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Listening Lesson - The Geography of Clothing

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2017 11:03 am    Post subject: Listening Lesson - The Geography of Clothing Reply with quote

(Feel free to email me to request this as a Word document. I can be reached at [email protected]. Thanks! - Jason Rhodes)

Geography of Clothing ESOL Listening Activity

This lesson will allow intermediate-advanced ESOL students to listen to an
American university professor give a 10 minute talk about “the geography of
clothing.” The talk is available on YouTube, with the link provided below.
Included here are step-by-step instructions for a possible approach to setting up the activity, the transcript for the talk, discussion questions, and possible follow-up assignments & activities. I welcome comments, questions, and suggestions at
[email protected]

Also, as you will see, this video provides information about the online geography
program at Kennesaw State University, which is a public university, and the
second largest university in the state of Georgia. If your students are interested
in taking online courses at KSU, please encourage them to seek more information
by following the instructions provided in the video. We are committed to
providing qualified EFL students the linguistic support they need to successfully
complete our courses.

Lesson Overview

1) Introduction :

*We’re going to be talking about an environmental issue today, and before we get started, I just want to ask you: in your opinion, what are the biggest environmental issues facing us today? (have students brainstorm with a partner for a minute or so, before calling on students to share their ideas with the class)

*OK, so if we were going to make a list of the biggest sources, or causes, of pollution, what would we put on the list? (allow them to brainstorm as a group, while you write their responses on the board)

*And what would you say if I added this to our list (Write “clothing” on the board, along with the other things listed as major sources of pollutants)? Is the idea that the production of clothing is a major source of pollution surprising to you? Why or why not? (listen to responses from students)

*In your opinion, how might the production of clothing be a source of pollution, or impact the natural environment (have students brainstorm with a partner before calling on volunteers to share the results of the brainstorm with the class).

2) OK, so now we’re going to hear a geography professor from a university in the United States talk about clothing as an environmental issue. The talk is only about ten minutes long, but we’re going to listen to it in ten separate sections. Before we hear each section, I’m going to ask you to read the transcript for that section. As you read, please ask me if there are any words or sentences that you don’t understand. OK, so I’m going to pass out the transcript, and I’d like you to read the section for slide one. Again, let me know if you have any questions about the meaning of what you read.

Pass out transcript (which you’ll find below, with each of the 10 sections indicated), and answer questions about word/sentence meaning.

3) OK, so are we ready to listen to the first section? (You’ll find the video at:

*Post-listening discussion questions for:

Section 1

OK, so the professor hasn’t defined geography yet. What do you think geography means? Jot down a brief definition, or, if you don’t feel like writing a dictionary definition, just brainstorm a list of things that come to mind when you hear the word “geography.” (Either have them share with a partner before asking them to share with the whole class, or simply have them share their definitions/brainstorms directly with the class).

Section 2

How does the professor define geography? Can you put it into your own words?

The professor says that he’s interested in studying “the spatial organization of human activity.” What does that mean? Can you give me an example of that?

Section 3

So what is the professor’s question here? He wants to know what people and places you think you are linked to through your clothing. Well, let’s find out. What I want you to do is use the label of something you’re wearing to find out where something that you’re wearing is from, and if you need help from a partner to look at a tag, ask for help from someone next to you.

So, where are your clothes from? (have students call out the names of the various countries)

And what kinds of people do you think are actually making your clothes? How do you think their lives are different from theirs? (have students volunteer responses to the whole class).

And how about this – if you could ask the people who made your clothes one question, what would it be? Take a minute and write a question. (Give students time to write a question, and then ask a few students to share their question with the class).

Section 4

So, according to the professor, Newsweek magazine recently had a cover story about the environmental impact of clothing. What was the title of the article again? (allow students to call out). Toxic fashion? Toxic? What does toxic mean? Do you really think that the production of your pants, or shirts, or shoes, is toxic to the people and environment of the country in which they were made? Why or why not?

Section 5

According to the professor, globalization has dramatically changed the clothing industry, both in the United States and around the world. What are the changes he describes? And how about in your own country? Have the same changes taken place there?

Section 6

So, according to the professor, people are buying a lot more clothes today than they were, say, 30 or 40 years ago. What does that have to do with the environment? Can somebody explain it in their own words?

Section 7

So, if you watch an advertisement for cotton on TV, of course it’s advertised to us as the cleanest thing in the world, but according to the professor, that’s not the case, at least in terms of cotton’s environmental impact. According to the professor, what’s the biggest problem with cotton, from an environmental point of view?

Section 8

So, according to the professor, there is a connection between the color of our clothes, and the water quality of the country in which our clothes are made. Can somebody explain the connection?

