The Good, the Bad, and the In-Between

One of my favorite aspects of class so far is exploring the different approaches to mindful practice. I found Wednesday’s walking meditation to be extremely difficult. However, I think this was mostly because of our constantly changing pace and the tree branches that I couldn’t seem to avoid. I’ve noticed that when I go for a run lately I’ve been focusing on the present more and unintentionally engaging in a mindful practice, so I think the walking mediation might be one of the most effective options for me when I’m alone but not in a group. I loved Monday’s meditation too. It was a lot easier for me to focus when I had something specific and tangible to concentrate on. I thought it was really interesting to take the time to consider where our object of nature (in my case, a leaf) came from and how/why it ended up in my hand in a classroom at OSU. I also felt that Monday’s meditation provided a subtle but intriguing transition into our discussion for the day about the concept of “fashion.” Our discussion about fashion expanded on what I’d been considering last week about how rapidly trends change and how damaging this can be to the environment.

One of the biggest points made this week was that change in itself is neither positive or negative; the reasons behind the change and the methods for implementing this change determine the nature of it. For this reason, we must be very careful and considerate when trying to improve the fashion industry to be more beneficial for the environment without upsetting consumers or those whose livelihood depends on the current concept of fashion. Two suggested solutions to the current environmental concerns are to increase the longevity of the products or to completely change the process by which they are made and the materials used to make them. While increasing the longevity is a valid option, doing so could have negative effects on the economy if spending is reduced. In order for this to be successful, society as a whole would also have to experience a major shift in mindset. Consumerism, which is currently at the forefront of our culture, is based on constantly disposing of old products just to buy the newest option. Increasing the longevity is not likely to reduce the waste created by the consumers that follow this behavior because they are likely to become bored with the longer lasting product, discard it anyway, and purchase the newest edition.

However, I feel that reconsidering the manufacturing process and the materials used is a much more realistic approach. I still think society as a whole does need to shift away from consumerism, but I know that isn’t going to happen overnight. So while we are transitioning, we can begin focusing on a more sustainable way to continue our current consumer culture. By maintaining the same production rate but using cleaner resources, the employees of the fashion industry can keep their jobs and reduce damage to the environment. I believe one of the best possibilities for a more sustainable industry is to appeal to the designers themselves. If we can convince designers to start utilizing recycled materials or materials that are biodegradable or easily recycled, then these items will become fashionable, and even if they are discarded at a rapid rate, they can be reused or disposed of with minimal damage to the environment.

Before this week, I never even considered poverty as another cause of environmental degradation. Since this concept was so foreign to me, I spent extra time thinking about it. Ultimately, I feel the only way that any solution will be effective is if those living in poverty are involved in developing and implementing the solution. No society or individual will ever successfully change if they feel the change is forced upon them. Therefore, trying to force the approach that Western culture thinks is best for developing countries will never be productive. The inhabitants of the country are the only ones that know what would truly work for them, so we have to start including them in decisions concerning their well-being. I believe we should create councils that include environmental activists who have the knowledge and capabilities to fund and implement changes, individuals who are currently living poverty, and members of local governments that are willing to help and have the ability to enforce new policies.

This week reinforced my resolution from last week to be more aware of the consequences of throwing out my old clothes and be more determined to prolong the life of the clothes that I already own. To make more of an impact on a larger scale, I think it would be very beneficial for me to eventually travel more and witness and experience firsthand a community that lives in poverty. If I did this, I would likely be able to propose more solutions than I can now. I feel like this is the case for most of society; we are so unaware of the problem that we have no idea how to help. Just as change is neither necessarily positive nor negative, I believe media is neither good nor bad. By utilizing all forms of media as a vessel for change, we could finally make a significant change. Although everyone may not initially jump at the opportunity to make a difference, making everyone aware of the reality of the situation will increase the number of minds trying to think of a solution, and every bit of effort counts. As I progress in my education and eventually my career, I will be more aware of the materials that I’m using and more thoughtful in considering if more sustainable resources can be used in their place. I would truly love to see a shift in fashion toward using recycled materials in innovative and exciting ways, and I would love to use my future degree to have a role in this change.

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