In Ruth Ben-Ghiat’s book ‘Strongmen’ she says geopolitics is when authoritarian regimes have a …. conception of the state as an organic entity with the right to defend itself from threats to its safety and the right to expand into foreign territory to secure the resources it needs.
Here we are in 2022, watching the world’s leaders scramble to do deals for their nations. Deals to pay oligarchs instead of once state owned resources for finite supplies of oil, gas, rare metals, wheat…..the list goes on, now are shifting to negotiations with other suppliers. Resources are now weaponised. The losers are always at the bottom of the pyramid.
Russia is the largest supplier of fertiliser in the world and shares being a major supplier of wheat with its neighbour, Ukraine.
The crippling situation in Ukraine has resulted in massive trade restrictions on top of disruptions in supply chains globally due to the ongoing Covid pandemic. Countries like Brazil are dependent on Russia for supplying fertiliser for their food security plans. Thousands are suffering famine due to continuing conflicts as countries such as Yemen, Sudan will not get vital wheat supplies, turning their situation more critical than it now is.
I have written about the harmful aspects of the fertiliser industry. Historically, land is grabbed to expand what was once individual plots for local farmers to create huge areas for industrial farming.
Britain’s land use has adapted over the centuries as war and conflict changed the ownership and farming practices. Arable farming is now a science, often discarding good understanding of retaining soil and allowing it to rest and restore its health after use. The Soil Association tries to encourage good practice but it is an uphill struggle against industrial heavyweights who promote harmful products to ‘improve soil and produce’.
Here are the ten countries who had the most arable land in 2016:
Here are the 10 countries with the most arable land:
According to the FAO, in the year 2013, the world’s arable land amounted to 1,407 million hectares, or about 5.4 million square miles. Arable land worldwide has decreased by nearly one-third since 1961, because of re-forestation, soil erosion, and desertification caused by global climate change.
The United Nations FAO reminds us of the increasingly worrying world food security situation impacted by climate change and conflict over fewer resources. See their charts where they say
The FAO Food Price Index makes a giant leap to another all-time high in March (Release date: 08/04/2022)
EDM (Early Day Motion)1329: tabled on 04 June 2018
That this House recognises the problem of toxic contamination of war zones, particularly in Iraq; notes the research presented, in March 2018, by Dr Mozhgan Savabieasfahani at the European Environment Foundation; expresses concern at reports of uranium and thorium contamination in the tissues of children living near the US military base in the ancient city of Ur, with those children being seven times more likely to have birth defects; further notes a 2015 resolution by the American Public Health Association stating that parties involved in military activities have a post-conflict responsibility to decontaminate polluted areas; and calls on the Government to work with the US Administration on action to clean up areas polluted by the allied military forces and assist the Iraqi people with remedial health care.
And now we can read of environmental harm as it happens in Ukraine, a country renowned as tenth in the top ten list of countries with a high farming output across its 32,776,000 hectares of arable land. Look how optimistic Ukraine was about projected wheat harvests for 2019 here.
Ukraine’s favourable geographical location; it’s extremely fertile black soil; decent infrastructure and relatively cheap labour force make the country’s agribusiness sector highly competitive. A lot has been achieved in the country over the past 25 years to enable Ukraine to live up to its status as the “breadbasket of Europe” and to help, at least partly, address the global challenge of sustainable food supply and food security.
Why are supplies of sunflower oil running low in some countries?
About 80 per cent of sunflower oil exports come from Ukraine and Russia. Exports from Ukraine have fallen 95 per cent due to Russia’s attack, Ievgen Osypov at trading company Kernel told Bloomberg TV on 5 April. Russia is still exporting the oil, but has said it will impose a quota from 15 April.
“With the flood of grain coming off the fields, Ukraine’s silos will start bursting at their welds next month. Ukraine’s privately run farms are doing fine. Ukraine’s privately run ports are doing fine. In between, the creaking state railroad creates a big bottleneck between the farm gate and the port gate. The solution is to allow private locomotives on state tracks — a practice followed by all of Ukraine’s EU neighbours. In addition, cargo rates have to be raised to regional levels. At present, several well-known oligarchs are beggaring the public railroad for private gain,” UBN editor Jim Brooke said in a note.
Brazil and Argentina will be growing their own wheat to feed livestock, destroying the Rainforest in order to supply burgers and beef to meet high demand. No wheat will be arriving from Ukraine any time soon.
Reducing the emphasis on meat eating and improving farming practices would free up produce to feed the world without much effort.
We must rethink how we use the food we grow, how we use the land to provide uncontaminated crops, how we make each plot of land sacred and tied to our human survival.
This planet is drowning in plastic, the forever chemical made from oil.
Peak oil production was during the 1970s.
If we assume that consumption patterns continue at their current rate, we will need three times as many natural resources by the year 2050 compared to those used in the year 2000.
World Footprint: Today, we require the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to provide the resources we use and to absorb our waste. See Global Footprint Network, 2019
Industrial uses of oil to make polymers for textiles is slowly moving from new to recycled production.
Recycling is big business.
We now see clothing manufacturers, such as Craghoppers UK, informing us of how many plastic bottles it took to make a particular garment. Lifelong guarantees are issued for each garment produced in this way. The philosophy is that these forever chemicals have been recycled into clothing rather than allowed to end up in the oceans. But, even if the next generation can still wear these items of clothing, they will never safely biodegrade. Thus, like all forever chemicals used over the last two centuries, they all pose a threat to life on earth.
During the 2000s, designers like Stella McCartney, influenced the fashion world to avoid animal based fabrics and find alternatives. This was a response to the appalling billions of animals murdered cruelly for human fashion demands.
In this presently resource scarce world, young designers propose a vision to eliminate, or at least minimize, the use of pure virgin materials.
In ‘Circular Fashion’ by Peggy Blum, we can see the ideas emerging in the fashion and textile industries to lead us out of the mire of constant planet harm. Instead we can be inspired and empowered to think differently.
