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The Fabrics of Society

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“Yoga pants are destroying the Earth”

Reet Aus

We know to avoid plastics because they are made of non-renewable fossil fuels, they are not biodegradable, and they leach hormones and toxic chemicals. What many of us are unaware of is that plastics make up the fabric of our everyday life. Look down at your shoes, socks, and pants. Do you know what the fabric composition of your clothes is? Look at your rug, your couch, your bed, and the sheets on it. Do you know what they’re made out of? Chances are they’re plastic, or at least part plastic.

 

Synthetic clothing, including polyester, polyamide, nylon, and acrylic, is very cheap to make and very bad for you and other living things. Because of its low price tag, it is tempting to buy, and retailers and manufacturers may even make it hard for you to choose otherwise. They hide plastic microfibers in budget-friendly fabrics called ‘blends.’
Synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyester shed thousands of microscopic fibers with each wash cycle. After scientists started showing how these fibers end up on your dinner plate after passing through little fish to bigger fish, newspapers ran articles with headlines such as “Yoga pants are destroying the Earth.” Seizing the moment, eco-conscious brands began selling a washing-machine pellet, claimed to catch “some” of the plastic sloughing off clothing (Patagonia calls theirs ‘Guppyfriend’). Stephen Buranyi, writing for The Guardian, lamented,

“It slips through our fingers and our water filters and sloshes into rivers and oceans like effluent from a sinister industrial factory. It is no longer embodied by a Big Mac container on the side of the road. It has come to seem more like a previously unnoticed chemical listed halfway down the small print on a hairspray bottle, ready to mutate fish or punch a hole in the ozone layer.”

One-third of fish caught in the North Atlantic are contaminated with microplastic. It is even found in benthic animals living thousands of meters below the sea surface. Eighty-three percent of drinking water samples from around the world are contaminated with plastic fibers. While not all of it, quite a lot of this contamination of fresh and saltwater comes when synthetic fiber-based clothing is worn and washed.
It won’t help you if you decide that rather than throw your clothes in the washing machine you will take them all to be dry cleaned. The most common dry cleaning solvent is PCE (perchloroethylene), As Camille Scheidt reveals, “there are no perks to perc.”

“Once the solvent vaporizes, it is easily inhaled. Because of this, both dry cleaning employees and customers are directly at risk of breathing in the chemical. The dangers of perc are not isolated to the dry cleaning facility. Perc can follow you home. The chemical remains in dry-cleaned clothing long after it leaves the cleaner and the levels of perc in the garment will accumulate with each cleaning process. But, as you just learned, the perc doesn’t just stay in your clothing, it off-gases. A study found that if you were to put four freshly dry-cleaned sweaters in your car and step into the grocery store for an hour on a warm day, you would return to a car that was well exceeding the safe limit of perc exposure….

“But perc pollution reaches much further than your home and car. The contaminant has been detected in groundwater and both public and private wells. It’s also found in soil. Perc can become airborne from soil and water, and once in the air can be inhaled. The effect of perc on our bodies is severe. Short-term exposure at low levels can cause inebriation, dizziness, and irritation in the eyes, nose, mouth, throat, and respiratory tract. Short-term exposure to perc at high levels can cause fluid buildup in lungs, difficulty speaking and walking, headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and irritation of skin and the respiratory system. If a person’s exposure to perc is at a high level, even for a short time, the chemical can cause unconsciousness and death.

“Prolonged exposure to perc can result in damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. It is recognized as a probable human carcinogen and linked to cases of cervical cancer, bladder cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In 2007, it was estimated that 1 in 10 wells in California were contaminated with perc.”

