As something of a fashion designer (by my own definition), I have to admit that sustainability never really entered my mind in terms of industry Mainly because the niche market of the fashion world that applies to me and interests me is that of high end western apparel. Expensive, custom boots and turquoise jewelry, leather accessories (even saddles!) that get handed down from generation to generation. The products I have been concerned with in my design career are heirloom products. Things of high quality with deep, complex stories that would never simply be thrown away for the next season’s latest fashions. Perhaps what I have found most disturbing in this course is how I, as a designer, am but a rare exception in the fashion industry. Our entire economic system is constructed upon a lethal cycle of waste and destruction. I didn’t realize just how destructive this system was until watching the “Story of Stuff.” This short film was very eye-opening to me about not just how the fashion industry pollutes and wastes, but how every industry we are involved in wreaks havoc the world over. My main take-away from the Fashion and Sustainability reading, “The Story of Stuff,” our class discussions, and the Poverty reading is that we as a global society must move away from this monstrous consumerism. We need a radical shift, starting with greater and deeper awareness about just how finite our world’s resources are. I did recently have a spark of hope when I came across a company featured on National Geographic’s facebook feed that mines old tires and used plastic bottles to build houses and commercial structures. The homes and buildings were gorgeous, they didn’t even look like anything out of the ordinary, but they were created by re-purposing all this garbage that is readily and immediately available everywhere we turn. It does make me wonder about the future entrepreneurs that will come to light, harvesting and mining the world’s landfills for things that could be used to build something new, something needed like housing. I think it’s a great place to start. Our “poverty” reading was a little more difficult for me to take a definitive stance on. Poverty, obviously, is absolutely insidious. From malnourishment, sickness, and the rigors of need, to the effects on the environment surrounding a blighted community, there is simply nothing good about it. I think it’s less important to find someone to blame for the poverty and environmental degradation, and simply look to solutions to solve poverty along with environmental restoration. It’s absolutely clear that poverty and environmental degradation go in hand in hand. We should be working to solve both issues. In finding and funding solutions to poverty for certain populations, whether in the form of better education and micro-funding, citizens will be less worried about how they’re going to find their next meal, and be more prone to engage in biophilia. Biophilia is “the idea that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life,” according to Eric Fromm in “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness” (1973). People naturally seek nature when there’s room on their metaphorical plate to do so. These solutions would all go hand in hand in increasing a population’s affinity and care for the environment.
For Activity Three, I chose to explore the wicked problem of global warming, particularly where deforestation is concerned. So far, I have learned about problems with newly planted forests that succumb to disease, drought, or flooding and don’t have the chance to take hold and grow. It reminds me a lot of the dust bowl that plagued Oklahoma in the early 1900s. My own family’s ranches still have “shelter belts” that were planted by the Works Progress Administration in order to slow the winds, ease the droughts, and stop the environmental damage that was being done to the farms and ranches here. What floors me is that it worked! It absolutely, one hundred percent worked! In the 1930s to today! And people seem so blithely unaware of this simple yet perfect solution to the environmental damage we’re facing today. We no longer have “blackout” dust storms here, BECAUSE of the tree rows planted so long ago (along with better agricultural practices). In my sustainability journey, I think that is what has surprised and disheartened me the most; how unwilling society is to invest in the solutions that are literally right in front of us. Simple, perfect solutions such as planting more trees. In such a devastatingly complicated world, this solution is elegantly simple. Plant more trees. It is absolutely within our grasp to plant enough trees to stop climate change and clean up the land, water, and air. Yet, we’re not doing enough of it. Is it already too late?