We can all be designers of our personal creative expression. We can decide on the way forward to assist our ailing planet and aim to reduce our waste from extremely hazardous to harmless.
You can still have fast fashion if you select materials that decompose naturally. Just as we are seeing packaging becoming compostable, so we can wear compostable clothing.
She also informs us of another technique, drawn from the world of architecture
DISASSEMBLY IN DESIGN Design for disassembly takes its cue from sustainable architecture. It is one of the six core principles within the Cradle to Cradle Certified™/Built Positive movement, in which buildings and products are designed intentionally for material recovery, value retention, and meaningful next use. When designing for disassembly, materials, products, and components must be easily separated and then easily reassembled without damage so that they can be recovered, with their value retained, and then meaningfully recycled. There are three important rules for disassembly in design:
1. Careful selection and use of materials: If you check the label of a garment you are wearing right now, there is a high chance that the fabric is composed of a blend of different fibers, usually a mix of cotton and polyester. When designing for disassembly, it is recommended to use mono materials—materials that consist of one fiber, as these can be easily recycled.
2. Healthy and safe design of the components and product: Toxic dyes, glues, or finishes that may cause negative environmental impact should be avoided.
3. Simple selection and use of fasteners: Any hardware, trims, or notions should be easy to remove, so they can be recovered and reused. Currently this often has to be done by hand.
Consider how a garment can be designed for disassembly. Start by identifying each component (material, buttons, trims, linings, etc.) of the product, and then take into account how each component can be reused or recycled.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has been involved in helping focus minds on reducing waste since its founder, the famous round-the-world yachtswoman, retired and dedicated herself to the cause.
This is from her website:
“Everything that surrounds us has been designed by someone: the clothes we wear, the buildings we live in, even the way we get our food. The Montreal Design Declaration defines design as “the application of intent: the process through which we create the material, spatial, visual and experiential environments in a world made ever more malleable by advances in technology and materials, and increasingly vulnerable to the effects of unleashed global development.”
Put another way, design is the way we create products, services and systems, and is the mechanism by which we shape the material environment around us to meet our needs and desires.
Crucially, when something is designed important decisions are made that impact how it is manufactured, how it is used, and what happens when it is no longer needed or wanted. It is exceedingly difficult to go back and undo the effects of those decisions if they are later found to produce undesirable consequences.”
We can no longer let other people battle against these problems. As consumers, we can choose eco friendly, preferably biodegradable, products. We can buy products which have been designed for disassembly and recycling. We can watch YouTube re-purposing, upcycling videos to inspire us and learn how to turn items we have bought into further useful items. We can work extra hard to give lifelong use to what we already own and thus avoid sending to the last resort, landfill.
Find out what young people are doing to create sustainable products, example, this from waste produce.
A fiber is defined as any product capable of being woven or otherwise made into a fabric. (See educational site).
Fibers created for the textile industry through:
Agricultural products: cotton or wool
Units: such as nylon or polyester manufactured in a chemical plant
The first commercial production of a manufactured fibre was achieved by French chemist, Count Hilaire de Chardonnet, who in 1889 caused a sensation in the Paris Exhibition when he showed his ‘artificial silk’.
Chemists have been responsible for creating many synthetic materials since the 19th century. The acceleration of environmental harm caused by chemicals began during the Industrial Age. Such was the innovation and perceived brilliance of polymaths since Robert Hooke in the two centuries earlier, that these minds were hailed and sought after by those who wanted to build industries based on their ideas.
Hooke determined that if proper liquid were squirted through a small aperture and allowed to congeal a fiber can be produced. This is how the life of man made fibers begins. They are a sticky liquid which is ‘spun’ or extruded through spinneret holes, forming streams that are solidified into fibers. Just as we know the Spinning Jenny transformed cloth production, so engineers have advanced the making of materials in the textile industry. As humans, we constantly marvel at these machines and systems and the constant improvements, innovations and intricacies of the manufacturing process. After all, the fashion industry is clothing us all, to suit all types, to suit all climates, often breathable fabrics without movement restrictions, fitting close to our skin or hanging elegantly to keep us cool. Now the textile industry is having to find alternatives to the seductive oil based resources, and this is a tall order.
During the last century oil has been the main resource for creating fibers. Our dependence on oil has sounded the death knell for the Planet, a major contributing factor of which we are all aware and have been for over a century. But corporates continue to expand and invest in ‘brilliant’ innovations which utilise oil based fibers in everything we humans deem is vital to our immediate, short term, survival. There is a view that we can intensify our use of fossil fuels in order to escape our dependence by building ‘green’ solutions such as wind turbines and solar panels. This is not a circular plan, it is a linear plan; and that is why it is hard to see the logic.
The Fashion Industry seeks cheap solutions with Fast Fashion churning out thousands of items marketed as wear and dispose. Companies like Zara are one of the biggest Fast Fashion suppliers most of us have heard of. If Fast Fashion encourages plastic based clothing into landfill, then it has to come to a Fast Halt.
Man Made Fibers we all recognise as being part of our wardrobe:
Acrylic: Cheap to produce, can be used to make fake fur, cloths and furnishings. It’s warm and resistant to dirt but can pill and get bobbly when rubbed.
Polyester: Strong and holds a pleat well. It can melt if heated too high. It is easy to wash and dry. Suitable for sportswear, sheets and curtains.
Elastane: A very stretchy fabric which is easy to care for. Washes and dries well, highly flammable. Used for leggings and tights, can be blended with other fabrics to make them stretch.
Microfibres: Microscopic fibres are knitted or woven into tight, strong materials which are warm and easy care. (Tactel, Tencell).
Here are some fabrics, many we have known as made from wool, cotton, silk but now are blended with oil based fibers:
Bunting is traditionally made from a lightweight wool, but alternative materials include plastic, synthetic fabrics, and paper. To find eco friendly bunting search online.