He uses the example of a river in China called the Mao Zhou River. Can somebody re-state this example, using their own words? And what are some other countries that the professor mentions that have water pollution problems as a result of the clothes dyeing industry?

OK, and here’s a slightly more challenging question. The professor seems to suggest that pollution resulting from dyeing our clothes may have gotten worse as a result of globalization. What reasons might there be for this? [people in affluent countries are buying 4x as many clothes, per person, today as compared to a few decades ago, & clothes dyeing is taking place in countries with lax or non-existent environmental regulations]

Section 9

The professor wants to emphasize that not all of the news coming from the clothing industry is negative. He gives three examples of efforts to create positive change in the clothing industry. Can you tell me about one of them?

Section 10

What opportunity does the professor want you to know about?

If you could ask one question about the online geography program at Kennesaw State University, what would it be?

Possible Follow-Up Assignments

*Tell students that their job is to find out about the working conditions and/or the environmental impact of the clothing industry in a country that produced an item of clothing that they’re currently wearing. Tell them to do an online search for “Working conditions clothing industry name of country” and/or “Environmental impact clothing industry name of country.” Ask them to find and read an online article, and tell them to look up words they don’t know. They should be prepared to summarize the article in the next class (ideally, they will print the article and bring it, and/or email you a link to the article).

*ask students to choose one of the examples of efforts at positive change in the clothing industry, from section 9, and to find an online article that provides more information about it (i.e., People Tree, Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development, or TRAID, and ColorZen). Ask them to come to class prepared to summarize the article.

(There is a good, 90-second video about ColorZen on the company’s website, at

*ask students to email their questions about the Kennesaw State University online geography program to Dr. Garrett Smith at [email protected]. They will receive a response.

*ask the students to take the video transcript home and practice re-reading it, and re-watching the video, until they can comfortably listen to the talk without reference to the transcript.

*ask students to visit the website of United Students Against Sweatshops (, and find out what university students in the United States and around the world are doing to help improve working conditions in the factories producing our clothes. Do they think it would be worthwhile for students in their own country to get involved with such efforts? Why or why not?

*reading jigsaw: The following article from the CBS News has been divided into 5 parts. Divide the class into groups of 5, and have each group member read a different section. Tell them to use their dictionaries and/or ask you about difficult words. When they are finished, they should take turns summarizing the section that they read, in order, from section one to five. Students can then discuss the discussion questions in their groups, or as a class.

(If the number of students in your class is not divisible by 5, the easiest solution might be to create as many groups of 5 as possible, and then for you, the teacher, to read & summarize the “leftover” sections in the group that has fewer than have students. For example, if there are 18 students in your class, create 3 groups of 5, and 1 group of 3. In the group of 3, each student will read & summarize 1 section, while you will read and summarize the remaining 2).

CBS News goes undercover in a Bangladesh clothing factory
By Holly Williams, May 22, 2013, CBS News
Many of the clothes in American stores are made in Bangladesh, which has a history of workplace disasters. Six months ago, 112 workers died when their factory burned down. Last month, another factory collapsed, killing more than 1,100 workers in one of the worst industrial accidents ever.
If you own clothes that were made in Bangladesh, this is where they come from. It's one of the poorest countries in the world.
And your clothes could have been made in a factory like Monde Apparels.
Posing as buyers, we filmed secretly inside the factory which employs 1,400 workers. We saw them making shirts for Wrangler and Asics sportswear they said was for the American market.


The managers told us the factory hasn't been approved by Walmart for production -- but they still had an order for a million Walmart boxer shorts, subcontracted to them by another factory.

In Bangladesh's giant garment industry, factory fires are common and deadly.

The boss at Monde Apparels -- Masudul Haq Chowdhury -- showed us an evacuation map marking the location of 13 fire extinguishers. But nearly all of them were missing.

There are several hundred workers on one floor of the factory, and the manager told us that it's more than 100,000 square feet. But so far, we've only spotted two fire extinguishers.
And if there were a fire, the workers would find an emergency exit door blocked by boxes.
Chowdhury was adamant that his company doesn't allow child labor.

"Until [they turn] 18, we cannot employ them," he said.
Some of the workers, though, looked much younger than 18. We couldn't speak with the workers freely inside the factory, so we went looking for them after work in an overcrowded slum.
We spoke to a woman and her daughter who both work at Monde Apparels and earn around $50 a month each.
They asked us to hide their faces, scared they'd lose their jobs for speaking out.
The daughter told us she was just 12 years old -- and one of many children working at the factory. She gave the factory a fake birth certificate showing her age as 18, dodging the rules on child labor because her family needs the money.

