Last week I asked Sheila Marshall, the dressmaker on Station Street, to alter my daughter Anna’s winter coat. In the spirit of make-do-and-mend I was keen to support a local artisan whose skills will become important when the fossil fuel fiesta winds down. It turns out Sheila had just returned from a trip to China, a package tour that took her to Beijing, Shanghai and beyond. It was like a Hollywood set, she said: from the top deck of the double-decker tour bus, she could see behind the glossy façades into the filthy shanty towns behind, whose roofs were piled high with coal soot. My friend Gordon also told me last week that when villagers enter these shiny new cities, they are rounded up and given work in factories for minimum board and lodging, often never to be seen again (perhaps from choice).
It’s dawning on me that I’ve been supporting economic slavery, without being fully aware of human beings in the Far East making cheap Primark clothes, and of Kenyan mothers growing Valentines flowers for a pittance, killing the great lakes and soils of African lands, and their history and community. It’s more insidious than forced labour: sometimes the great economic beast of western consumption just makes it so. So. That’s it. I’m going local for clothes. On the whole, I’ll be buying from some of the great ethical shops in Lewes: Gossypium and Susanna Wolf, along with second hand clothes: Roundabout, Stock Exchange, Barefoot Herbs, as well as all the great charity shops around. I hear M&S is investing in fair-trade cotton too; organic knickers, why not? Apparently, it's the bicentennial year of the abolition of slavery. I wish.