Created by Holly Lovering over 5 years ago
According to a recent estimate, the ingredients of a typical UK Christmas lunch collectively travel around 130 000 km. In the past, Christmas meals - as well as the presents given - would probably have originated locally within the UK. Now food and toys are transported from all over the world by plane, lorry or container ship. For example, a Christmas dinner might include:~frozen turkeys flown into the UK from Thailand.~wine flown into the UK from New Zealand.~runner beans flown into the UK from Zambia.Of course, it's still possible to obtain ingredients locally. A London family could source an organic free-range goose from Norwich as well as wine and sprouts from Kent. However, these products might well cost more - costs of production in less developed countries are lower. Efficient transport systems also help to keep prices down, Large container ships move enormous volumes of produce. The unit cost of food items and manufactured toys barely rises, even when goods have travelled all the way from China to the UK. Transnational corporations (TNCs) help drive this change, looking for the cheapest possible location to grow food or assemble manufactured goods for the Christmas market.For instance, one of the most popular items on UK high streets for Christmas 2005 was a toy called Roboraptor. Selling at around £80, the product was manufactured by a Chinese company, Wah Shing Toys, using very cheap labour. The city of Dongguan, where Wah Shing is based, is known as 'Santa's workshop' because so many of the world's toys are made there. Working 24 days, 7 days a week, the Dongguan factory produced 1.5 million Roboraptors in the run-up to Christmas 2005. The workforce was more than doubled, from 3 000 to 7 000, during this period. The firm employs many rural migrants and prefers women, who are more dextrous.The globalisation of Christmas does not finish at the end of the holiday season. The UK government-sponsored Recycle Now organisation estimates that 1 billion Christmas cards, 8 million Christmas trees, 750 million extra bottles and 500 million jars need to be disposed of each year. Much of this waste is now sent back to China for recycling, as it is far cheaper to process materials there than in the UK.What do you think? Should we buy locally, then? In situations like this, its easy to say that for environmental and ethical reasons, we should buy locally. However, without the overseas demand there would have been 7 000 people who were not employed by the Dongguan factory that year. Buying food and products from Newly Industrialised Countries (NICs) and Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs) helps to support people living there, especially if you buy free trade. But if you balance that against the cost to the planet? It's an interesting dilemma.
Globalisation and Christmas