Non Fiction

This is a small selection from my non-fiction and journalism work. For more see my portfolio. 

The Invisible Network That Keeps The World Running – BBC Future

“It’s not until we get out on to the towering balconies around the ship’s bridge and look back at Busan that we’re fully able to first comprehend the scale and nature of these Asian mega-ports. It feels like we’re being given a rare look into a usually hidden space, a peek at the intricate but city-scaled machinery of global capitalism…

It’s a hypnotic, fascinating dance to watch: the cranes lifting containers off the ships, the trucks pulling up in time to catch them as they are elegantly lowered down on steel cables. The complex and precise orchestration behind every move is almost bewildering to comprehend. The ships never unload everything at just one port – that’d be hugely inefficient for these vast, globe-orbiting warehouses – so the crane drivers need to know which one to take off and when, just as the truck drivers need to know where to take each one they collect…”

Read more…

The Changing Face of Shenzhen, the World’s Gadget Factory – Motherboard

“TCL LCD Industrial Park is a fraction of the size of Foxconn, but it’s still industrial manufacturing on a scale that has become alien to most of us in the West. This one facility has an incredible 10,000 employees, with 3,000 of them living in onsite dormitories…

Just as not all factories in Shenzhen are like Foxconn, neither are they all like TCL. For every plant on the scale of LCD Industrial, there are dozens of smaller operations in Shenzhen, grimy little startup factories tucked away in run-down warehouses or suburban trading estates. Shenzhen Yuwei Information and Technology Development Co., Ltd is one of these, a small factory with less than 200 workers that specializes in making GPS tracking devices for motor vehicles…

At 5 PM a bell sounds, and the conveyor belts grind to a halt. Dinner break. The workers form orderly, single-file lines, waiting for managers to tell each team they can leave. As they exit, they each pass through metal detectors, pausing to have their faces scanned by a facial recognition system mounted next to the door. Only when it beeps its approval can they leave…”

Read more…

Yiwu: The Chinese City Where Christmas is Made and Sold – BBC Future

“I’m a few hours away from Shanghai and I’ve not seen daylight for over three hours. I’m also hopelessly lost. I’ve been trying to get out of this place for the last 45 minutes, but the vast labyrinth of corridors and stores all look identical. I’m surrounded by artificial trees, baubles, fake snow, felt Santa hats, and animated LED reindeers. All I hear is festive music. I’m trapped in my worst Christmas nightmare, and it is only August. A hot, sticky day in August. For a moment, it feels like I may never escape, doomed to spend the rest of my life in a never-ending Santa’s Grotto.

I’m at the Christmas level of the International Trade Market in Yiwu, around 300 kilometres (187 miles) south of Shanghai. According to Xinhua, the state-run news agency, more than 60% of the world’s Christmas decorations are made in Yiwu, a significant proportion of which is sold at this enormous wholesale market. As I discovered, Christmas is made in Yiwu. That tree lighting up your lounge. Those decorations hanging from the ceiling. That novelty stocking filler you bought for your child. Chances are they came not far from where I am standing…”

Read more…

The Dystopian Lake Filled by the World’s Tech Lust – BBC Future

“From where I’m standing, the city-sized Baogang Steel and Rare Earth complex dominates the horizon, its endless cooling towers and chimneys reaching up into grey, washed-out sky. Between it and me, stretching into the distance, lies an artificial lake filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge.

Dozens of pipes line the shore, churning out a torrent of thick, black, chemical waste from the refineries that surround the lake. The smell of sulphur and the roar of the pipes invades my senses. It feels like hell on Earth…”

Read more…

The Oil Rich City Betting on Drones – BBC Future

“Over the PA system a voice tells us not to be alarmed. What we are about to see is just a demonstration, courtesy of the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of the Interior.

Two men wander onto the circular stage, wearing soccer shirts and jeans. At first they seem good natured, perhaps a little over excited, maybe a bit drunk. Then voices are raised. A punch is thrown. The two men begin to wrestle.

From seemingly out of nowhere, a large quad-rotor drone drops out the cloudless sky over Dubai Internet City, hovering insect-like just above the heads of the men, watching them with camera-eyes.

Before they can even notice, a squad of policemen – wearing helmets, body armour, and carrying assault rifles – rush them from the side of the stage. With military precision they pull the men apart, pin them face-down to the floor, and restrain them at gunpoint, all while the drone watches from above…”

Read more…

This is a small selection from my non-fiction and journalism work. For more see my portfolio.