Monday afternoon, in my Global Sourcing class, we watched a video called The True Cost. It was a documentary that talked about sweat shops today, global sourcing, sustainability, and fast fashion, but mainly the impact of fast fashion on the planet. Since the beginning of this semester in Sustainability, I have become more aware of the side effects of fashion such as excess waste, filling landfills, and suicides of farmers in India. When we discussed the suicides of farmers in India, I was skeptical. In The True Cost, it went into full detail of those suicides. Companies have started playing with cotton to make it easy to grow anywhere and in bountiful supply. The cost of this cotton isn’t just its extreme monetary price but also the effect it has on communities. Genetically modified cotton (GMO) in this case, needs excess amounts of pesticide added once it is growing. It also needs excess water. The massive amounts of pesticides in one area is causing cancer, birth defects, and mental retardation, not to mention contaminated water supplies, in communities around the fields. The farmers, though, get in trouble because the pesticides and water cost money, which they don’t have because the cotton is supposed to be pest-free, and they end up losing their farms. That’s when they commit suicide.
Watching this movie, I also learned that we donate our clothes to charity because we think we are saving them from going to land-fills and that other people will use them. In reality, only 10 percent of the clothing we donate actually goes to stores, and the rest gets shipped to landfills and places like Haiti. In Haiti, they have markets where tables are piled with clothes, and people have started upcycling the excess clothing. This really irritates me, though, because I’ve always been taught to take my old clothes and shoes to places like Salvation Army and Goodwill because people will use them. Now I know that most of my old clothes go to landfills. We think we’re being sustainable by donating them, but really we’re adding to the problem unknowingly.
Last week we didn’t have class, so we did an outdoor activity. It took me a while to complete because it involved a lot of deep thinking. The activities encouraged you to look at nature and think of how nature can be used in design. My favorite activity was activity 1 where we had to come up with functions of buildings and trees and compare them. Then we had to reflect on how it related to sustainability and application in our fields. Both trees and buildings provide a place of safety and shelter, act as wind blocks, and look pretty. Trees can be used to make buildings, though. Trees also convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. What I didn’t think about, though, is we mainly see trees as being trees- big tall structures with branches and leaves, but it is a living organism with its own eco-structure. Trees are pretty self-sustaining. They absorb water and use it sparingly to keep themselves alive until the next big rain. They have bark to protect themselves. They act as homes for birds, insects, and other animals. I think a lot of the time now, we see trees as being a nuisance when they aren’t necessarily pretty or where we think they should be. As the years go by, humans destroy what we don’t see fit to be. Tony Hillerman was an author who wrote fiction novels using real stories and places from the Navajo people. Native Americans respected the land; they never took more than what they needed to survive, and they never intentionally hurt the Earth. Tony Hillerman was one of those people who understood the Native Americans and tried to convey their beliefs to other Americans. In several of his books, he writes about the Navajos being a sacred people with beliefs that if you destroy nature or invade nature where it is sacred, you will be destroyed. I think of the Devon tower in Oklahoma City and other large structures around the world and how they are waste. We build structures to make cities look different from the outside world (nature) instead of trying to incorporate nature into our designs. What would the world look like if we built buildings to mimic trees and other living life forms instead of something static?