Fashion, unlike many other aspects of the plastic problem, is something consumers can change both thoroughly and rapidly. Besides producing and buying fabrics that last longer and can be recycled, they can purchase clothing made from organically-produced materials that naturally biodegrade, such as cotton, silk, linen, and wool. They can wash only when the clothes, especially outerwear, absolutely require it. They also have to be aware, when they are buying, not to purchase blends. Many fabrics can be recycled, even acrylics, but if it requires the entire structure be disassembled, thread by thread, remanufacturers may shy away.
Petroplastic fabrics are something we can, and must, refuse. Surely we can replace these with safer, healthier bio-based and biodegradable natural analogs? Finland’s bioeconomy has expanded on the strength of its forests. New developments in the fabric industry there will extend the value chain of forest-biomass to cellulose-based non-woven textiles, estimated to reach 47.7 billion euros in 2020.
“Cellulose fibers can be utilized in all textiles that can replace cotton and viscose which both have sustainability issues related to their production. Government strategy in Finland aims to double the current bioeconomy turnover from 60 billion euros to 100 billion euros before 2025,” says Tuula Savola, Program Manager of Business Finland’s BioNets program.
On the horizon in the rest of the world are new fabrics that provide a better experience and range of qualities than synthetics and blends. These include sustainably-harvested cork fabric as an alternative to leather; fish skin; mushroom “skin” (the capskin from Phellinus ellipsoideus, native to subtropical forests); pellemela, sustainably sourced from discarded apple peels and core waste from juiced apples; Piñatex® from pineapple processing waste; Orange Fiber yarn and silks; TENCEL® from beech and eucalyptus; and UV, mold and mildew resistant, naturally antimicrobial, absorbent and durable hemp.
Confronting Plastic Culture
Plastic culture is another matter. At the end of 2018, the Club of Rome issued this warning:

“The prevailing mantra that all economic growth is good defies the reality of life on a finite planet with finite resources. There is an urgent need for new economic thinking and new indicators that value quality as well as quantity in our economic metrics.”

Since most of the qualities we seek in plastic products can be found in biodegradable bioplastics, all we need to do is to change the economic metrics — how value is assigned. In many ways that realignment dovetails neatly with what is required to arrest and reverse climate change. Here are portions of the roadmap proposed by the Club of Rome, which I have amended slightly to include plastics:
  • Introduce realistic pricing and taxation to reflect the actual cost of fossil fuel use and embedded carbon;
  • Introduce carbon (or non-green plastic) floor prices;
  • Tax embedded carbon (or non-green plastic) through targeted sales taxes;
  • Fund research, development, and innovation;
  • Converge carbon (and green plastic) markets and instruments into a worldwide structure;
  • Replace GDP growth as the primary objective for societal progress;
  • Adopt new indicators — such as the Genuine Progress Indicator — that accurately measure human development, welfare and wellbeing, rather than production growth;
  • Establish explicit funding and re-training programmes for displaced workers and communities;
  • Provide government assistance to enable older industries to diversify to lower carbon (and green plastic) production;
  • Reframe business models and roles for declining industries such as oil, gas, and coal;
  • Create an international convention, applying to nations and non-state actors alike, with legally enforceable rules and mechanisms for policing the global commons;
  • Support citizen action and litigation against countries and actors exceeding legal limits;
  • Require that market prices reflect the real costs of production, integrating social, environmental and ecosystem values into pricing;
  • Ensure greater materials efficiency and circularity by 2025;
  • Actively support efforts to restore degraded lands and water through methods such as open ocean plastics recovery and Ecosystem Regeneration Camps;
  • Recognize that the degree of social change needed to make a successful transformation to a sustainable future will extend throughout society, requiring fundamental shifts in behavior and rethinking of national and community support and care systems.
For more than a quarter-century, world leaders, scientists, and expert advisers have been meeting to try to do something about climate change and the other tragedies of the commons, first chronicled in the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth study in 1972. After all these conferences and meetings we have international treaties like the conventions on Biodiversity, Deforestation and Desertification, and The Paris Agreement on climate change. But what has not changed is the trajectory of the crisis or the common understanding of interconnection and reciprocity. Rather than preserving biodiversity and forests, we are well into a Sixth Great Extinction event, losing forest cover, and desertifying faster than ever before. Rather than moving towards carbon neutrality, greenhouse gases are still growing, and the rate of yearly emissions even accelerated from 2016 to 2018.
Our problem seems to be the inertia of bad decisions made in the past. But humans can and do change their patterns of living, and that can most readily be seen in the world of fashion.
A few years ago I was teaching a Permaculture Design Course in Estonia when one of my students asked if fashion had a role in permaculture. She was fashion designer Reet Aus. Most mass-production manufacturers send about 18% of pre-consumer textiles as scrap to landfill or incinerator. Her Ph.D. dissertation was “Trash to Trend: Using Upcycling in Fashion Design” which opened up new possibilities within the fashion industry. Since 2002, Aus has been upcycling — turning unwanted materials into new, mass-produced garments. Her Bangladeshi partners source floor cuttings from Tommy Hilfiger, Bershka, Calvin Klein and Zara to add into her latest designs.
Her collection, including a treasured shirt of mine, is entirely from post-production leftovers. She keeps proving that clever design can salvage mountains of wasted textiles and the labor and natural resources spent to produce them, usually inside the same factory. Each garment in her line will save on average 75% in water and 88% in energy. She also improves the working conditions of the shops she helps in Bangladesh.
“In my opinion, we should keep oil-based fabrics in the loop as long as possible,” she told me recently. “Clothing in this area not the biggest problem but we can just stop making fabric from oil. We have a lot of good alternatives from algae to cellulose.”
Aus has tapped into an element of human nature that has led to our present predicament but could also point to the way out. It is not science or technology that confounds us from rejoining Earth’s ecology; it is social behavior.
As can be seen in zebras or wildebeest crossing a river full of crocodiles, herding is a rational defense strategy. Bunching herds protect their majority from predators, although a few will be lost to the needs of the river dwellers. Millions of years ago, our ape ancestors adopted herd strategy over lone individualism and it has served us well. Our fads and fashions are not optional — they are hard-wired to our genetic code. When we choose to wear a necktie and blazer, or a pants suit with jewelry and heels, we are signaling membership in a particular band. The cars we drive, the places we live, the foods we eat — all signals of belonging to one specific tribe.
Tribal instincts towards personal sacrifice are ennobling, unifying, heroic. In his book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger writes:

“The human conscience evolved in the middle to late Pleistocene as the result of the hunting of large game. This required cooperative, band level sharing of meat. Because tribal foragers are highly mobile and can quickly shift between different communities, authority is almost impossible to impose on the unwilling. And even without that option, males who try to take control of the group or the food supply are often countered by coalitions of other males.

“This is clearly an ancient and adaptive behavior that tends to keep groups together and equitably cared for.”

Fashion is how we signal not merely tribal allegiance but the values we share. When we choose to go plastic-free, whether in our clothing or the packaging and transportation of the things we exchange, we signal membership in the next order of humans on Earth: Homo regenesis.
The Great Change by Albert Bates


26 Comments on "The Fabrics of Society"

  1. Davy on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 8:18 am 

    Yea, oil (plastics) is killing us but for me it is the car. The car represents a physical monument to this unconscious death wish. We live for our car culture. Our lifestyles revolve around this culture. The lifestyle of high mobility extends to other vehicles so in effect these machines are our vehicles of delocalization. Our ability to move out of our local and take in products from others from their delocalized locals is now the modern way of life. This happens through financialization and economies of scale with transport the key ingredient. This way of life is a way of life with no future. We once traded with others but it was not delocalizing it was cultural connectivity. There were barriers of distance and time that in effect made walls. Fences make good neighbors. A man must live within his means. These truisms were destroyed by our culture of mobility. Before high mobility we were forced to live within our means. Now we force our lives to live beyond our means. Extend this to civilization and you see where we are at. We are at peak everything more or less. Our debt based culture is now the last abstraction of this overshoot.

    We have no limits when it comes to expectations. What now limits us is nature. Our limitations are now with our bumping up to boundaries of overshoot. We are in and out of denial with these limits to growth. Some see this but most don’t. Even those who talk about the science of limits are in denial of the solutions. We are in a catch 22 existential trap with no good choices forward and no way to go back. This is a building bottleneck. Many are feeling it and blaming others for this uneasy feeling. What we now have is many angry resentful people pointing fingers and complaining or the oblivious sheeples lost in a haze of a life with no future like cows in a feedlot. A few are awakened and understand but they are not listened to. We are breeding this narrative into our very genetics. This trap is one way with no way to go back whole. We will be something new at some point. Our lifestyle of mobility has allowed us to kill the world with our many and varied emissions. The car is our vehicle to this god we created. This god is our pursuit of uninhibited knowledge and material affluence. We have lost the basis of wisdom which is the humility that kept us in check to our world and its connections to planetary cycles and the web of life. We now live in a digital web abstracted to a level that is inhuman and unnatural. We have created our own special world and now that world is beginning to collapse under our feet. We have lost our way going so far and so fast. We are so far away from our true nature. The car culture is not going to get us back it is going to take us to our end. Enjoy the ride.

