Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.
Camille Seaman's opening line that 'everything is interconnected' is a divine truth of the natural world. In today's hyper-globalized environment it has become a sinister reality in our material world as well; a reality that we have yet to accept and one which has increased the devastation and power in the breathtaking storms Camille has captured.
For the past year I have been running an online sustainable fashion retailer. A challenge constantly faced in sustainable fashion is untangling incredibly intertwined and opaque supply chains that everyone from major fashion houses to up-and-coming designers rely on. As I listened to Camille share her grandfather's wisdom that she was part of nature and that her perspiration was part of the the "water that helps to make the cloud, that becomes the rain, that feeds the plants, that feeds the animals," I couldn't help but think of the convoluted supply chains supporting fast fashion and our role as consumers in shaping it.
From farmers picking the cotton, to the seamstresses sewing the garments, to shipping crates of product across the globe, an insatiable demand for clothing has spawned a worldwide supply chain that is unrivaled in efficiency, cost but also in complexity. One in every seven people around the world are in someway connected to the textile industry. Never before have we been able to produce, move and sell products across the globe in under two weeks. Like our natural world, the entire process is completely interconnected, each step reliant upon the last to bring the ecosystem to life.
We have bent the natural order to fulfill our material needs without regard for how we are harming our natural world. -- David Dietz
Yet unlike Camille's drops of sweat which seeded the clouds, we as consumers are conditioned to take instead of replenish. To ignore rather than understand our role in the process. To appreciate fashion for how it looks not how or where it's made. We have bent the natural order to fulfill our material needs without regard for how we are harming our natural world. In doing so, we have disrupted the natural balance and are threatening our very existence.
Storm clouds are building. On the ground, turbulence is fermenting, manifesting itself in the form of protests, even violence. Workers across the globe are rising up in frustration, refusing to be shackled to the almost slave-like factory conditions and immense poverty to which they have been subjected. From the Arab Spring, to the factories in Bangladesh to Brazil, workers are demanding jobs with dignity and freedom.
In the skies, the heavens are increasingly experiencing tumult as well. Storms are brewing more powerful than ever, strengthened by warmer oceans and a hotter climate, the result of the billions of gallons of toxic pollutants (a majority from the textile industry) that we have dumped into our waters and atmosphere.
Camille describes these storms as "lovely monsters" -- to her, they are a beautiful cycle of nature. But as a consumer-driven society we are altering these monsters. We are turning them against us. Through the toxic pesticides used in our raw materials to the smog belching from the factories, the storms are becoming demons of destruction. It is no surprise we are experiencing more violent storms than at any point in our history. The word hurricane is derived from the Taino Native American word, hurucane, meaning evil spirit in the wind.
If we want to return to being able to appreciate nature and these storms rather than cower from them, we must begin to change our relationship with it. We must deconstruct complex supply chains and return to more sustainable locally-based economies (and not just in fashion). We must value where our clothing comes from and how it's made. We must consciously work to leave a more gentle footprint. If we don't, those "forces and processes" that helped to create our galaxy, our sun and our planet, will be the ones that destroy it.
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