Salon has a great review of Ellen Ruppel Shell's new book Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. The Salon piece, by Stephanie Zacharek, looks particularly at design giant IKEA, and the real costs of using low cost as the metric by which we judge all value in products. IKEA is a good case for exploration, because on the one hand it is so well loved (compared, say, to Walmart), while on the other, it is the largest consumer of timber for furniture in the world, much of it from China. And China has some timber sourcing practices that are dubious, to say the least.
I'm very excited to read the book, because it seems to finally acknowledge that problems like environmental degradation are only symptoms. What is really sick is some more fundamental aspect of our relationship to material goods. As Shell points out in the short promo video for the book, it wasn't so long ago that "cheap" meant something entirely different, both when describing a product, and its purchaser. Many of the goals of Humblefacture will require that products become more expensive than they are now. I don't believe (And I hope the book will help to bear me out) that this higher monetary price will mean that the value of the object won't be worth it. My hope is that for a small increase in monetary cost, we can significantly impact social, environmental, community, and many other costs which don't get figured into IKEA's big blue pricetags.
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