Containers | WBEZ
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99% Invisible


We’re based in beautiful downtown Oakland, CA which is a port city in the San Francisco Bay. Massive container ships travel across the Pacific and end up here. From miles away you can see the enormous white cranes that pull giant, uniformly-sized metal boxes off the ships. People say the cranes are the inspiration for the AT-AT walkers in The Empire Strikes Back, but that’s not true; it’s just a good story to tell as you pass by on the bridge. The port was the driving economic force in Oakland for many decades. Not so much anymore. Those big containers have something to do with it. When people started shipping things in standardized containers all kinds of inefficiencies in global shipping that had existed for hundreds of years were eliminated and the world changed forever. This the backdrop for the story that Alexis Madrigal is telling in his new eight-part documentary podcast series on “global capitalism, trade, and big-ass ships.” It’s called “Containers.” We’re featuring episode #3 in the series.

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