Challis is a lightweight woven fabric. It can be made from cotton, silk, or wool (or often a blend), but is now sometimes produced from man-made fabrics, such as rayon.
Chiffon is a lightweight and sheer fabric. Can be made from cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers
Elastane is a synthetic fiber that is stronger and more durable than rubber, while still retaining exceptional elasticity.
Faux-leather is a synthetic fabric that replicates the look of real leather.
Fleece and microfleece are made from PET, a plastic. Not to be confused with the fleece of a sheep or goat.
Gabardine is a tough fabric with a tight weave. Traditionally worsted wool, but can be cotton, polyester, or a blend. Used for suits, overcoats, uniforms.
The allure of these amazing materials which influenced us such as Lurex, with Elvis making his famous lurex suit the memorable image of the 1950s, is why it is so hard to turn ourselves away from purchasing items like lurex (made from a polyester fiber with a vaporized layer of aluminium applied).
For a more detailed alphabetical list of fabrics, see this glossary by the NY Fashion Center. So many times you will read of a familiar fabric which is now blended with a synthetic fiber. These blends bring improvements and advantages to the cloth, (such as durability, stretch, stain resistance and cost efficiency) but the introduction of oil based fibers has brought us to the endgame for our beautiful planet.
Looking down the list of fabrics we still have some recognisable material which has not been blended with synthetics, but so often it originates as cotton or wool, and previous blogs explain why there are environmental issues with those most popular sources. We have seen animals driven to extinction when they were our first choice for clothing, so oil based yarn developments have rescued many from the edge of extinction. Now we are all threatened with extinction with our dependence on oil.
The Fashion Industry is going to have to lead us out of this mess where we dispose of our clothing into landfill, where it will not biodegrade ever. Oil is a forever chemical. As consumers we have to educate ourselves about alternatives and biodegradable Everything. We can support all companies which are working to offer us a way forward, but we must not be fooled by marketing lies.
I have quoted Owlcation for some of the following details.
China and India are the main sources of this grass, which can grow tall, looking like trees in a forest. It does not attract pests, so does not require treatment with pesticides. This is a massive plus for the Planet.
Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and other countries in Europe have begun to cultivate bamboo. The plant is also quickly spreading to Africa and America.
In 2002, renewed cellulosic bamboo fiber was first manufactured by Hebei Jigao Chemical Fiber Co.
The cross-section of the single bamboo fiber is round with a small lumen. Bamboo fibers have a high breaking strength as well as good absorbability properties, but they have low elongation.
The main components of bamboo are cellulose, heme-cellulose, and lignin. The secondary components of bamboo are resins, wax, and inorganic salts. Bamboo contains other organic components in addition to cellulose and lignin. It contains about 2% oxidant polysaccharide, 2-4% fat, 2-6% starch and 0.8-6% protein.
The bamboo carbohydrate content plays an important role in its durability. The strength of bamboo against the attack of mold and fungi is closely related to their chemical composition.
Safe Environmental Mechanical Process of making Bamboo Linen:
In mechanical processing, harvested and crushed bamboo wood is initially treated with natural enzymes that break down bamboo into a soft material. Next, natural fibers can be mechanically combed to obtain individual fibers, followed by yarn spinning. The fabric manufactured through this process is often called bamboo linen, and this process is considered environmentally friendly because no harmful chemicals are used.
But Bamboo woven with cotton can produce an attractive fabric. See here.
Super soft 100% organic double cloth bamboo cotton blend – the warp is cotton, the weft is bamboo. It is made by weaving two layers of cloth simultaneously, with a third binding weft to create the squares that hold the two layers together. It is a lovely breathable fabric perfect for adults and babies alike. The bamboo adds a silkiness to the touch and look of the fabric and makes this fabric very luxurious for shirts, dresses, tops and loungewear. You could also use it for pillowcases and quilt backing. Please note that the weave will appear skewed due to rolling but washing will straighten it out.
The Chemical Process is not good for the environment. The bamboo cellulose is used to make all types of rayon, including viscose, modal, and lyocell.
The viscose manufacturing process is summed up in five steps:
The plant is chipped into a wood pulp and dissolved chemicals like sodium hydroxide, forming a brown wood pulp solution. (The hazard of sodium hydroxide for the environment is caused by the hydroxide ion (pH effect). A high concentration in water will result in toxic effects for aquatic organisms e.g. fish.)
This brown wood pulp is then washed, cleaned, and bleached. (Bleach also puts wildlife at risk; its byproducts have been linked to cancer in studies on laboratory animals. Environmental toxins created by bleach have lowered the populations of several species of birds and fish. Bleach is especially damaging to the environment because it lingers for many years.)
To create the fibers, the pulp is treated with carbon disulfide and then dissolved in sodium hydroxide to create the solution referred to as “viscose.”(Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure of humans to carbon disulfide has caused changes in breathing and chest pains. Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, headache, mood changes, lethargy, blurred vision, delirium, and convulsions have also been reported in humans acutely exposed by inhalation.)
The viscose solution is forced through a spinneret, which is a machine that creates filaments, called regenerated cellulose.
This regenerated cellulose is spun into yarn, which can then be woven or knit into viscose rayon fabric.
But most of that clothing has historically been made from viscose rayon, which is created from bamboo or wood pulp processed in a toxic soup of chemicals that generates significant pollution. Today, a lot of experts believe that the “bamboo” label on rayon clothing is fundamentally a misrepresentation.
The main suppliers of viscose, rayon and the like are in China and India, and toxic processes are common in these countries, the sacrifice of the labour force to boost the economy is a priority. It follows the pattern of the Industrial Revolution, despite clear understanding of what the harm to the environment has been, and the legacy remains. Hebei Jigao Chemical Fiber Co. remains the leading supplier.
Lyocell is a type of Rayon made using the Lyocell process. It is a semi-synthetic fabric made using wood or bamboo cellulose
Rayon was the first manufactured fiber, developed in the late 19th century and commercially produced in the US starting in 1910. It was originally marketed as artificial silk due to its softness, nice drape, and luster. It quickly rose in popularity because its price point was significantly lower than silk and cotton.