Asked if she thinks the factory bosses suspect her daughter is still a child, the mother said they must know that her daughter is underage.
The woman told us that Monde Apparels doesn't give workers a pay slip.
"Last month, I worked 20 days, but they only paid me for 11," she said. "If I question them, they yell at me."
But she feels lucky to have a job and told us there's been a big change at the factory in the last six months.
"Nowadays, when we make a mistake, at least the supervisors don't beat us like they used to," she said.
Earlier this week, we brought our findings to Asics, Wrangler and Walmart. Asics was told by its suppliers that they don't do business with the Monde Apparels factory, so it's investigating whether the Asics clothes we saw are counterfeit.
Wrangler told us Monde was approved for use last March by an independent labor group, but after we called the company, Wrangler said it sent its own inspector and has now fired the supervisor.
Walmart told us it will investigate, and if unauthorized production or child labor are found, Monde will be barred permanently.
For years, U.S. retailers have tried to improve conditions in Bangladesh; they tell customers they only do business with factories that follow the rules. But sometimes American companies give their orders to a supplier, or they'll give an order to one factory and it gets passed along to another factory. In that case, they don't know where their products are being made.
Even if they do know which factory they're using -- and inspect it -- there can still be problems, because the factories are cleaned up ahead of the inspection and workers are coached on what to say.

Questions for Discussion
1) Do you think child labor should be banned in countries like Bangladesh? Why or why not?
2) What will need to happen in order for working conditions in places like Bangladesh to be improved?
3) Do you think that it’s the responsibility of clothing retailers like Walmart to make sure that there’s no child labor in the factories producing the clothes sold in its stores?
4) Do you think that clothing consumers should care about the working conditions in the factories that produce their clothes? Why or why not?
5) Is there anything that clothing consumers could do to support efforts to improve working conditions in the global garment industry?
(as a follow-up to this question, you might have students visit the website of the United Students Against Sweatshops, at

Video Website:
1) Hi everyone, my name is Jason Rhodes, & I teach geography at Kennesaw State University, which is in the suburbs of Atlanta. Today I want to talk to you a little bit about geography – ask what it is, explain why I think it’s exciting, and then take a quick look at the geography of our clothing – that’s right, the geography of our clothing – to demonstrate how geography, and how thinking geographically, can help us see and understand connections between us, our everyday objects and activities, and people and places around the world. At the end of my short talk, I want to tell you a little bit about our new online geography program here at Kennesaw State University, because if you find what we talk about today interesting, then I’d like to encourage you to consider taking an online class here at KSU, or perhaps even pursuing a certificate or degree, and joining us in our exploration of people and places, and the linkages between them, in our increasingly globalizing world.
2) OK, so first off, what is geography? At the most basic level, geography is the study of the surface of the earth, and if you stop and think about the incredible diversity you find at the surface of the earth – everything from mountain ranges to farm lands to crowded urban centers – you’ll start to realize what an incredibly rich and diverse field the discipline of geography is. But what makes geography so exciting to me is that the study of the surface of the earth immediately involves us in the study of the impact of human activity on that surface, or on our natural environment, so as a human geographer, I’m most interested in studying the spatial organization of human activity, and how that activity impacts, and transforms, the environment in which we live.
3) Geographers are also keenly interested in exploring the linkages, or connections, between people and places, because not only are people and activities in a variety of places often mutually dependent upon one another, but human activity in one place often has a profound impact on people and places far away. This may seem obvious, but the ways in which our own everyday objects and activities link us to people and places around the globe – and the environmental impact of those objects and activities – often remain hidden from view. Take the clothes that you’re wearing, for example. What people and places do you think you are linked to through your clothing? How do you think the production of your clothing impacted the natural environment, or the surface of the earth?
4) It turns out that the people that you see here are vitally linked, through their purchase of clothing, to people and places around the world. We know that they are linked to the people who made the clothes, but what about the environmental impact? Few people think of clothing as an environmental issue. We typically simply consider it as a matter of individual style. But the environmental impact of the fashion industry has become so great, and such a cause for concern, that Newsweek magazine recently ran a cover story about it called “Toxic Fashion: The Environmental Crisis in Your Closet.”
5) To understand clothing as an environmental issue, we first have to understand the impact that globalization has had on the fashion industry. In 1960, fully 95% of the clothes sold in the United States were made here, but by 2010 that number had shrunk to a mere 5%. What has changed in recent decades, however, is not just the geographic location of clothing production, but the entire system of producing, marketing and selling the clothes that we wear. As clothing manufacturers relocated to places with much cheaper labor, and far less stringent environmental regulations, the price of clothing dropped significantly, but then an odd thing happened. While the price of clothing was rapidly falling, people began to increase the amount of money they spent on clothing, not just in terms of how much they spent, but also as a percentage of their income. In other words, people began to buy a lot more clothes, so much more, in fact, that it’s estimated that people in affluent countries today own four times the amount of clothes that they did in 1980. With globalization, the clothing industry has shifted to a model known as “fast fashion,” which depends on people constantly responding to new fashion trends by replacing what’s in their wardrobe with what’s currently for sale in the store windows.
6) So what’s that got to do with the environment? Well, it turns out that the production of clothing is incredibly polluting and resource intensive, and the impact of producing over 80 billion garments a year, or more than 11 pieces of clothing for every single person on the planet, has resulted in what can only be described as an environmental crisis in places like China, India, and Bangladesh, which together account for over 60% of all clothing exports, world-wide, and probably closer to ¾ of the inexpensive clothing that fuels the “fast fashion” revolution. In other words, new shopping habits in places like Europe and the United States are impacting things like air, water & soil quality in the places where clothes are being made. Let’s take a quick look at a few examples of the environmental impact of the recent fast fashion revolution.

