MADELEINE HEATH - Designer and Textile Artist
A blog dedicated to initiating a more inclusive conversation around sustainability
April 22nd, 2021
The Price is the Earth
On this earth day I challenge us all to pull our head out of the ground - or as our recent lockdown would have it from under our duvet cover - and look at the state of our planet. Our relationship with mother earth is one of abuse. With the recent pandemic we have become even more dependent on nature for our wellbeing and yet we continue to pollute it, drain it of natural resources and destroy its landscape for humanities growth.
Since 2005 the global garment industry has more than doubled resulting in the fast fashion of today, with quick changing trends and a rise in ‘affordable’ fashion. The evolution of the fashion industry in the past two decades has come at the cost of our plant as well as human welfare - with only 2% of fashion workers globally being paid a liveable wage. These communities not only receive an unjust distribution of profit but also the majority of the fashion industry’s pollution, with the bulk of the industries pollutants taking place during production. This is on top of societies waste - including our textile waste - being offshored to low-income countries. To put it into figures 90% of global textiles are produced in lower-income countries as well as 80% of the worlds garments, resulting in 80%-90% of the fashion industries environmental impact ascribed to these countries while we sit back and wipe our hands clean of the responsibility. As the common phrase would have it, out of sight out of mind.
On top of the fashion industries waste becoming more than a blot on mother earths landscape we are exhausting the natural water resources she provides us with. 79 trillion litres of water are used a year in the production of textiles - over two and half thousands litres put into making one garment, thats the equivalent of roughly what an individual would drink in 3 years. The worlds abuse of natural water for social and economic gain is evident in the areal views of the Aral sea, once the fourth largest lake in the world it only took 50 years to largely dry up - can you imagine the water scarcity the fashion industry has caused in regions of textile production? And the water that isn't actively used in production is instead polluted, as wastewater is not treated before being spilled back out into the environment.
Within a garments lifecycle it is continuously polluting the earth, starting right from fibre production as land is exhausted and pesticides are scattered, resulting in a loss of its biodiversity and deforestation. For example a number of deserts in Mongolia are not naturally occurring - they are a result of grasslands being depleted in the production of cashmere. Then there’s the extensive use and spoliation of water taking place across fibre and fabric production; followed by fibre and fabric waste formed in the garments manufacture. On top of all of this there is the pollutant emissions from the transportation continuously taking place. These are just a few of the more obvious pollutants occuring, before it is then freighted to us, hung on a hanger and its past is forgotten and we consume with little thought of the consequences of that garment.
The purpose for this platform is to inspire us all to adopt a sustainable and considered mindset when it comes to fashion. To make sustainability less of an elitist conversation and empower us all, as sustainability is not a product we need to buy into but a mindset we must adopt.
While I don’t believe in guilt tripping or bullying the user to change - we must be enlightened and inspired to do so - I feel today, on earth day that we must encounter the facts. I hope the articles written so far has enabled you to implement sustainable changes and if it hasn't then the reality of the real cost of our consumption should, the price of which is the earth. And as we look on the reality of the planet we now inhabit we must question whether on earth days to come, will the view be better or worse?