According to the European Man-Made Fibres Association (CIRFS), in 2016 manufactured cellulosic made up 6.6% of the global market, roughly 5.3 million metric tons. The Textile Exchange estimated that viscose made up 91% of cellulosic production, only 29% of which was sourced sustainably. (Followed by lyocell at 6% and modal at 3%.)
Rayon can have significant negative impacts on people, the environment, and biodiversity along its lifecycle. The wood pulp used to make rayon can be sustainably harvested, but often it isn’t. According to Canopy Planet, roughly a third come from ancient and endangered forests.
However, such is the attractiveness of Viscose made with Bamboo there are companies working hard to assure us they are minimising the chemical harm to the environment, and offsetting the carbon footprint by growing bamboo plantations and not adding to deforestation for the wood pulp. One of these companies is BAM. There is no doubt they have put a great deal of effort into reassuring us of their green credentials.
Rayon fabrics like Bamboo and Cupro (made from a bi-product of the cotton plant, cotton linters) are often incorrectly marketed as sustainable because the raw material is sustainably harvested (bamboo grows quickly without chemicals and a lot of water, and cotton linters are often called “waste” from cotton production despite having their own market). The production of fabric from these materials can be done in a more sustainable manner, but usually it still goes through the chemical-intensive and polluting viscose process- so be wary and really vet your sources. (Cuprammonium rayon is no longer made in the US because its producers could not meet air- and water-quality requirements.) See Bamboo.
Rayon production is dangerous for workers
Workers can be seriously harmed by the chemicals used to make most rayon. Carbon disulfide in particular can cause reproductive harm and damage to the nervous system (carbon-disulfide-based viscose is no longer made within the U.S.). Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, can cause corrosion and chemical burns to workers who handle it frequently and without protection.
Also, work accidents can occur from explosions or leakages in chemical storage areas.
According to Paul D. Blanc, who teaches occupational and environmental medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and wrote Fake Silk: The Lethal History of Viscose Rayon, throughout most of the 20th century, viscose rayon manufacturing was inextricably linked to widespread, severe and often lethal illness among those employed in making it. For workers in viscose rayon factories, poisoning caused insanity, nerve damage, Parkinson’s disease, and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Do you want to wear a garment which has been processed in such a way that a fellow human being has suffered illnesses as a direct result of their labour? Read more here.
It is not easy to find clothing which has not caused health issues when being created and sewn in factories. It is up to each of us to take responsibility and search for items which we know caused NO HARM.
Due to raised awareness of brutality to animals in order to provide us with clothing, we have sought alternatives. Vegans demand no animals be used to make Fashion Industry products, but non-vegans, whilst enjoying eating meat, have also become aware of the protests against animal cruelty and similarly many do not want such products.
There is now another concern added to this one. We do not want our consumer waste to be harmful to the Planet on which we live.
Unfortunately, in order to find alternatives to animal sources for fashion items, we now use synthetic fibers, and they are sophisticated and often misleadingly labelled with greenwashing phrases, like ‘recycled’, or ‘vegan’. Using ‘vegan’ is misleading as it has taken decades to get the Fashion Industry to use alternatives to animal skins. But Vegans tend also to be people who care about Cimate Change and Environmental Pressures caused by Human Activity. We have to search for true alternatives which do not involve polluting the environment. We have to be like detectives sorting the truth from the fakery, misleading eco friendly greenwashing marketing and the like. Few products are what they seem.
Let us find out more using an alphabetical listing. Starting with A for Acrylonitrile.
Like many other synthetic textile fibers, the American DuPont Corporation originally developed acrylic fiber. This firm had already become famous around the world for the development of nylon and the mainstreaming of polyester production, and when acrylic fiber was invented in the 1940s, the world saw this development as simply the next step in DuPont’s rapid ascent to a dominant position in the world’s textile markets.
However, acrylic fiber didn’t become notably popular until the 1950s. It’s possible that the success of DuPont’s other synthetic textiles contributed to this slow mainstreaming of acrylic fiber; this company had already replaced silk with nylon and cotton with polyester, which may have reduced consumer receptivity to this company’s new wool replacement, acrylic.
Ineos Nitriles is the 21st century main global supplier of Acrylonitrile: It is the Asian countries who now provide the clothing made from this fiber.
Acrylonitrile-based acrylic fibres, a popular substitute for cotton and wool, are used to make clothing, carpeting and blankets. Rugged and durable, ABS plastic derived from Acrylonitrile is chosen for its toughness and dimensional stability over other engineering resins. Other applications for Acrylonitrile include Nitrile rubber for hoses and gaskets.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic: used in refrigerator liners, medical devices, auto parts, small household appliances, toys, and luggage.
Styrene Acrylonitrile (SAN) plastic: used for food containers, tableware, bathroom fittings, and optical fibers..
Widespread use, yet Acrylonitrile has shortcomings:
Weatherability (damaged by sunlight)
Hazardous When Burned
Limited Uses in Association with Food Industry
Higher Price Than Polystyrene or Polyethylene
Acrylonitrile is manufactured by combining propylene, ammonia, and air in a process called ammoxidation. During ammoxidation, propylene, ammonia and air are fed through a catalyst at a high temperature. … This provides a large catalyst surface area for maximum exposure to the reactants.
Propylene is used mainly to produce polypropylene plastics for injection molding and fibers and for manufacturing cumene (used in phenol production). Propylene is also used to make propylene oxide, acrylic acid, oxo alcohols and isopropanol.
Propylene is probably the oldest petrochemical feedstock in the gas industry. Propylene, also known as 1-propene, is one of the smallest stable unsaturated hydrocarbon molecules used in the gas industry.
