact is that it’s hardly a descriptive name. Actually, it’s not even a little descriptive… So, in order to make the course immediately recognizable to an online audience as an introduction to the climate crisis, it is also known as “Ecocriticism 101.”
Course Overview and Approach
This course is a sweeping survey of Western literature and culture from an environmental perspective.
In much the same way that feminist critics are interested in literary representations of gender and women, ecological literary and cultural critics (or simply “ecocritics”) explore how our relationship to nature is imagined. As with changing perceptions of gender, such literary representations are not only generated by particular cultures, they play a significant role in generating those cultures. Thus, if we wish to understand contemporary America’s attitude toward the environment, its literary history is an excellent place to start.
While authors such as Thoreau and Wordsworth may first come to mind in this context, literary responses to environmental concerns are often as old as the issues themselves. Deforestation, air pollution, endangered species, wetland loss, animal rights, and rampant consumerism have all been appearing as controversial issues in Western literature for hundreds – and in some cases thousands – of years.
Starting with an excerpt from one of the West’s earliest texts, The Myth of Gilgamesh, this course will explore the often-ignored literary and cultural history of the natural world.
In addition to being an introduction to literature and the environment, we will also be considering philosophy, history, religion, and culture from an environmental perspective. Thus, this course also provides an introduction to the environmental humanities, including environmental history, eco-philosophy, eco-theology, eco-art history, architecture and the environment, and (through the course’s films) environmental media studies.
The UCSB Current published an article on this course entitled, “Earthly Concerns.”
The course lecturer is Professor Ken Hiltner, who wrote and recorded all this material. Whenever something is written in the first person (i.e. “I believe that…”), it is Ken’s voice that you are hearing. In addition to the University of California, Santa Barbara, Ken has taught at Harvard, where he received his Ph.D., and at Princeton, where he served for a year as the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and Humanities at Princeton University’s Environmental Institute (PEI). Ken is the founding Director of UCSB’s Environmental Humanities Initiative.
He/His/Him; always “Ken,” never “Professor Hiltner.”
Syllabus for English 22,
“Introduction to Literature and the Environment”
(a.k.a. “Ecocriticism 101”)
About this syllabus
This is the official syllabus for Eng 22 for the Fall of 2020. For general information on the class, see the above Introduction.
Lectures and Readings:
Each of the ten weeks of the quarter you will watch two lectures videos (i.e. there are 20 total lectures). Each Lecture is generally 60-90 minutes in length. These lectures all stream from YouTube to this website. They can be accessed via the above “Weekly Schedule.”
If YouTube is blocked in your country, the two video talks will also be uploaded to GauchoSpace (GauchoCast).
There is a corresponding reading for each week. The readings are listed on the webpage for that week.
You may either do the weekly readings prior to watching the lectures or after. The choice is yours. You may well find the weekly readings more interesting if you first watch Ken’s lecture contextualizing them.
Every Monday morning at 6am (PST), a link to the current week’s webpage will appear in the above “Weekly Schedule.” The weekly webpages will contain that week’s two lectures.
Two short quizzes, one for each of the lectures that you watch that week, will become active on GauchoSpace by 6am (PST) that Thursday. You have exactly one week (i.e. until 6am the following Monday) to do the readings and watch both lectures and take both quizzes, at which point the quizzes will close.
Simply put, with respect to the lectures and readings, each week you will 1) do the readings, 2) watch two lecture videos, and then 3) take a quiz on each videoed talk.
Each quiz has five questions and is worth 2.5% of the course grade. Since there are 20 lectures and 20 corresponding quizzes, the quizzes are worth 50% of the total course grade. (Please see the “Course Grades” below for more details on the weekly quizzes.)
Please note that questions on the course readings for the week may appear in either of the weekly quizzes.
Therefore, do not take either quiz until you have done the readings!
Note that while the previous week’s quizzes will become inactive when the new quizzes drop, the YouTube lectures will remain up. This is so that you can refer back to them when preparing for the midterm and final exams.
Each of the ten weeks of the quarter you will watch one or more films (i.e. documentaries). Film details can be accessed via the above “Weekly Schedule.” These films either stream from GauchoSpace (GauchoCast) or are available free online.
Ken has recorded a short introductory talk for each week’s film(s), which stream from YouTube but can be viewed on this website on the weekly pages. After watching the weekly film and Ken’s introductory talk, please go to YouTube to make a comment on Ken’s weekly talk. Each of your weekly film comments made on YouTube is worth 2% of the course grade. Since there are 10 film assignments, these comments are thus worth 20% of the total course grade. Please see “Comment on the Course Films” below for more details.