  2. twocats on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 10:22 am 

    davy – for those of us who where the same clothes for a decade, cars might leave a bigger toxic footprint – but for half the world’s population (and increasingly more men) – clothes, health/beauty products, and makeup are a huge part of energy expenditures. notice how few women are on these threads – but yet there are microplastics in every area of the planet – phytoplankton on up. walk and chew gum.

  3. Davy on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 11:14 am 

    I agree two cats but transport makes it all possible is my point. None of what you mentioned is possible to the degree it is today except with transport represented by the car.

  4. Cloggie on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 11:50 am 

    The world’s first solar car goes into production:

    https://deepresource.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/lightyear-solar-one-goes-in-production/

    No gasoline, not even a grid necessary. In sunny territories like Australia you can bridge your average daily commuting distance without ever having to plugin the car. Even in grey Holland, no grid necessary for most of the year, if travelling is limited to the average 34 km/day distance.

    Technology was developed by the technical university of Eindhoven in the context of the bi-yearly Australian solar challenge competition.

  5. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 12:36 pm 

    What I think is,
    me and Davy should go to the
    smash-up derby. Watch those old
    Cadillac’s crash into each other.

    We can have popcorn, and hot dogs
    with mustard.

    I like that fashion designer in the picture.
    Hope she is not already married.

    As to the micro plastics everywhere, might
    be over-rated. If the stuff isn’t reactive, then it’s
    just a particulate pollution like old wood chip bits
    or little bits of sand.

    The more obvious problem is old plastic shower
    curtains and garbage bags, choking and killing
    whales. The reason we have this problem is
    because of the stupid mentally retarded commie
    socialist ultra-liberals.

    They are opposed to trash incineration,
    and they don’t believe in solving any problem.
    So they aren’t going to fine any litterbugs, or
    build any trash incinerators.

    President Trump will solve all of that. He will builld
    great big trash incineractors. With great big
    tall smoke stacks shooting out black smoke
    all day. And orange sparks at night.

  6. Davy on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 12:56 pm 

    Speeder, you find a good old fashion Roman chariot race complete with swords and spears I will go for sure. Smash up derbies are over rated.

  7. Trumpster Fire on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 1:28 pm 

    ‘Go Speed Racer’ is a particulate problem, to be solved by incineration – trash to energy FTW!

  8. onlooker on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 1:55 pm 

    If we were truly wise as a species, we would have already understook that the impacts that we have on the planet are threatening our own existence. Two, we would have agreed collectively that we must do something about it. And three, we would have gone about reducing the impacts we have on the planet as a species. Instead, we have trade wars, surrogate wars in the ME, sham climate treaties, political infighting, a corrupt self centered leadership structure unwilling to lead in any positive way. And a confused, ignorant apathetic mass population. I think Homo sapiens are proving to be no smarter than yeast as a collective.

  9. Uncle Bill on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 2:36 pm 

    Of sure, that’s on my to do list….out in the backyard now growing hemp and fig leaves and the sheep are grazing.
    Yes Sir doing my part to save the planet…Oy…more BS green Dreams

  10. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 4:49 pm 

    “Trumpster Fire” what an awesome handle.
    I am on my knees praying like a Muslim.

    Davy it’s a deal. We will have a custom Roman
    Chariot smash up derby. Just one thing, the chariots
    will be combustible and the drivers can set
    each other’s chariots on fire.

    We will have polyester sofa cushions, that belch out
    lots of black smoke when they are burning.

    The guy who has to jump off his burning chariot loses.
    Up to that point, tons of black smoke pouring out
    behind the chariots.

    The original Romans should have thought of this.