7) We’ll start with cotton, because that’s what about 50% of all the clothes we buy today are made of. Cotton may be advertised to us as being perfectly clean, but it actually has a larger ecological footprint than many synthetic fibers, like polyester. How is that possible? Well for starters, the fields that grow cotton are literally soaked in pesticides: Nearly 1/6 of a kg of chemicals, or about a third of a pound, is used to produce every single one of your t-shirts! Cotton is also one of the most water-intensive crops on the planet. It may sound incredible, but it takes about 15,000 liters of water to grow the cotton required to produce a single pair of jeans. Our cotton consumption has exploded in recent years. In industrialized countries, the average person consumes over 13 kg of cotton each year. This consumption contributes to water crises and soil erosion in places like China and India, the two largest cotton producers on the planet.
Cool The environmental impact of our clothes doesn’t end with cotton, however. The dyeing industry, which soaks our clothes in the colors we want to wear, is one of the most heavily polluting of all industries, and this is especially the case because today most dyeing occurs in places with lax, or nonexistent, environmental regulations. One of the most shocking examples of environmental pollution from the dyeing industry came from the city of Dongguan, in central Guangdong China, where a large, New York-owned company was dyeing clothes for brands like Nike, Gap, Walmart and Tommy Hilfiger. Pollutants from the dye factory were being dumped directly into the Mao Zhou river, changing its color to bright red. When government inspectors arrived, they found that the dye factory was dumping an incredible 22,000 tons of contaminated dye water directly into the river every single day. The level of pollution is shocking, but the story is not uncommon. Newsweek tells a similar story of what pollution from the dye industry has done to river water in the city of Tirupur, India, which has earned the nickname “Knit City” because it exports billions of dollars worth of clothes each year, and according to the New York Times, the dye industry in Bangladesh has contributed heavily to what is called a “water pollution disaster.”

9) These stories are stories of global connections, of how people and activities in one part of the globe are linked with, and impact, people and places in other parts of the globe. Unfortunately, they are negative ones. They are stories of non-sustainable practices in an industry that has changed at an incredible pace in a very short period of time. Not all the stories from the fashion industry are negative, however. The People Tree company, for example, is a fashion label that has been working for over 20 years to demonstrate that it’s possible to produce clothing in a way that is not only environmentally sustainable, but has a positive economic impact on the people and places involved in its production. And then there’s a project in England called TRAID – Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development – which redesigns used clothing into fashionable items which it sells in its own stories, and then uses the proceeds to support the efforts of garment workers around the world to secure a living wage and safe working conditions. Inside the industry itself, there have been exciting technical innovations. A new company called ColorZen, for example, has developed a process of dyeing cotton which it claims will dramatically reduce current levels of pollution in the dyeing industry.

10) All of these positive initiatives, however, are based upon an awareness and understanding of current global connections, and an ability to critically examine the current linkages that exist between people and places around the world. Here at KSU Geography, we’re engaged in an ongoing exploration of those linkages, equipping students with the ability to see connections, and recognize opportunities, in our increasingly globalizing world. Our students go on to positions of leadership in business, government, education, and the non-profit sector. As I mentioned at the beginning, our department has recently launched a completely online geography program, which is available to students anywhere in the world. Our program offers concentrations in both human and physical geography, as well as a certificate program in GIS. We would be thrilled to make our program truly global by welcoming online students from around the world, so if geography sounds interesting to you, whether you’re interested in pursuing a degree program, a certificate, or taking academic coursework in English, I encourage you to contact us at [email protected]. My name is Dr. Jason Rhodes, and the director of our online program is Dr. Garrett Smith. Thank you for your time today. I hope to have the pleasure of hearing from some of you soon.
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