cover image Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff

Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff

Fred Pearce, Author . Beacon $24.95 (276p) ISBN 978-0-8070-8588-2

Pearce’s quest to discover “the hidden world” sustaining Western consumption habits is fulfilled with varying degrees of success in this, his third book. Tracking the routes taken by the items in his home—his coffee, cellphone, computer, green beans, chocolate, socks—from raw ingredient to finished product, the author presents fascinating firsthand investigations, as when he visits a group of fair-trade coffee farmers, follows the trail of his donated shirts to markets in Africa, visits Uzbek communities whose health, infrastructure and environment have been devastated by the cotton industry, and interviews female sweatshop workers who view their factory jobs as empowering. When Pearce strays from these journalistic portraits, however, he is prone to flaccid opining about the greenest fuel sources and simplistic boosting for urban planners designing “small-footprint” cities. The most effective chapters puncture the feel-good myths surrounding fair trade and recycling and introduce unique characters, such as the farmers and middlemen responsible for getting prawns from Bangladesh to a London curry shop. Although a timely effort, Pearce’s diffusion of his reportorial mission with green-pleading mires his refreshing discoveries in moralizing and familiar cant. (Oct.)