If YouTube is blocked in your country, Ken’s short introductory weekly talk will also be uploaded to GauchoSpace (GauchoCast) and a forum will be open every week on GauchoSpace for you to make your comment there (rather than YouTube).
Please note: As with the weekly readings, you may well find the films more interesting if you first watch Ken’s talk contextualizing them. Then, after watching the film(s), you can go to Ken’s talk on YouTube to comment.
The midterm will open on GauchoSpace at 6 AM (PST) on Friday, November 6 and close at 6 AM (PST) on Saturday, November 7. Hence, it will be open for a total of 24 hours, during which you may take it at a time of your choosing.
Please save this date!
The midterm will consist of 30 questions that are each worth .5% of the course grade. Consequently, the midterm is worth 15% of the total course grade. The midterm will cover the first five weeks of the course (i.e. the first 10 lectures and the first 5 film assignments). Please see the “Course Grades” below for more details on the midterm.
The final exam will open on GauchoSpace at 6 AM (PST) on Friday, December 11 and close at 6 AM (PST) on Saturday, December 12. Hence, it will be open for a total of 24 hours, during which you may take it at a time of your choosing.
Please save this date!
The final exam will take the same exact form as the midterm: It will consist of 30 questions that are each worth .5% of the course grade. Consequently, the final exam is worth 15% of the total course grade. The final exam will cover the last five weeks of the course (i.e. the final 10 lectures and the final 5 film assignments). Please see the “Course Grades” below for more details.
Please direct all questions to your TA, not Ken:
If your last name begins with A-L, your TA is Sydney Lane (firstname.lastname@example.org). She/Her/Hers.
If your last name begins with M-Z, your TA is Aili Pettersson Peeker (email@example.com). She/Her/Hers.
Whenever possible, please post any questions that you may have to the Q&A forum – which can be accessed at the top of the course GauchoSpace landing page – rather than emailing them to your TA. The course TAs and Ken will be monitoring the Q&A for questions.
1) Weekly Quizzes are worth 50% of the total course grade. There will be two quizzes per week over the 10-week term with five questions per quiz (i.e. 100 total quiz questions). Therefore, as there will be 100 questions total over the term, each quiz question is worth one half percent (.5%) of the total course grade. The quizzes are all multiple-choice. You will generally be selecting from five possibilities.
The quizzes will ask questions about the course readings and lectures. Generally, the quizzes will not ask about the weekly documentaries. Note that questions will come from the lectures and not just the lecture notes (i.e. Prezi). In other words, sometimes Ken will introduce new material during the actual talk that is not on the Prezi. You are responsible for this material and may be tested on it. Therefore, do not skip the talk and just read the Prezi! If you do this, there will be questions on the exam that you will not be able to answer.
The quizzes are automatically (and randomly) created in GauchoSpace, as the five questions that you answer on each quiz will come from a large pool of questions and will be randomized in order. Therefore, there will be dozens of different versions of each weekly quiz. This is being done to discourage academic dishonesty. It would make little sense to share the questions that you receive with anyone else, as they will be taking an entirely different quiz. While this could mean that the quiz that you take one week may be somewhat more (or less) difficult than someone else’s quiz, because there are total of 20 quizzes throughout the term, everything should balance out in the end.
Once you start a quiz, you need to finish it, as pausing is not possible. The quizzes are all five minutes long. Therefore, you have an average of one minute to complete each of the five multiple choice questions.
2) Midterm and Final exams are each worth 15% of course grade (i.e. 30% total for the two exams). Each exam has 30 multiple choice questions. Therefore, each exam question is worth one half percent (.5%) of the total course grade. Note that exam questions and quiz questions are therefore each worth the same amount. As with the quizzes, the exam questions are all multiple-choice and you will generally be selecting from five possibilities.
Each exam will be 30 minutes long. As there are 30 questions per exam, you therefore have an average of one minute to complete each multiple choice question. Once you start an exam, you need to finish it, as pausing is not possible.
Exam questions and quiz questions will all be drawn from the same GauchoSpace pool. For example, the same pool of questions that generated the first 10 quizzes will also be used to create the midterm. Therefore, you may encounter some exam questions that you had on a weekly quiz. As with the quizzes, the exams will automatically (and randomly) be created in GauchoSpace in order to discourage academic dishonesty. In addition to questions on the readings and lectures, the exams will also include questions on the course documentaries.
