The book doesn't really answer the "how can things be so cheap?" question but it gets me a step closer to the "how everything is connected" part.
My favorite chapters were:
"A Fleet of One" and "A Fleet of One - II" about a guy who owns a chemical tanker.
"Tight-Assed River" about small boats that push strings of barges ("longer than the Titanic") up and down the Illinois River
"Out in the Sort" about the travels of live lobsters sold by a Nova Scotia company, Clearwater Seafoods (which may make you not want to eat lobster at Asian buffets any more) and the sorting facility at the UPS Worldport facility in Louisville, KY
"Coal Train" about 19,000 ton coal-laden trains more than a mile long and the Union Pacific engineers, conductors, and dispatchers who get them where they're going (the dispatchers sometimes quit the job and go into air traffic controlling, because it is easier).
There are also chapters about a ship-handling course that uses scale models, and a canoe trip; those are good too but they didn't fascinate me.
"Are My Hands Clean?"
Lyrics and music by Bernice Johnson Reagon. Songtalk Publishing Co. 1985
Performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock. Sweet Honey in the Rock, Live at Carnegie HallI wear garments touched by hands from all over the world 35% cotton, 65% polyester, the journey begins in Central America In the cotton fields of El Salvador In a province soaked in blood, Pesticide-sprayed workers toil in a broiling sun Pulling cotton for two dollars a day. Then we move on up to another rung—Cargill A top-forty trading conglomerate, takes the cotton through the Panama Canal Up the Eastern seaboard, coming to the US of A for the first time In South Carolina At the Burlington mills Joins a shipment of polyester filament courtesy of the New Jersey petro-chemical mills of Dupont Dupont strands of filament begin in the South American country of Venezuela Where oil riggers bring up oil from the earth for six dollars a day Then Exxon, largest oil company in the world, Upgrades the product in the country of Trinidad and Tobago Then back into the Caribbean and Atlantic Seas To the factories of Dupont On the way to the Burlington mills In South Carolina To meet the cotton from the blood-soaked fields of El Salvador In South Carolina Burlington factories hum with the business of weaving oil and cotton into miles of fabric for Sears Who takes this bounty back into the Caribbean Sea Headed for Haiti this time—May she be one day soon free— Far from the Port-au-Prince palace Third world women toil doing piece work to Sears specifications For three dollars a day my sisters make my blouse It leaves the third world for the last time Coming back into the sea to be sealed in plastic for me This third world sister And I go to the Sears department store where I buy my blouse On sale for 20% discount Are my hands clean?