What could be worse for the planet than fashion? It’s not what you may expect.
By Diane Small
According to a study discussed in SWNS Digital, three quarters of the British population believe climate change is the biggest crisis facing humanity today – but many are confused about what they can do to stop it. In fact, 52 per cent of Brits said they had no idea about how to help tackle climate change, and 83 per cent think it’s ultimately up to the governments of the world to do more to help.
On this latter point, we’d have to agree.
Whilst many governments are threatening their populations with carbon taxes, which will particularly impact the poor and have a dubious record for curbing CO2 at all, these same governments’ policies continue to devastate the planet with their destructive policies. And yet no one says a word.
Many of our readers fret about the environmental impact of fashion, which is often said to be the second biggest polluter in the world, after agriculture.
This statistic is sometimes bickered over, with some news outlets saying fashion is actually the third or even the fifth or sixth biggest polluter. But what all these arguments fail to realise is that the number 1 polluter is not, in fact, agriculture, or even the energy sector.
Wondering what could be worse?
If you truly care about the Earth, here are three things far worse than fashion for the planet that you should be taking action on, right now.
3 Things Far Worse For The Planet Than Fashion
If you really, really care about stopping climate change and pollution, what do you think could be the most important thing you could do? Stop flying? Buy an electric car? Shop less? Nope, on all accounts. The best thing you could do would be to help change America’s foreign policy.
What? I hear you saying. What’s this got to do with anything? But in fact, one of the biggest causes of CO2 gases, actual human deaths and total destruction in the world today is the United States Pentagon.
Of all the wars happening in the world right now, the origins of almost all of them can be traced back to a handful of countries: Israel, France, the UK, Saudi Arabia…and above all, the USA. And according to a recent study, the US military is one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases each year than most medium-sized countries. If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, and currently, the Pentagon’s carbon footprint is worse than that of 100 countries combined.
This is because it relies upon an extensive global network of container ships, trucks, and cargo planes to supply its operations with everything from bombs to ‘humanitarian aid’ and hydrocarbon fuels. But that carbon footprint doesn’t even take into account the energy and resources needed to rebuild all the entire cities the U.S military destroys, the long lasting devastation of its depleted uranium weapons and nuclear testing sites, or the carbon impact of its allies assisting in their ‘war on terror.’
Don’t believe me? Here are some resources to check out that back up these facts and more:
- The Department of Energy’s “Federal Facility Reporting” on “Annual Energy Data and Sustainability Performance”: This is a great portal page from which you can get the figures the Pentagon (Department of defense) and all other federal agencies report report, regarding their greenhouse gas emissions.
- Some more detail on how the military generates these emissions can be found in these two articles from Patricia Hynes ( 2011 article and 2017 article), or this 2015 article by Lisa Savage.
- This page on the website Civilian Exposure has links to fairly up-to-date information about the contamination situation at Camp Lejeune in NC and to the EPA’s information about the status of the military’s 140 other “Superfund” (super-contaminated) sites around the country.
Conclusion? Forget about turning the lights off when you leave a room, or not shopping at Missguided. The impact of making these small changes – even if millions of us do it – is practically nothing when compared to the devastating planetary destruction war brings.
If you really care about this Earth and the lives of people on it, your top priority should be protesting ALL military interventions, everywhere. Instead of highlighting which companies emit the most CO2, as Extinction Rebellion does, they should be protesting outside the offices of Boeing and Lockheed Martin – the companies whose missions are to create weapons of mass destruction. Not to do so is simply naive.
2. The Wrong Foods
Agriculture is often pointed to as being a serious culprit in the destruction of the Earth, and with very good reason indeed. According to a new study by the non-profit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and GRAIN, meat and dairy companies are on track to be the world’s biggest contributors to climate change, outpacing even the fossil fuel industry.
To arrive at this conclusion, the non-profit conducted an analysis of the planet’s 35 largest meat and dairy companies and found that when taken together, the world’s top five meat and dairy corporations are already responsible for more emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP.
You might think that this is because everyone around the world needs to eat milk and dairy products every day, but that’s simply not true: the main consumption of these foods is highly concentrated in a small number of countries, including China, the USA, the EU countries, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. In fact, these countries alone are collectively responsible for over 60 per cent of global meat and dairy emissions – about twice the rest of the world on a per capita basis.
The problem of the emissions from livestock farming is made worse by the fact that forests – even rain forests – are cut down daily to make room for ever increasing numbers of cattle, which graze on plants that could be used to feed millions of people instead. By losing so many trees, we also lose the Earth’s natural ability to store carbon in them.
The solution? Obviously, go vegan. One study shows that if everyone on Earth did so, the planet would regain 75% of its land, which could then be used in turn to store more carbon. If veganism isn’t an option for you, perhaps drastically reducing the amount of animal products you consume (both as food AND as fashion) is more realistic.
Another Benefit Of Going Vegan
By reducing meat consumption, you’ll also be reducing the amount of genetically modified organisms polluting our ecosystems, as most livestock is fed GMO soy or corn.
Although many believe GMO foods are harmful to human health due to their extensive use of carcinogenic glyphosate as a pesticide, few have focused on the environmental effects of genetically modified foods – and they are extensive.