The propylene molecule is produced as a co-product of ethylene production through the steam cracking (steam pyrolysis) of hydrocarbon feedstocks. Feedstocks used for steam cracking range from ethane to naphtha and gas oils. Propylene is also produced as a by-product of petroleum refining. Propylene is sold in three separate quality grades: refinery (~70%), chemical (~92-96%) and polymer (99.5%). Chevron Phillips Chemical sells refinery and polymer grades.
The production of ammonia from natural gas is conducted by reacting methane (natural gas) with steam and air, coupled with the subsequent removal of water and CO2. The products of this process are hydrogen and nitrogen, which are the feedstock for the main ammonia synthesis.
Acrylic Fleeces – yes, I have many. I agree what this site says:
What is Fleece?
Fleece is a man-made wonder product, if there is such a thing.Despite being named after the ‘fleece’ coat on a sheep, it’s 100% synthetic and derived from plastic rather than a fluffy sheep’s coat – despite being fuzzy to the touch. The super soft, warm and breathable nature of this magic material makes it perfect for outerwear and all things cosy.
Just as I cannot replace my existing plastic products in my home, I could not keep warm without all these synthetic fibers in my clothing. But no manufacturer has innovated to produce an equally attractive and warm fibre without resorting to harmful petrochemical processes.
The Grangemouth Refinery in Scotland is a vital part of the infrastructure here. Ineos is a massive global company with its petrochemical activities. Whilst we are being told petrochemicals are bad for the environment, the industry is booming.
Petrochemical facilities are energy-intensive and dump an enormous amount of carbon pollution into the air. … After they are produced, petrochemical products continue to fuel the climate crisis. For example, nearly 12% of plastic waste is incinerated, releasing more greenhouse gases as well as dangerous toxins
There is no doubt there is no forthcoming replacement for all the billions of items we create using petrochemicals. But we consumers can question whether we should be purchasing fabrics which have been created with the help of the petrochemical industry. We can educate ourselves about Circular Fashion and ‘demand designing waste and pollution out of our clothes’, suggested in the book (as shown below) 20 years ago. We are behind the curve. We need to get ahead of it.
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (2002)
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
Published in 2002, Cradle to Cradle is widely acknowledged as one of the most important environmental manifestos of our time.
And just as I upload this blog I see a bill in the US being presented:
Senate Bill S7428
2021-2022 Legislative Session
Requires fashion retail sellers and manufacturers to disclose environmental and social due diligence policies; establishes a community benefit fund
I would urge all US citizens to support this bill, but act independently in your judgements when buying products with poor environmental and human rights histories. Please send a message of disgust to the offending companies by avoiding further purchases. For more information click here.
A few years back I wrote about climate and how the lives of the Inuit had to change as a result. They have been major users of animal skins since they first arrived after generations of travel from Africa, as nomads, in the coldest of landscapes, thousands of years ago.
But now, the Fast Fashion Industry still uses animal skins, not for essential use, but for fleeting wearability. Wherever cattle can be bred, not just for excessive meat eating but for their skins, the land is cleared to make way for such procurement, even if Rainforests are destroyed and with it essential habitat for flora and fauna. Around the world exotic creatures are increasingly farmed under cruel conditions to feed the Fast Fashion Industry.
A simple search on the Internet will soon bring up pitiful images of human cruelty to animals to meet the supply demand of the Fashion Industry:
The pitiful Arctic foxes that shame the fashion world: Beautiful creatures are cramped in tiny cages and deliberately bloated to produce two million fur pelts for Britain each year
While the UK banned fur farming 15 years ago, shoppers are still able to buy imported pelts
Over the past five years more than £2.5 million of fur items have been imported into the UK from Finland
Without the demand from thoughtless shoppers, this trade would not exist.
The short miserable lives of animals raised/ranched for their fur are finally ended when they are killed by gas, strangulation, neck breaking or anal electrocution. Read more, here.
In a world where fur is becoming increasingly déclassé because of repeated campaigns by animal rights activists — with luxury houses like Gucci, Armani, Michael Kors and Versace recently pledging to ban fur altogether — is the use of feathers any more ethical? According to Ashley Byrne, associate director of campaigns at PETA, the answer is an emphatic no. “It’s unnecessary and it’s cruel, and it’s not ethical,” she asserts.
The ten most endangered animals used by the Fashion Industry are described in full here. These animals suffer terribly because the profits are high at the top end of the luxury fashion market.
The list tells us of:
Crocodilians comprise a vast number of large reptile species, including crocodiles, alligators, caiman, and gharials around the world. Australia is one of the worst countries producing crocodile skins for the luxury market. “The high-end Frenchfashion brand Hermès wants to build one of Australia’s biggest crocodile farms in the Northern Territory that would hold up to 50,000 saltwater crocodiles to be turned into luxury goods such as handbags and shoes.”
As extinction progresses and increasingly rare animals are cruelly farmed, people are becoming aware of the hostile environment for the diversity of animals we have been exploiting for centuries in increasingly fast fashion trading processes. It does not make sense to wear garments briefly then send them to landfill. It does make sense to consider where the items we purchase come from and if animal cruelty was involved, or were animals even necessary in the making of our clothes?
Like much of our knowledge and language, the word ‘cotton’ comes from Arabic ‘quton’.
As with wool and silk, so cotton is a natural fabric and is comfortable to the most sensitive skin. It is soft yet strong; is absorbent; is easy to care for. Blend cotton with silk or different types of wool and you find attractive and enduring benefits.
In England, in 1770, when the Spinning Jenny was invented by James Hargreaves, the Industrial Revolution sprang in to life with massive changes from agriculture to factory work for the average citizen. Innovation impacted on quality of life, and many marvelled whilst others shuddered.
As the British Empire followed on from the Spanish Empire, the concept of industrial prowess tied to military might grew in the world. Those who could innovate and turn their ideas into commodities could obtain influence in political circles. Builders of ships, factories, bridges, roads, grand buildings were part of the image of the growing Empire as it left its mark in countries conquered. The technology evolved and ideas spread, resulting in acceleration of new and improved production and techniques. Those in employment could gain skills over time, some could climb to great heights of industry, many slaving still at the lower rungs, never rising to acquire more secure and desirable knowledge or position in life.
