Monday, August 26, 2019

Of brands, sustainability and the replaceable human species.

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
"The fact that if we do not change the way we live, the way we consume, we're going to be faced with immense challenges - climate change but to name but one. And who is going to spread that message? Brands, like it or not have the most economic power, and the most imaginative power" Luc Wise, co-founder, The Good company. I started with this quote that I read on the Epica Awards Instagram account simply because it is true.
Want it or not, brands are the one to bring environmentally-friendly changes and spread messages to the world. Let's start with the idea that Prada, Gucci and many other fashion houses have agreed not to use fur anymore in their collections (furs as you may know are not cultivated in exactly harmless ways!). Inditex (parent company of among others Zara and Massimo Dutti) has a rigid plan when it comes to the environment - it recently announced a pledge to use 100 percent sustainable fabrics by 2025. The company also upped the ante for large-scale sustainable fashion by promising to use 80 percent renewable energy for its headquarters, factories and stores by the same deadline.
As the G7 gather in Biarritz, major fashion houses have initiated talks with political leaders (lead by the Kering conglomerate - whose brands include Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta, Boucheron, Brioni and Pomellato) as to sustainability, and since fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, one can understand how much there is at stake.
Do note, this is not just about fashion brands, Tesco supermarkets have announced they shall not accept any products which are over-wrapped, Germany will issue a law which will ban plastic bags, Ikea just announced its biodegradable mushroom packaging (which is as sturdy as foam but degrades easily). San Francico just banned the use of bottled water, and the activist Greta Thunberg - who became a global environmental sensation - has sparked a boom in environmental publishing for kids and young adults.
Surprisingly, it seems space images of the earth showed it has become more green thanks to China and India, even as the Amazon rages with its fire.
Let me give you this example:
Imagine a tree that produces an agent that can fight cancer.
The tree is on the endangered list of horticultural species.
We extract that agent and able to duplicate it in the lab.
The tree is now useless, then!
Because the environment is interconnect in ways we do not understand (as an agriculture engineer and environmental economist I can tell you that for sure!), this is what we call an "ecosystem". So should be cut that tree, there might be specific birds which use it as nests, and when the tree falls that specific bird species might go extinct as well, starting a domino effect we neither understand or can control.
The worse news? Should the human species which is at the center of all these sustainability and circular economy efforts (which are words you will be hearing frequently along with global warming. Unless, like a certain American president, you think it is a Chinese hoax) not adjust their/our behavior, the consequence is surprisingly simple: The earth can continue without humans, it will adjust itself one way or another. But should we not save ourselves as a species, and do it soon, we are indeed replaceable