- GMOs have been proven to be toxic to insects vital for pollination, such as bees and butterflies
- Birds are also at risk from pesticides used on GMO foods, and work as biological control agents and pollinators
- The long term effects of GMOs are not certain and may contaminate non-GMO plants with their DNA
- It is not impossible for new, human modified, plants to become invasive species in delicate, natural ecosystems
- The nature of GMOs means fewer weed flowers grow, and, therefore, less nectar for pollinators, thus threatening whole ecosystems
- More than 80% of all genetically modified crops grown worldwide have been engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, the use of toxic herbicides, such as Roundup®, has increased fifteen fold since GMOs were first introduced. In March 2015, the World Health Organisation determined that the herbicide glyphosate (the key ingredient in Roundup®) is “probably carcinogenic to humans.
- Toxins released into the soil through GMO plants mean fewer soil bacteria, which are integral to healthy soil for plants to grow without the use of chemical fertilisers
- Toxic residues are left in the soil of GM crops. Nutrients are not returned to the soil in mono crops and from GMO foods, meaning that soil becomes dry and void of all nutrients
- The irrigation used to grow GM foods naturally carries all of these problems into water sources and into the air. This exposes different bacteria, insects, and animals to the same problems
- GMO seeds are often engineered to be sterile, meaning farmers cannot use seeds from their plants as nature intended, and must buy more each season from the agricultural company. Many farmers have gone bankrupt from this ‘terminator technology’
What this all means is that GMO foods have undoubtedly harmed pollinators, have contaminated heritage seeds, are destroying the microbes in soil, and have contaminated our waterways and soil with glyphosate, a carcinogen.
In short, it seems the GMO crops that most animals are fed are a time bomb that could lead to a global food crisis that will be very hard to fix, but by shunning meat and dairy, we can reduce the demand for GMO animal feed.
3. Nuclear Energy and Weapons
We would all like to think that nuclear war is a threat that died with the Cold War, but the sad reality is that we’re closer to nuclear destruction than we’ve ever been, and thanks to two nuclear powers -America and Israel – pushing for a war with Iran, the situation isn’t getting better. This could spark two other huge nuclear powers, Russia and China, to come to Iran’s defence.
It’s not really necessary to recount the horrors of a potential nuclear exchange, other than to remind ourselves that a nuclear winter would be the ultimate environmental disaster, and humanity’s last insult to the planet.
There are approximately a whopping 20,000 active nuclear weapons slumbering away in missile silos, bunkers and submarines around the world – that we know of.
Those weapons are a pretty big threat to life as we know it. But there’s another threat, too – and some even think it’s ‘eco-friendly’. I’m talking about nuclear energy.
The arguments for nuclear energy are that it emits less CO2, and is thus ‘cleaner’ than other options like coal or gas. However, the waste from these energy plants is a major issue. It remains radioactive for tens to hundreds of thousands of years, and currently, there are no long-term storage solutions for radioactive waste.
And then there are the accidents.
The Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine has had a variety of negative health effects on thousands of animals, humans and even plant life across Russia and Eastern Europe. The same could be said about the three nuclear meltdowns at a power plant in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011. This disaster also resulted in the release of radioactive materials into the surrounding area, including the Pacific Ocean.
In both disasters, hundreds of thousands were relocated, millions of dollars spent, and the radiation-related deaths are still being evaluated. Cancer rates among populations living in proximity to Chernobyl and Fukushima, especially among children, rose significantly in the years after the accidents and continue to rise.
But we don’t need a disaster to suffer the health effects of nuclear energy: studies show increased risk for cancers for those who live near a nuclear power plant, especially for childhood cancers such as leukemia. Workers in the nuclear industry are also exposed to higher than normal levels of radiation, and as a result are at a higher risk of death from cancer at a rate similar to the that of Japanese nuclear bomb survivors.
And if anyone claims nuclear energy is cleaner, they’re forgetting to mention that uranium, the fuel for nuclear reactors, is energy-intensive to mine, and deposits discovered in the future are likely to be harder to get to to. As a result, much of the net energy created would be offset by the energy input required to build and decommission plants and to mine and process uranium ore. The same is true for any reduction in greenhouse gas emissions brought about by switching from coal to nuclear.
So, in short, nuclear energy is dangerous, and isn’t actually as ‘clean’ as some advocates would have you think.
‘No nukes’ was a popular slogan in the ’80’s; it seems it’s time to revive that sentiment if you love this planet.
While we’re not saying that shopping ethically isn’t important, we do need to focus on the bigger picture here. Allowing our governments to subsidise animal agriculture, nuclear energy and endlessly enter into needless wars (whilst they claim to actually care about climate change) is far more destructive than anything we as consumers can do.
It may seem daunting to go up against Big Agriculture and the Military Industrial Complex, but by:
- going vegan or drastically cutting down on animal product consumption
- refusing to join the military or work for the secret service agencies or Pentagon
- choosing anti-war political candidates
- protesting new nuclear power plants
- refusing to buy GMO foods
- protesting wars and writing to Congressmen and women to express our disapproval
we can, collectively, make a huge impact that may do more to slow the heating of this planet than anything else we do.