The cloth making mills were the cause of tuberculosis back in the 18th century, but, since wealth was generated for the mill owners, little attention was paid to the high mortality rate amongst workers in the mills, as one of my blogs exemplifies.
Agricultural workers who toiled in the fields were considered uneducated and made to feel ashamed of their rural existence. They were drawn to the smoky, dirty cities not for quality of life, but to become part of the much needed labour force. The classic book by E.P.Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, reminds us all of the catastrophic speed of wealth creating, labour intensive, oppressive systems which radically developed and brought misery to the many and wealth to the few.
Europe’s population doubled to almost 200 million during the 18th century, and doubled again by the 19th century. This was due to new understandings about managing the health and conditions of the labour force, and mortality at birth decreased. Humans began to live longer as housing and food improved, and education was offered to more people. Poverty was seen as the main cause of overpopulation. Today, the highest populated country is China, but it comes lower in the list of overpopulated countries such as Singapore, Israel and Kuwait. . The world population is nearing 8 billion. It is important, when assessing a country in terms of overpopulation to analyse ‘per capita consumption of renewable resources and the sustainability of a country on its resources‘. The world is overpopulated by an estimate of 2 billion people.
All humans need to be clothed. But how we mass produce clothing and textiles is relevant to the dangers of climate change. Indeed, it was during the 19th century that an educated woman from Connecticut, USA, was the first person to show in her scientific paper ‘On heat in the sun’s rays’ (American Journal of Science and Art, Nov 1856) that carbon dioxide “would give to our earth a high temperature; and if as some suppose, at one period in history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature from its own action as well as from increased weight must have necessarily resulted.” Since she, Eunice Foote, was female, she was never acknowledged for the discovery, until quite recently. She was 5 years ahead of the man who is named as the first to discover the groundwork for what we now call the ‘greenhouse effect’. He was an Irish scientist named John Tyndail.
In the blogs prior to this one, we have seen the natural resources required to grow cotton and produce wool and the impacts of climate change and ecosystem imbalance.
India is well known for its textile industry productivity. This site demonstrates the weaving- to -end -product infrastructure of a competitive Indian company creating organic cotton blend with wool cloth. Their machinery was imported from Italy in 1978 and it is obvious from their website they have been highly successful. The ability of Indians to create magnificent designs goes back to the Indus valley in the 5th millennium, when the first fabric was created using homespun cotton for weaving their garments and indigo for colour. The Indian culture lends itself still to being a hub for beautiful textile designs. For example the traditional India Khadi. India Khadi is a handspun, hand-woven natural fiber cloth. Also known as khaddar during the British colonial era, it’s a swadeshi fabric. Fibers are spun into yarn on a spinning wheel called a charkha. It is a versatile fabric, cool in summer and warm in winter.
Amongst the range of magnificent cloth and design are:
Pashmina is made from the fineness of the cream coloured goat’s wool having intricate embroidery. Pashmina meaning soft gold in Kashmiri, some designs are hand block printed and those blocks sometimes date back to more than 100 years. It takes a week to get a single shawl of pashmina. Hand embroidery is done on the shawl which takes more time to make it an end product. The tedious work makes it one of the costliest fabric.
KINNAURI SHAWLS —Kullu, Himanchal
Their geometrical patterns have religious meaning and the colors of the thread used for embroidery represent the elements of nature — water (white), air (green), earth (yellow), ether (blue) and fire (red). Frame looms are mainly used to weave the shawls and the embroidery is done by hand. The raw material that is used is Merino wool, local sheep wool and Pashmina wool.
LEPCHA — Sikkim
In ancient times, the Lepcha’s of Sikkim were said to use yarn spun out of stinging nettle (sisnu) plant to weave clothes. Today cotton and woollen yarn are used with vegetable dyes and synthetic colours. The colors used are white, red, black, yellow and green.
You can see the cotton producing states of India on this map. India leads the world in cotton production.
The World Atlas states:
Each year, India produces an average of 5,770 thousand metric tonnes of cotton making it the world’s highest producer. Cotton has been used in India for thousands of years and early origins of its use have been traced back to the Indus Valley civilization that lived in the northwestern regions of South Asia. Thanks to its favorable climate, the majority of India’s cotton is produced in the zone that covers Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
Cotton farmers in lower income countries, including leading producers like India and China, live in hardship. As many as a 100 million rural households – 90 percent of them in lower income countries – are directly engaged in cotton production, relying on it for their income. An estimated 350 million people work in the cotton sector when family labour, farm labour and workers in connected services such as transportation, ginning, baling and storage are taken into account. For farmers, the challenges range from the impact of climate change, poor prices for seed cotton, through to competition from highly subsidised producers in rich countries and poor terms of trade. In particular, government subsidies for cotton farmers in rich countries, particularly the US, create a market with artificially low prices that small-scale farmers are unable to compete in.
Exploiting our fellow humans was learned back in the early industrial revolution in England. No good came of it, only high mortality rates, dire poverty and ill health. Allowing poverty to grow also allows populations to increase at too fast a rate for the planet. Reducing poverty alleviates stress on the Planet as well as on those who suffer. Part of the solution to climate change is to reduce poverty with a determined will at a fast rate, not allow it to increase unseen by those who are wealthy.
India is the third largest gas emitter, and this website debates the challenge for India as the world is now in climate change crisis. It says:
The Third Pole provides fresh, high quality journalism covering the breadth of debates on climate change in India, from whether the country should also set a net zero target, to managing the rapid changes in some of the most fragile ecosystems of the world. Whatever direction it takes, India will have to curb its emissions while also lifting millions out of poverty and enabling its economy to recover in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Let us honour the ancient skills made famous by Indian endeavour and work toward trade mechanisms which do not allow unfair subsidies by richer nations to produce cloth at prices below those which India can meet. This industrious nation must leap into a better, happier existence reducing the poverty to zero just as we aim to reduce emissions to zero.