3) Comments on the Course Films are worth 20% of the total course grade. Since there are 10 films assignments, each film comment is hence worth 2% of the course grade.
Each week you will be commenting on the weekly film(s) on the course YouTube channel (Ecocriticism101). You will be notified of the week’s film via the above “Weekly Schedule.”
You have seven days to make the weekly comments. The links for Ken’s weekly videos will become active at 6am (PST) of every Monday morning. You must comment by 6am (PST) the following Monday to receive credit for the comment. If you do not wish to use your real name on YouTube, you may use a screen name, but you need to inform your TA if you are doing so.
All commenting should be done on Ken’s YouTube film videos, which will be posted at the beginning of each week. Note that if a film that we are screening appears on YouTube, such as Hasan Minhaj’s “The Ugly Truth Of Fast Fashion,” DO NOT comment on this video directly but rather to Ken’s commentary on it. Only comments made to Ken’s YouTube videos will be credited toward your course grade.
Six of your YouTube comments (i.e. 3 of the first 5 and 3 of the second 5) should be made to a comment made by a fellow student. Since comments are made to YouTube, you are able to see what your classmates have written. Reading through them can be a thought-provoking experience, as it can give you the opportunity to see the sorts of reactions others have had. (This might also help you assess your own work, as you can see how much time and thought that your classmates are giving to the assignment.) As you no doubt know, online discussions are not only possible, but are often particularly thoughtful, as we have the benefit of time in making our replies well considered.
If you cannot comment directly on YouTube (for example, if YouTube is blocked in your country), a forum will be open every week on GauchoSpace for you to make your comment. Presumably, even if YouTube is not directly available in your country, you should be able to watch the video streamed from the course website. If you cannot watch it from the course website, please note this in the course Q&A on GauchoSpace or contact Ken directly.
Getting graded on your comments:
As you make your weekly comments, please cut and paste each of them into a single text file on your computer. If you do this as you make them, you will save yourself the trouble of trying to find them on YouTube.
1) Comments for the first five films need to be uploaded to GauchoSpace by midnight (PST) on Sunday, November 8.
2) Comments for the second five films need to be uploaded to GauchoSpace by midnight (PST) on Sunday, December 13.
To upload your comments to GauchoSpace, please do the following:
1) Open up the course GauchoSpace page,
2) Select “November 2 – November 8” for the 1st group of films or “December 7 – December 13” for the 2nd group of films.
3) Click the assignment titled “Film Comments” and a text box will pop up.
4) Copy and paste your five comments as text into the box, rather than uploading them in a Word doc or PDF. Please make sure to include all five of your comments.
5) Please indicate whether each of your comments is a “reply” to a peer or your “original” comment so that we can see that you have made six “reply” comments total by the end of the quarter.
6) Please make sure you hit the “SUBMIT ASSIGNMENT” button.
If you have any questions about the above procedure, please post them to the course Q&A on GauchoSpace or contact your TA. Your TA will provide more information on the above as we get closer to these deadlines.
There are three required texts for this course:
1) The Course Reader is available from SBprinter in the UCen. You can order it directly from their website, either by getting digital access to it ($32.66) or by ordering a hardcopy ($42). According to their website, if you choose digital access you will “be emailed a direct link for viewing within 1 business day of purchase.” Here is the link to SBprinter’s page for the Reader.
2) Walden; Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau. I will provide you with a free online version of this text. However, if you would like to have a hardcopy, Dover has a sturdy and inexpensive paperback edition (ISBN-10: 0486284956). Last I checked, Amazon was selling this edition for $4.99. Walden is also available on Kindle (free), ePub (also free), and in spoken form through Audible ($2.73).
3) Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Amazon currently lists the Houghton Mifflin paperback (ISBN-10: 0618249060) at $9.29. Kindle and Audible versions are also available. The Kindle version seems especially appealing, as it only cost $2 and Amazon offers free Kindle apps for most computers and devices.
I did what I could to keep the cost of the required texts low. In theory, if you go all digital by opting for digital access to the Course Reader and the Kindle version of Silent Spring, total cost for the course texts prior to any applicable tax should be under $35.
How do I enroll in the Honors Section?
Email Ken with your reasons for wanting to join the Honors Section by midnight of the first Wednesday of the first week of class (Oct 4, 2020). Note that the Honors Section will be online and asynchronous.
Where are the course updates?
