Kathleen from Fashion Incubator blog pointed me to an article that a meteorologist friend of hers posted on her Bad Mom, Good Mom blog about the global environmental impact of raising cashmere goats to feed the western world’s insatiable desire for garments made from their luxurious fiber.
Little did I realize that the soft and lovely cashmere sweaters in my closet were a cog in the wheel of global warming. Her post has stuck with me for many months and I feel compelled to share it with you as winter sets in and holiday shopping begins. Sadly it all really makes sense.
In her post titled “The Planetary Cost of Cashmere”, which I strongly urge you to check out along with all the links attached to it, Bad Mom, Good Mom writes,
“The global dust belt has not received as much press as the global fashion weeks so you might not be familiar with this story. Occasionally, dust can be injected into the jet stream, a fast-moving river of air that circles the globe. Asian dust ends up in north America, American dust ends up in Europe, European dust ends up in Asia and so on.
The Sahara desert used to be THE major source for dust, but there are other smaller seasonal sources, such as glaciers grinding rocks in Alaska. The amount of dust is rising, and global dust season is lengthening due to both growth in dust sources (industrialization and desertification) and lengthening of local dust seasons.
In recent years, Mongolia has become a major source of dust. The Gobi desert is spreading up into the Mongolia Steppes and the goats did it. Or rather, we did it, with our collective lust for cashmere.”
So what do the goats have to do with it? Here’s what The New York Times article “Pastoralism Unraveling in Mongolia” says
“Sukhtseren Sharav has a herd of 150 goats and 100 sheep, and as they chew their way through everything else, and the sharilj spreads, he must shepherd them ever higher into the mountains to find fresh grazing land.
The lack of foraging terrain is not Mr. Sharav’s only worry. The price for cashmere, the wool made from the fleece of his goats, has plunged 50 percent from last year. The price of flour, his most essential food staple, has more doubled.
These are hard times for Mongolia’s cashmere industry, which provides jobs and income for a third of the country’s population of 2.6 million and supplies about 20 percent of the world’s market for the fluffy, feather-light fiber, prized for its warmth, delicate feel and long wear.
To compensate for low prices, herders have been increasing supply by breeding more goats — a classic vicious circle. Mongolia’s goat population is now approaching 20 million, the highest ever recorded.
Environmentalists and social scientists say this is destroying biodiversity and pastureland, and undermining herding livelihoods. But goats are hardier than other livestock, breed faster and can survive on sparser resources: so, the more the land is degraded, the more herders are driven to switch from cows, camels or other less destructive herds — another vicious circle.”
This is a tragedy for the herders with global consequences. Aerosols are a strong feedback to the global radiative budget. In plain English, this means that dust traps heat. This can have both local and global consequences as the trapped heat changes the global air circulation, impacting storm patterns, heat waves, etc.
With all this knowledge I feel guilty about my cozy cashmere collection and realize that I need to take good care of those sweaters since I won’t be buying any more new ones. Whether you are consumer or manufacturer I urge you to carefully consider the global impact of purchasing or manufacturing cashmere garments.