Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plateby Rose George
Published on August 13th 2013
On ship-tracking websites, the waters are black with dots. Each dot is a ship; each ship is laden with boxes; each box is laden with goods. In postindustrial economies, we no longer produce but buy. We buy, so we must ship. Without shipping there would be no clothes, food, paper, or fuel. Without all those dots, the world would not work.
Freight shipping has been no less revolutionary than the printing press or the Internet, yet it is all but invisible. Away from public scrutiny, shipping revels in suspect practices, dubious operators, and a shady system of "flags of convenience." Infesting our waters, poisoning our air, and a prime culprit of acoustic pollution, shipping is environmentally indefensible. And then there are the pirates.
Rose George, acclaimed chronicler of what we would rather ignore, sails from Rotterdam to Suez to Singapore on ships the length of football fields and the height of Niagara Falls; she patrols the Indian Ocean with an anti-piracy task force; she joins seafaring chaplains, and investigates the harm that ships inflict on endangered whales.
I’ve been intrigued by shipping ever since I heard a statistic in Moby DuckÂ that said that 2 ships are lost weekly.Â I never knew whether I should believe that or not.Â That seemed like a lot of ships to lose without it being something everyone knows.Â This book didn’t tell me if that was true but it did say that over 2000 people a year die at sea.Â Â
This book follows a container ship journey from England to Singapore with side trips to investigate issues like piracy.Â You learn about shipwrecks and human smuggling.Â My favorite fact was that a container of broccoli will set off the radiation detectors at the shipyards.Â (I knew broccoli was bad for you.)
I was surprised by how horrible life as a sailor is.Â I knew it wasn’t a cushy job but the companies seem to go out of their way to make it worse.Â The amount allotted per day for meals keeps dropping.Â There is no internet even on ships built in the last few years.Â Fast turnaround at docks means that shore leave is pretty much a thing of the past.Â Some sailors she talks to haven’t been off the ship in 6 months.Â If your ship gets captured by pirates, you are pretty much on your own for a while.Â There is a set time that negotiations generally take.Â If your company tries to speed it up so it doesn’t take months, the pirates get suspicious and keep you longer.Â Â
I was interested to hear how the dockside churches are stepping up for sailors.Â Because they can’t leave the ships, chaplins come onto the boats to help them get things they need.Â They also try to help fix some of the horrible conditions by finding the right authorities for sailors to report complaints to.Â Â
Read this one to find out everything about an industry that is so pervasive but no one knows about.
I loved the narrator of this audiobook.Â She doesn’t sound like a typical nonfiction book narrator.Â She’s very posh and British.Â I looked up what else she has narrated because I was going to listen to them all.Â It turns out that she is mostly a narrator of Regency Romances.Â She sounds like she should be reading those.Â I want her to read more nonfiction because that’s mainly what I listen to on audio.Â Pearl Hewitt for narrator of every book!
Ooh, this does sound like a fascinating topic! I love the idea of learning about something that affects our daily lives so much, but which is so behind the scenes.
I watched a documentary once about freight shipping. It was very interesting.
Wow. I have a nephew in the wine business so I knew a little about shipping from the perspective of filling a climate-controlled container with just the right amount of European wine to ship to the US. And, I was pretty aware of the size of a ship from watching the movie Captain Phillips. I’m really disappointed that life aboard ship isn’t better for sailors. That seems like something that society could have fixed by now. And, I’m disappointed that the whole business is in the shadows. After 9/11, one of the concerns was shipping containers and ports. You’d think that would be enough incentive to shine a light on the whole thing.
Thanks for sharing this — it’s good to learn about it.
Interesting book! Not something you hear about everyday, but it’s nice to learn about people who are responsible for so much of our stuff.