I (Ken) will primarily be communicating with the class by way of the “Course Updates” doc (which is located at the top of our GauchoSpace landing page), rather than emails.
My reason for this approach is that it consolidates the updates and notices of changes to the course in one convenient place where you can quickly scroll down and see them all – rather than searching through a slew of emails from me in your Inbox.
Similarly, check the Q&A (see below) regularly, as important points will no doubt be brought up there throughout the term.
In short, in order to make sure that you have not missed important information, please regularly check the course Updates and Q&A!
Where is the course material located?
While we will be using GauchoSpace for the quizzes and exams, as well as to disseminate information (like this page and the course Q&A), the course content is primarily located on my personal website, which is housed on English Department servers. Note that anyone can access this material, regardless of whether they are in the class or enrolled at UCSB.
Why do it this way?
Knowledge, as far as I (Ken) am concerned, should be as free and accessible as possible to everyone. This is especially the case when it relates to urgent issues of concern to us all, such as our current climate and environmental crisis.
Hence, as anyone can view the course content, feel free to share it with friends and family members who may be interested.
Does this course have discussion sections?
No, it does not. Even though you will be assigned a TA, there are no discussion sections in this course. All course content will be delivered through Ken’s talks, the readings, and the course documentaries. Weekly course discussions will primarily take place through the comments on the documentaries.
Is it possible to get extra credit in this class?
Unfortunately, no. The class is just too large (1000+ students!) for the two course TAs to keep track of extra credit.
Questions? Don’t email, instead post them to the course Q&A!
Whenever possible, please post any questions that you may have to the Q&A forum – which can be accessed at the top of the course GauchoSpace landing page – rather than emailing them to me (Ken) or your TA. The course TAs and I will be monitoring the Q&A for questions.
Because we have such a large class (1000+ people!), the answer to your question may benefit a number of your classmates, not just you.
For example, let’s say that I noted something in one of the lectures that seemed to somewhat contradict what was on the Prezi. As my response to your question may help clarify a real ambiguity, everyone in the class could potentially benefit by reading it. Moreover, if you are unclear about a technical detail, such as how to upload your documentary comments to GauchoSpace, the clarification could help everyone.
Feel free to answer any questions that you can, as you may be able to really help someone! Although the course TAs and I will be routinely checking this forum for new questions, your help is most welcome.
For example, let’s say that at 11pm someone posts that they are confused about where to find the course films. It is unlikely that the TAs and I will read this till the next morning. However, if you happen to see this post at 11:30pm, you could explain where GauchoCast is on GauchoSpace and how it works. In so doing, you could help someone out who was hoping to watch the film that night. It is also sometimes the case that people are looking for material that can be found on the course website or GauchoSpace. In which case, all that you need to do is point them in the right direction.
Because a number of important points will likely be raised throughout the quarter in the Q&A, please regularly read through it, as this will become a useful knowledge bank. If you have a question and would like a quick answer, it might just be in the Q&A.
Even though this is technically a Q&A, feel free to post comments in addition to questions to this forum. If, for example, you felt that a reading was particularly helpful (or particularly confusing), I would like to hear about it. As my goal is to keep improving this class every year, feedback like this can help me do just that.
Seriously, I am interested in hearing what you have to say!
What if I have a personal question that I do not want to post to the course Q&A?
Your TA is your primary contact person. If you have a question that you would prefer not to post to the course Q&A – for example, if it is of a personal nature – please email your TA, not me (Ken), as they coordinate the day-to-day workings of the course. Contact info for your TA is listed above.
Are some of these the same documentaries that we watch in English 23?
In fact, they are. In both Eng 22 and Eng 23 (“The Climate Crisis: What it is and what each of us can do about it”) everyone watches documentaries on a variety of topics. So that we would have one film per week of the quarter, I put together a list of my top 10 documentaries, which I require everyone in English 22 and English 23 to watch and comment upon. Does this mean that you will be watching the same films all over again in English 22 if you already had Eng 23?
No, as I have an alternate list of 10 more films for you to watch! In other words, if you have already had Eng 23, by the end of this course (Eng 22) you will have watched 20 different documentaries. In the process, your understanding of a variety of issues will hopefully deepen.
Let’s take food systems as an example. The primary documentary on this topic is Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, which explores the environmental and climate implications of a plant-based diet. The alternate documentary is Wasted! The Story Of Food Waste, which takes up the issue of food waste, both in the US and globally. Interestingly, everyone switching to plant-based diets would not make as big a dent in the climate crisis as eliminating food waste would. Since Wasted! addresses the other half of the food systems problem with respect to the climate crisis, having watched it and Cowspiracy together would give you a particularly good handle on the topic.