Killing a sheep and cutting off its skin to provide clothing is obviously a skill humans have been honing for thousands of years, since we skinned many animals to clothe us, and ate the meat, used the bones to create tools and rarely discarded any part of the animal.
Such a jacket, as the one above, currently costs just under £1000. Up to 45 animals might be used to make such a coat. But then the wearer will be well protected from bitter cold as the sheep were when they were alive.
Creating wool yarn from shorn sheep has been developing for thousands of years as tools became more efficient to do the job. The Hittites were the forerunners of the Iron Age, developing the manufacture of iron artifacts from as early as the 18th century BC; at this time, gifts from the “man of Burushanda” of an iron throne and an iron sceptre to the Kaneshite king Anitta were recorded in the Anitta text inscription.The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, Turkey houses the richest collection of Hittite and Anatolian artifacts.
The Iron Age (final technological and cultural stage in the Stone–Bronze–Iron Age sequence. The date of the full Iron Age, in which this metal for the most part replaced bronze in implements and weapons, varied geographically, beginning in the Middle East and southeastern Europe about 1200 BCE but in China not until about 600 BCE.) was the period when shearing sheep could be mastered with the apporopriate tool, the shears.
Sheep were first domesticated over 10,000 years ago and raised as a food source in Central Asia. Shearing sheep did not begin until 3500 B.C. when man learned to spin the sheep’s wool. The production of wool is the oldest trade commodity known to man. The wool industry is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible and was the first widespread international trade throughout ancient civilizations.
In the New World, most of the explorations organized by Queen Isabella of Spain were financed through her wool trading business. In the 1400’s, she paid for the voyages of Columbus and the conquistadors with profits from sheep shearing. The sheep were also used as a food source for Columbus and he left sheep in the New World when he sailed to Santo Domingo and Cuba. These sheep, known as Churras, became the ancestors of American sheep and were bred by the Navajo tribe for food and wool. The link to the Navajo tribe current traditional methods are shown here on YouTube.
One major reason for the high wool production in China is the political and economic importance that is placed on it by the ethnic minorities who live in the pastoral region. In some of the districts in this region, wool is the major source of income. The second reason why China produces about 18% of the world’s wool is its significance in the textile and clothing industries in the country. In fact, China is currently the world’s largest and 2nd largest exporter of clothing and textiles respectively. China also has very large farms for sheep to graze on.
There is great attention made to the breeding and selection of sheep in China to maintain the proficacy and seasonal adaptability in the sheep rearing regions. The Hu sheep are a case in point.
Hu sheep are well recognized for the beautiful wavy lambskins, early sexual maturity, aseasonal breeding, prolificacy and the adaptability to a hot and humid climate. Hu sheep are raised indoors all year round.
Hu sheep were originated from Mongolian sheep. As early as in the Song Dynasty(AD 420-479) Mongolian sheep were introduced from the pastoral region of North China to the Taihu lake basin which borders the present provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu. Hu sheep became to being as a result of a long process of acclimatization and artificial selection. Hu sheep are distributed in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces and the suburbs of Shanghai.
Hawick, in the Scottish Borders, was famous around the world for Wool and Cashmere clothing. The famous mills around the River Teviot and Slitrig are mostly silent now since overseas competition destroyed the industry here, the mill machinery sold to Chinese interests. But beautiful garments are still being hand crafted in Scotland.
Where I live, Cheviot sheep are the dominant breed, and have been over Scotland since the Year of the Sheep. It was their wool which supplied the wool mills around Scotland. My husband has ancestors who lived in Caithness, North East Scotland. They were evicted from their farmland in the 18th century to make way for sheep. The sheep grazed on the land they once farmed to provide for their families, but those evicted were forced to live in a hostile cliff edge at Badbea. Many highlanders were sent to the Americas on ships which had been used in the slave trade. This was an era when wealth was being created for the few rather than the many, and wool and meat production had priority. But those cast off their land were legally prohibited from obtaining meat of any kind off the land, and certainly did not benefit from the warmth of fine knitted cloths woven from the yarns made from Cheviot sheep coats.
Cheviot sheep originated in the Cheviot Hills on the border of Scotland and England. They produce 1/7th of the total wool production in Scotland. Cheviot wool, known for its durability, is used in socks, sweaters, blankets and wool tweeds for jackets and fine suiting material. These sheep originated in Scotland but are now found in many other countries, including the United States and Canada.
Scotland still retains its variety of Tartan designs which maintain their popularity worldwide. The Cheviot sheep wool supplies are still important, but during the Covid pandemic, prices dropped to silly prices. It was hardly worth the effort of bagging the wool after shearing in the summer.
These beautiful sheep are a pleasure to gaze upon, from lambs to grown ewes. The male tups are strong and magnificent. But farming is hard work in the tough landscapes of the high fells, and the economics of farming seem to be getting tougher all the time. Plus, we now have to consider the impact of climate change. Extremes of weather are affecting the livestock.
One of the ironies of the climate emergency is that hot weather encourages greater use of resources – more shelter and storage room to protect livestock and crops, more fertiliser and more irrigation – all while delivering less produce. In less developed countries, global warming has already made agriculture more difficult if not impossible across large areas of land, leading to food shortages, conflict and mass migration. Recent summers show that Wales isn’t ready for even the minimum level of warming predicted this century.
We have grown used to the reliability of seasonal changes in Britain – but now, as in most countries around the world, Nature is throwing us extremes of weather which leave us battered and broken.
Migrations of people from all over the world are moving in their thousands to seek more stable and safer environments, but no land mass is untouched by climate impacts. Farmers are finding it difficult to plan their futures, finding it harder to imagine their descendants could continue to work the land they have inhabited for centuries. The future is uncertain for all life on earth, so we must cherish and not waste what we have today. We can find solutions for all the inhabitants of this planet if we take care of one another and shoulder responsibility for our actions which need to benefit and not harm those who follow after us.
