In 2006, Evan Osnos traveled across southeast Asia and China — from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea to the grasslands of Inner Mongolia to the oil-rich steppe of Kazakhstan — to explain how events halfway around the globe made a difference throughout the world. His three-part series, published Dec. 17-19, combined foreign, investigative and science reporting to illuminate how global demand for Chinese goods is reshaping the world.
Osnos joined the Tribune in 1999 as a Metro reporter and has been China correspondent since June 2005. He said he began this series with the question that if “China is the new workshop for the world … what are the side effects of such dramatic change?” Focusing on three examples of trade — cashmere, timber and oil — Osnos examined the environmental and global impacts of heavy Chinese and U.S. demand.
In less than a decade, a deluge of cheap cashmere from China has transformed a centuries-old industry, stripping the plush fabric of its pricey pedigree and making it available in big-box America. Chinese-made cashmere sweaters now go for as little as $19.99.
One of the more gratifying aspects of publishing this series was that, according to Osnos, “the stories led Illinois lawmakers to propose the Illegally Logged Wood Act, a bit that would make Illinois the first state in the nation to ban the sale of products of illegal timber.”
George de Lama, managing editor/news, said Osnos’ work “is the product of a curious mind and a restless soul, one that is not content with easy answers.”
This is the story of how your sweater pollutes the air you breathe — and how the rise of China shapes the world.
Said Osnos: “I’m lucky to have editors [Flynn McRoberts, George Papajohn, Kerry Luft and George de Lama] who believe that readers care deeply about the wider world and that our challenge is to deliver stories with the creativity to connect with people at home.”