If you have not taken English 23 but find some of the alternate films intriguing, feel free to watch them along with the primary 10!
Couldn’t I skip watching the documentaries and get someone to do the comments for me?
Perhaps, but this would be a recipe for disaster, as you will be tested on all of the documentaries on the midterm and final exams. So, since you are required to watch the videos anyway, why not share your opinions? It is perfectly fine if you disagree with the reading, film, instructor, or your classmates. Note that instructors can use a web crawler to look for repeated comments and phrases, as well as other inconsistencies, including stylistic, in comments. Having someone else do your work is a form of academic dishonestly and will be immediately reported to UCSB’s Office of Judicial Affairs.
What role do the film comments serve, pedagogically?
One of the goals of this class, even though it is very large, is to encourage meaningful discussion among students. Hence, more than half of the time you will be responding directly to a classmate on YouTube.
What about inappropriate comments?
Because of a culture of anonymity, the Internet can sometimes be an unpleasant and nasty place. Please be not only thoughtful with your comments, but respectful as well, offering only the kind of constructive comments that you yourself would like to receive. Note that, as Ken’s YouTube talks on the documentaries are open to the public, there may be some comments that may not come from your classmates. If you encounter comments containing hate speech or otherwise threatening language, please email Ken or one of your TAs. Please also check out YouTube’s policies on reporting incidents of hate speech, harassment, or cyberbullying.
How long should a comment be and what form should they take?
Your YouTube comment on the weekly documentary should be as long as necessary to make your point(s). A paragraph or two is generally sufficient. Please make specific references to the documentary in order to make clear that you have watched it in its entirety (and not just a trailer). The purpose of this assignment is to expose you to a range of thought-provoking material that can make a real difference in your life. Consequently, your comment should contain your thoughts and feelings on the material. It is perfectly fine to express an emotional response.
Here are three comments on the film The True Cost from English 22 last Fall. They should give you some idea of what sort of comments that people make.
I thought I knew a fair amount about clothing factory workers and outsourcing when I began watching this film, but honestly I was blindsided. I had never really thought about where clothes go when people throw them away, and I’m ashamed that I did not realize the drastic impact on the environment the fashion industry has. My initial reaction was more on the emotional side as we were told stories and shown images of the hardships faced in the factories of Bangladesh. I was furious at the clothing companies for not trying harder to make sure the people they employed had a decent wage and safe conditions. I was mad at the factory owners for ignoring complaints and letting their desire for business overpower the welfare of the people. Mostly, I my heart ached for all of the people that had no other option but to work in such a place. As the movie progressed, however, I began to think more intellectually. I tried to think of ways that we could change or create laws to help those workers, ways to fix and maybe even change our economic system, and ways to make people care.
The film’s audience is definitely casual viewers because they are trying to get everyday people to start caring about other people and the environment that they could be unaware of. I think the film did a great job of communicating their message by highlighting personal stories to target people’s emotions, explaining the environmental impacts, and describing how our economy and consumerism plays an important role in the overall system. The film made me somewhat pessimistic because there are too many people in the world that simply do not care about these issues enough for the problems to be improved upon. I agree with Safia Minney, the founder and CEO of People Tree, when she said that change is coming, but we don’t know if it’ll be in time. For most of the people in the world to wake up and realize change needs to happen now, I think the situation will first need to get worse before it can get better. I would rate this movie 5/5 stars and definitely recommend it to friends and family because I think they did a fantastic job illustrating what needs to be fixed and how, and everyone needs to be educated on these things that happen around the world.
I felt that the documentary proved to be extremely effective in conveying its message regarding the monstrous effects of the clothing industry on not only the environment, but the welfare of impoverished laborers and the material-centered American psyche as well. Through the inclusion of several perspectives, including that of the underpaid factory workers in Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia, individuals working to change the the inhumane and wasteful nature of the industry, and those who refuse to see the countless negative impacts on human life, the film is able to argue its message without excluding conflicting perspectives. The most impactful way the film conveys its message to the audience is the way in which it captured the aw and painful emotions of the countless workers harmed by working in textile factories. As the majority of the film’s audience is likely American viewers with Netflix subscriptions, in allowing victims and laborers who work to produce cheap product share the the suffering and sacrifices they’ve endured, the consumers who perpetuate the system that is “fast fashion” see the direct effect on the environment and human life. In turn, a person who was once a casual viewer may now become inspired to be more aware of their spending habits. While I feel that their may be more viewers who are already concerned about the issue, as many casual viewers may not feel compelled to watch a documentary about the impacts of the clothing industry, I feel hopeful that the casual viewers who do watch it will feel the effects and become more aware of the issue.