Moving to Environmentally Safe Textile Production
As we know, sheep, just like cows, emit large quantities of methane gas, which has several times the global warming potential of CO2. The 2017 Pulse of Fashion Industry Report put wool in the fourth place on its list of the fashion materials that had the highest cradle-to-gate environmental impact per kg of material. We can see a revolution is taking place as young people in the fashion industry turn to innovative, circular fashion processes which are economical and practical.
5000 years ago the Egyptians mastered the art of bleaching. White fabric was a premium choice and one might say they had a compulsive obsession to wash for personal hygiene and wear clean clothes, and that is no bad thing. Wearing dazzling white linen, their aesthetic image was complete.
The women wove linen, using the fibres from flax which grew along the Nile. The Nile was venerated by the Egyptians for good reason and I wrote a blog about the River back in 2019. Growing cotton and flax for a worldwide market requires plenty of water and the Nile is a very long river going through African countries who all want to use its magnificent waters for their own needs. Egypt is last in line.
The women would take the collected strips of fiber and begin slicing them down their length in order to make them finer. Then they would splice them by rubbing them on a flat surface. In the model, those are the three women at the far right, with their backs to the wall and crouching on the floor.
The women would then twist the spliced thread using spindles in order to form balls, or yarns, of thread. In the model, those are the three women standing in front of the previously-mentioned women, and they are holding two spindles each.
The Nile was full of dangerous crocodiles, so men usually gathered the flax and also performed the laundry duties as it was tedious work; it was dangerous for other reasons too, as many pests and parasites infested the Nile. The arid and dry conditions of Egypt were blessed with the river Nile coursing through the land, without which the Egyptian civilisation would never have developed.
It was not until a Frenchman, Monsieur Jumel, an engineer, arrived in Egypt in 1817 that cotton growing was developed. He was employed by the Pasha as director of a projected spinning and weaving mills. He found an Ethiopian cotton growing in a Cairo garden, and using seeds, began to cultivate the cotton.
The year 1822 produced about 1.500 tons of this new cotton, the staple of which was markably fine, but more unequal and less clean than that of the ensuing years. Rude presses were constructed for packing the cotton at the villages; but as the machinery was defective, some of the Alexandrian merchants brought hydraulic presses, with which they caused the bales to be pressed again. The cotton eventually came to be known as Jumel (or Mahò) and it soon found voracious markets in Europe, especially in England where only the Lancashire mills with the latest machinery could handle the fineness of its quality. In 1823 the cotton crop was increased to about 10.000 tons, and its culture permanently fixed. The quality was cleaner than that of the past year but less fine in fiber. This showed the necessity of new seed, or a different system of cultivation, and measures were taken to meet these objections. In 1827 Muhammad Ali Pasha imported Sea Island cotton seeds, which let the Egyptian cotton achieve a perfect quality, and it turned out that lower Egypt, and especially the Damiata branch of the Nile, contained the districts most favorable to these cotton varieties. The combination of the best seeds in the world, together with the exceptional environment, set up the ideal cultivation conditions for the most precious cotton in the world. And during almost two centuries it has been widely proven this result.
The Egyptians developed the art of whitening the linen, but it took time to prepare. It has taken centuries to speed up the process of cleaning and then bleaching linen and cotton ready for use in textile manufacture.
Throughout history, ubiquitous bleaching practices were carried out in direct sunlight because it became apparent that the sun had a catalytic effect. In the past, bleaching agents had been identified as indigenous acids, bases, and mineral salts. They were applied as soaks and sours to achieve high whiteness levels. Up until the eighteenth century it was common practice to bleach linens and cottons in the sun and woolens in the fumes of burning sulfur. These relatively primitive bleaching practices were not only cumbersome and arduously slow, but required extensive acreage. It was not until the introduction of chlorine-based materials in the late eighteenth century that bleaching became facile. In the late 1920s, hydrogen peroxide became the most prevalent bleach. Since that time, hydrogen peroxide continues to be the prominent bleaching agent for natural fibers and blends with synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers generally require little bleaching except for size removal, where necessary.
The anti bacterial agent, hydrogen peroxide is a much more eco friendly bleaching agent than any other. An understanding of using hydrogen peroxide for bleaching Cotton Fiber is here. Other chemical bleaches have a notorious name for harming us and the environment, reach instead for earth-friendly alternatives to do the jobs without the dangers.
Hydrogen peroxide is virtually the only bleaching agent available for protein fibers and it is also used very extensively for the cellulosic fibers. Hydrogen peroxide is a colorless liquid soluble in water in all proportions. It is reasonably stable when the pH is below 7, but tends to become unstable as the alkalinity increases. Commercial hydrogen peroxide, therefore, is made slightly acid so that it will not lose strength during storage. Solutions of hydrogen peroxide of more than 20 volumes cause intense irritation when they come into contact with skin and should be washed away immediately.
Egypt still retains the high quality reputation for its fine quality cotton and linen . But there is a water crisis in Egypt which cannot be ignored. Cotton plantations, as I have discussed in the previous blog to this one, require a massive amount of water.
There is a strict law to protect the Egyptian Cotton brand whilst juggling the issue for clean water for the populace.
The state’s control over the cotton market and the trade process has led to the restoration of manufacturer confidence in cotton and cotton blends, grown in Egypt. Already, this has led to an increase in demand for Egyptian cotton by more than 25% during 2020/2021.
To conclude, the Egyptian State is vigorously moving forward with developing the cotton trading system and combating the use of the wording ‘Egyptian cotton’ on imitation products. This will, in turn, result in an increase in the demand for Egyptian cotton and will directly improve farmers’ livelihoods and help achieve sustainable development.
9 million Egyptians are currently employed in the industry. Egypt is a powerful player. There are efforts to grow cotton more sustainably. All people around the world have no choice but to make every effort to protect their quality industries and, at the same time, protect the environment.