Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate

Reviewed on , book by Rose George

Fun, quirky, and different. British woman somehow got fascinated by the shipping industry and decides to go on a container ship from England to Singapore. The book is written as part diary, part account of the shipping industry. She takes us through how the shipping industry works. I imagine that she put herself on the ship with a few dozen books and is essentially compiling what she finds interesting weaved in with the narrative of her actual journey. I can weirdly relate so much to how this is approached, because it’s exactly what I’d do.

While the Airline industry is somewhat clear to most of us at a high level nowadays—the shipping one is definitely not. Basically, it’s bus routes around the world that run like clockwork. The industry pollutes about as much as all ground transportation. Because few know that, they continue to burn crude fossil fuels with a horrendous amount of bad gasses since it’s almost as unrefined a fuel as it gets, looking more like asphalt than oil. Ugh. There’s an entire chapter about the noise pollution of container ships and how it impacts whales. A chapter about how messy laws are at sea, since the crews are from a dozen countries, the boat sailing with a Panama flag, but then it crashes in the Adriatic sea: Who’s going to pay for the rescue? What happens if there’s a murder in the middle of the Atlantic?

While I can see how this book would be dreaded by some, I found the first-hand view into an industry I knew nothing about deeply fascinating and couldn’t stop listening to it.