© Kai Weise

I travelled from Bhavnagar to Alang, thirty miles to the south, on a narrow road crowded with jitneys and trucks, choked with blue exhaust, and battered by the weight of steel scrap. The road ran like an industrial artery across plains of denuded farmland, on which impoverished villages endured in torpor and peasants scratched at the parched earth...

Large supertankers, car ferries and container ships are beached during high tide, and as the tide recedes, hundreds of manual laborers dismantle each ship, salvaging what they can, and reducing the rest into scrap. Tens of thousands of low-paid jobs are supported by this activity, and millions of tons of steel are recovered.

.…Alang has become a metaphor in the crucial struggle of our time -- that between the First World and the Third, the rich and the poor. Beneath our perspectives on a shrinking world lurks an opposing reality, hidden in the poverty of places like South Asia, of a world that is becoming larger...

.. and unmanageably so. Do we share a global ecology? On a certain level it's obvious that we do, and that therefore, at last, a genuine scientific argument can be made for the imposition of Western knowledge. But making this argument is difficult, full of political risk and the opportunity for self-delusion…

…I sometimes walked deeper still into the depths of the ship. It was eerie and dim on the inside, an immense man-made cavern…. it had paths made of narrow beams with oil-slick footing, and sudden gaping holes that seemed to emerge out of nowhere ...

... after the glare and heat outside, it was also pleasantly cool. The workers did not seem to mind my presence, or even to wonder about it. They appeared sometimes like ghosts…

…In practice, the world is as much a human construct as a natural one. The people who inhabit it have such radically different experiences in life that it can be almost surprising that they share the same air. This is inherently hard to accept from a distance…