Truly sustainable fashion: what would it look like, and how do we get there?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the need for durable, small-scale, community-based economies–because that’s the only way we’re going to survive in this age of climate change. And I’ve been wondering, what does that mean for fashion? What would a sustainable system of clothing production look like?

Clothing swaps and bargain shopping events are a major step in the right direction. But new clothing still has to come from somewhere.

I really like The Social Skin’s vision of a sustainable textile industry. In it, fibers are grown locally whenever possible, including from animals like sheep and rabbits; local fabric shops create various types of cloth while paying their workers a living wage; people sew simple items at home, and take fabric to tailors for more complicated garments; and people care for their clothing carefully, using it until it wears out or selling it at consignment stores. Also, hats come back in style, providing work for local milliners–an idea which I can get behind 100%!

A sustainable system involving hats? Sign me up!

The way clothing would get made sounds wonderful:

You collaborate with the dressmaker on your garment design and in choosing your trimming and notions. She contributes expertise in fabric drapery and cut, suggestions on styles she has seen work before, and information on current fashion trends or historic styles as appropriate. You contribute your preferences on the style, cut, colors and fabrics that work for you. You might bring in pictures of clothes you’ve seen to be copied, with whatever adjustments you want, or your favorite old dress to be recreated in fresh fabric. All of your clothes fit you perfectly, are exactly the right length, height, and width in every place. The colors are always flattering to your complexion, the cuts always flattering to your figure, the style always exactly what you feel most comfortable and lovely wearing. What a dream!

There would be so much more room for creativity, and people of all sizes could get clothing they love, rather than being left out by corporations that don’t want their clothing seen on fat people.

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A must-read: Bill McKibben on fossil fuel divestment

The case for fossil fuel divestment: on the road with the new generation of college activists fighting for the environment.

This gives me hope, and makes me so freaking proud of all the students who are working tirelessly to, quite literally, save the world.

If you’re a college student or an alum, and your school has a divestment campaign, I urge you to support them. Write letters, threaten not to donate any money to your alma mater until they divest from fossil fuel, do whatever else you can.

The logic of divestment couldn’t be simpler: if it’s wrong to wreck the climate, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage. The fossil fuel industry, as I showed in Rolling Stone last summer, has five times as much carbon in its reserves as even the most conservative governments on earth say is safe to burn – but on the current course, it will be burned, tanking the planet. The hope is that divestment is one way to weaken those companies – financially, but even more politically. If institutions like colleges and churches turn them into pariahs, their two-decade old chokehold on politics in DC and other capitals will start to slip. Think about, for instance, the waning influence of the tobacco lobby – or the fact that the firm making Bushmaster rifles shut down within days of the Newtown massacre, after the California Teachers Pension Fund demanded the change. “Many of America’s leading institutions are dozing on the issue of climate,” says Robert Massie, head of the New Economics Institute. “The fossil fuel divestment campaign must become the early morning trumpet call that summons us all to our feet.”

Friday links, 2/22/13

Stuffed French toast with caramelized apples, dried cranberries, and goat cheese. Nom!

Fat Acceptance
Get ready for NOLOSE 2013, which sounds amazing! I would love to make it to NOLOSE someday.
-Toronto fatties of color, check out the It Gets Fatter Project’s Fat Talk.
-Participate in a cultural shift by submitting your health care story to ASDAH’s Resolved: Addressing Weight Bias in Health Care video project.
There’s no need for this obesity epidemic hysteria.
How not to be a dick to your fat friends.
Thigh gaps, calories, and ignorance about how bodies actually work.
-On not being impressed with thin people trying to be the voice of FA.
HAES matters: a health at every size model for our children.
Mindful eating: what it is, what it isn’t, and why kids don’t need it.
Talented fat people are not actually shocking.
-Laura Beck gets to the heart of so much fat hatred.
-Both Glorify and Fierce, Freethinking Fatties are inviting fatties from marginalized backgrounds to write for them.
How I learned to love my fat arms.

Fa(t)shion
Tutu DuMonde’s clothing is gorgeous–too bad it’s for children! I’d totally wear it if it came in my size–unlike Jeska, I have no qualms about going to the bank dressed like a 1920’s circus performer.
-Continuum’s Constrvct collection is such a cool idea–you can design your own fashion, and then the clothing is custom-made to your measurements. It’s not particularly affordable, but I’m still glad it exists.
-Check out Rachele’s How To Be a Fat Bitch e-course #3, which is about fatshion.
A review of a Sealed With A Kiss dress, and a really cool Etsy shop that makes custom clothing.
Not for girls: are women ditching pink?
Dressing for yourself and dressing to put others at ease.
ABAN: Empowering girls in Ghana, one fabric at a time.
Stop telling girls their hemlines are too short.
-A fabulous punk Marie Antoinette-themed photoshoot.
-Total eye candy: a floral affair.