I feel that the true power of this film lies in the emotional response it evokes from the viewer. In following the stories of a few individuals in Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia, I felt as though I could connect to some of laborers, not through experience, but rather in the sense that I was able to see their struggles through their own perspective, and realize that there are so many more real people just like them who work in inhumane conditions, without being paid enough to support their family. The film truly challenged me to be far more cautious in how much I spend on clothing, as I will now be thinking about the stories and individuals in the documentary. Along with this, I also found some information in the film to be quite surprising, such as the fact that only 10% of donated clothing is actually bought. I was completely unaware that the clothing that isn’t bought after being donated is sent in bulk to countries like Haiti, causing their textile and clothing production industry to plummet. Though the film didn’t spend a great deal of time on this issue, it really stuck with me as I always felt I was contributing to society in a positive way by donating clothing, yet I now feel conflicted as to whether the positive outweighs the negative
I can say with confidence that this film has impacted my attitude towards buying clothing. While I have a tendency to want to buy new clothing every few months as the seasons change, I will now truly think about whether or not I need to, and if so, I’ll be more cautious in regards to where I buy from. However, at the same time this film has instilled a small amount of fear in my mind as well. During the film, one interviewee made the point that while the economy and the fashion industry is perpetually expanding, the earth and it’s resources are not limitless. As we become more wasteful each year with extremely finite resources, I feel that one small thing I can do is recommend this film to friends and family with the hope that it will impact them as well. I rate this film four out of five stars as the message that it is conveying to viewers is one that is often overlooked, when in reality it is so important that it deserves to gain recognition and momentum.
I thought that the film was effective at communicating its subject. The movie achieves this, by showing the audience various first-hand perspectives of people who work for and within the fast fashion industry as well as expert opinions on the globalized system. Through the perspectives of workers in developing countries India, we can see the deterioration of those societies’ physical health (birth defects, disease, cancer), local environments, and mental health (farmer suicides). The problems were around the world, from developing countries to US soil. The film begins from the casual view of branding and fast fashion but quickly goes deeper into the problems directly linked to the industry. The alternating imagery of model shoots and luxury to poverty and environmental destruction emphasizes the contrast between what consumers see and the reality of the situation.
I think that the film’s audience is targeted toward casual viewers, since the documentary not only broadly highlights the macro issues of fast fashion and monopolizing and outsourcing of production, but delves into the lives of the people of developing countries who have to directly deal with the effects of capitalism. Having not known much about fast fashion and it’s negative effects before seeing this movie, I feel like it was very informative and brought up surprising things I never knew before.
At first, I thought that the film would be boring, but I actually found myself interested while watching it. My response was primarily intellectual at first, as I wondered how the production of my clothes is significant at all, but the tragic images from the Rana Plaza disaster and protests in Cambodia made me emotional. The film made me empathize with the victims of the collapse and riot brutality. I was also saddened by the Indian farmers spraying pesticide on their crops with no face masks or protection whatsoever. It made me think about all of the labels I usually do not give much thought into on my clothes, such as “Made in Vietnam,” China, India, Honduras, etc. The shirts may have been produced at incalculable externalities, even the blood of workers, human beings, in those countries.
I learned a lot about the fast fashion industry and how privileged consumers like me, take even our clothes for granted. I learned that this industry is second to the oil industry in emissions. I feel a bit more guilty about UNIQLO being my favorite place to shop for clothing now. The film changed my attitudes about which clothes to buy. I should be buying clothes for long-term use and spend more of my money on fashion brands that are more ethical and open about their production methods. After watching it, I feel pessimistic, because if such large industries have so much power and influence on human health and the well-being of our planet, there needs to be drastic institutional change, since capitalism is such a big part of modern society. I disagreed with Richard Wolff, as he was criticizing capitalism, but I do accept the fact that it essentially prioritizes profit over humanity.
If I were to rate the film, I would give it 4 stars out of 5. It is likely that I would recommend it to a friend, especially if they are into fashion like I am, or care about issues of environmental, social, or even political nature. It is very much worth at least knowing about the fashion industry and its influence on today’s world.