On ship-tracking Web sites, the waters are black with dots. Each dot is a ship; each ship is laden with boxes; each box is laden with goods. In postindustrial economies, we no longer produce but buy, and so we must ship. Without shipping there would be no clothes, food, paper, or fuel. Without all those dots, the world would not work. Yet freight shipping is all but invisible. Away from public scrutiny, it revels in suspect practices, dubious operators, and a shady system of "flags of convenience." And then there are the pirates.
Rose George, acclaimed chronicler of what we would rather ignore, sails from Rotterdam to Suez to Singapore on ships the length of football fields and the height of Niagara Falls; she patrols the Indian Ocean with an anti-piracy task force; she joins seafaring chaplains, and investigates the harm that ships inflict on endangered whales. Sharply informative and entertaining, Ninety Percent of Everything reveals the workings and perils of an unseen world that holds the key to our economy, our environment, and our very civilization.
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Rose began writing in 1994, as an intern at The Nation in New York City. Later, she became senior editor and writer at COLORS, the bilingual “global magazine about local cultures” published in 80 countries and based first in Rome, then Paris, then Venice. In 1999, she moved to London and began a freelance career, and has since written for the New York Times, Guardian, Independent, London Review of Books and many others. She has been war correspondent in Kosovo for Condé Nast Traveler magazine; reported on an alternative World Cup final in Bhutan between Bhutan and Montserrat (Bhutan won); and attended Saddam Hussein’s birthday party, twice.
Rose’s first book, A Life Removed: Hunting for Refuge in the Modern World, explored the daily reality of being a refugee, focusing on the situation of the millions of people displaced by Liberia’s awful wars. Her second book is The Big Necessity: Adventures in the World of Human Waste/The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why it Matters, published by Portobello (UK) and Metropolitan (US). It was judged one of the best books of 2008 by The Economist newspaper, and one of the top ten science books of the same year by the American Library Association. Her third book is Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that Puts Clothes on your Back, Gas in your Car and Food on your Plate. The UK title is Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that brings you Ninety Percent of Everything. In September 2013, Deep Sea was a Radio 4 Book of the Week, and in October, it was awarded the Mountbatten Literature Award by the British Maritime Foundation.
Rose’s two TED talks, on sanitation and seafaring, have had nearly 3 million views.
She writes frequently for the Guardian, New Statesman, Scientific American, Rotarian and many others, and enjoys doing book reviews for anyone who asks.
Rose received a congratulatory first-class honours BA in modern languages from the University of Oxford in 1992, and an MA in international politics in 1994 from the University of Pennsylvania. She speaks fluent French and Italian and lives mostly in Yorkshire and sometimes in a former hotel (three floors; one toilet) in south-west France. If she’s not there, she’s probably on a fell or trail somewhere, running.
Rose is currently working on her fourth book. From Blood: around the world in nine pints is due to be published by Portobello and Metropolitan in 2017.