Everything Else
How not to write a travel piece like Nicholas Kristof.
Why you shouldn’t participate in voluntourism.
The war on sex workers.
The triple-pane windows theory: a shockingly simple blueprint for cities to save the planet without wrecking the economy.
A tiny village in Vietnam where women choose to be single mothers.
The curious case of Reeva Steenkamp’s boyfriend.

Want to read something really terrifying about climate change?

Read this, and then try not to run around screaming…

We are 37 years away from the end. That means climate change isn’t a problem for our children or grandchildren, it’s a problem for us. It’s you and I that are going to have our natural lives cut short, you and I that will bear witness to the collapse of human civilization. Fighting climate change isn’t so the hippies can save the polar bears, or so the scientists can save the Arctic ice. It’s a battle for all of humanity to save itself.

I don’t really know what to say. I’m still working on figuring out how to make a difference. This stuff is paralyzingly scary, but…there’s got to be some hope, right?

Travel and climate change: conflicting truths

The Hamilton Pool Preserve in Texas. Photo by Dave Wilson.

I’ve been doing more reading about both travel and its impact on climate change. I don’t know how to reconcile what’s ultimately necessary for our survival with what’s good, and beautiful, and connects us.

I don’t have any scintillating synthesis. I just have quotes and pictures. And a wish that there were an easy answer.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Saint Augustine

“Just one return flight from London to New York produces a greater carbon footprint than a whole year’s personal allowance needed to keep the climate safe.”
— ETA, Air Travel’s Impact on Climate Change

“While we may not want to admit it, Americans lead fairly sheltered lives, and as a result, generally have a poor understanding of what is really happening in the rest of the world. ‘I think it’s really hard to fully comprehend what your own country has, both the good and the bad, without getting outside of your comfort zone on a deeper, more meaningful level,’ says Meet, Plan, Go! Austin co-host Keith Hajovsky. “Taking a gap year or a career break is a great way to accomplish this.”

Likewise, San Diego host Elaine Masters believes that there would be far less intolerance, violence, prejudice, and hatred in the world if more people got to experience the ways in which other people live in it. ‘There is really no better education available, in my opinion, than seeing the world,’ says Masters.”
— Katie Aune, Why a Gap Year Should Come to America

Lison, Portugal. Photo by Filipa Chatillon.

“And, no doubt, many of us have adopted new habits—trying to use public transportation, buying local foodsrejecting bottled water. But the “savings” from such practices are wiped out by a habit that many of us not only refuse to kick, but also increasingly embrace: flying, the single most ecologically costly act of individual consumption.”
— Joseph Nevins, Kicking the Habit: Air Travel in the Time of Climate Change

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Travel and the environment: can we see the world without killing the planet?

Watkins Glen State Park, New York. Taken on a family vacation in 2006.

Two things I’ve been thinking and reading* a lot about lately are climate change–and how we can mitigate this already-occurring disaster by developing more sustainable ways to live–and travel. I’m having trouble reconciling my feelings about them.

On the personal level, my brightest-burning desire right now is to see the world. I’ve been outside the Northeastern US only a few times in my life, and I really want to see more of both my own country and other countries. I love New England–in fact, I’m pretty sure my veins run with maple syrup–and I know I want to settle down here eventually. This is my home, my community. The land I feel in my bones. I know that’s a gift: to be so connected to a place in this age of disconnection and displacement.

But I know I can’t settle down without experiencing at least a few of the natural beauties, and the cultures, of other places. I’m still working out the practicalities, but it’s definitely something I want to do.

And yet. I know that traveling, especially by airplane, has a huge carbon footprint.**

There’s just no way that regular international or even intra-national travel is sustainable–even at current levels, let alone if everyone in the US started doing it.

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Global pandemics? Usually a bad idea.

One of my favorite vloggers, Hank Green, recently made a video about, among other things, a tick whose bite causes a severe allergy to red meat. I’d read about it before, and it’s fucking terrifying–the reaction doesn’t happen immediately, so people go into anaphylactic shock out of the blue, and it can take some time to figure out the cause.

Hank, a devoted environmentalist, proposes a question: if you could cause a global pandemic of this allergy, thereby ensuring that no one could eat red meat, would you?

NO NO NO, Hank. Just no.

I know that Hank doesn’t actually want to release these ticks upon the world. I know he’s just trying to get a discussion started about meat and the environment.

But it’s still so, so, so not ok. For many reasons.

1.)  Anaphylactic shock is not a laughing matter. It’s pretty callous to joke about subjecting the entire world to the possibility of it. Actually, it’s pretty callous to joke about infecting the world with any kind of disease, even one that would be supposedly good for the environment.

2.) If you were to infect the entire world with the disease, how would you warn everyone in time? How would you account for the likelihood that some people wouldn’t get the news before eating a hamburger, or that some might eat contaminated food and get sick? How would you account for the very good chance that you would be directly responsible for killing people? Continue reading