  11. twocats on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 6:26 pm 

    i lived in a town where the biggest yearly event was the tri-county demolition derby. you had to be in line by 6am the day tickets went on sale to get them. very underrated.

    i once saw a tire, i’m not shitting, fly forty feet through the air (at crowd level) out of the field. the entire crowd turned at once to watch it – it was awesome.

  12. makati1 on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 7:40 pm 

    Question: Has anyone else seen ads pop up in the middle of your posts? There is one in Cloggie’s (Solar Energy News) and one in Speed Racer’s (PAYPAL) posts.

  13. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 8:28 pm 

    I saw that. Very annoying.
    But I didn’t do it.
    It might be a bug, from posting
    here, using the iPhone.

  14. Cloggie on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 8:45 pm 

    “Question: Has anyone else seen ads pop up in the middle of your posts? There is one in Cloggie’s (Solar Energy News) and one in Speed Racer’s (PAYPAL) posts.”

    Adds are in posts since some time.

  15. Cloggie on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 8:49 pm 

    Talking about the fabrics of society:

    https://drjs.blog/2017/03/28/the-upper-class-is-communist/

    “The Upper Class is Communist”

  16. Here we go again on Sun, 23rd Dec 2018 9:40 pm 

    No bug about the Ads in comment section.
    Seems they are in our face….it’s about the money, even if it’s NOT about the $$$.
    Very annoying….

  17. Cloggie on Mon, 24th Dec 2018 2:41 am 

    Mattis signed the withdrawal agreement of 2000 GIs from Syria:

    http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/syrien-donald-trump-unterschreibt-befehl-zum-abzug-der-us-truppen-a-1245313.html

    Good boy.

  18. I AM THE MOB on Mon, 24th Dec 2018 2:42 am 

    Use an ad blocker..This one is the best

    https://www.ublock.org/

    Geez, i can tell this blog is mostly senior citizens..

  19. Go Speed Racer on Mon, 24th Dec 2018 4:39 am 

    My vote is somebody is deliberately vandalizing
    other people’s posts by inserting the ads.

    When I posted there was not any ad for half a day.
    Now there is an ad.

    Probly somebody wants to drive off anybody who
    has a different point of view.

    This whole board is really weird because there never has
    been and never will be,
    any identifiable addressable moderator person.

    This board is 100% anarchy like the men’s room in
    a greyhound bus depot.

    So just who is the guy who runs this website ?
    Nobody knows.

  20. Cloggie on Mon, 24th Dec 2018 4:48 am 

    So just who is the guy who runs this website ?

    Nobody knows.

    http://www.outbackfencing.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Fencing-Etiquette-Tips.jpg

  21. forbin on Mon, 24th Dec 2018 9:41 am 

    oh deary me !

    tax it;-

    * Introduce realistic pricing and taxation to reflect the actual cost of fossil fuel use and embedded carbon;

    * Introduce carbon (or non-green plastic) floor prices;

    * Tax embedded carbon (or non-green plastic) through targeted sales taxes;

    * Require that market prices reflect the real costs of production, integrating social,
    environmental and ecosystem values into pricing;

    * Ensure greater materials efficiency and circularity by 2025;

    soviet it, ie authoritarian :-

    * Converge carbon (and green plastic) markets and instruments into a worldwide structure;

    * Establish explicit funding and re-training programs for displaced workers and communities;

    * Provide government assistance to enable older industries to diversify to lower carbon (and green plastic) production;

    * Re frame business models and roles for declining industries such as oil, gas, and coal;

    * Create an international convention, applying to nations and non-state actors alike, with legally enforceable rules and mechanisms for policing the global commons;

    * Support citizen action and litigation against countries and actors exceeding legal limits;

    * Recognize that the degree of social change needed to make a successful transformation
    to a sustainable future will extend throughout society, requiring fundamental shifts
    in behavior and rethinking of national and community support and care systems.

    * Actively support efforts to restore degraded lands and water through methods such as open ocean plastics recovery and Ecosystem Regeneration Camps;

    lie about it:-

    * Replace GDP growth as the primary objective for societal progress;

    * Adopt new indicators — such as the Genuine Progress Indicator — that accurately measure human development, welfare and well being, rather than production growth;

    because we don’t have an answer yet:-

    * Fund research, development, and innovation;

    because we are free we can choose – this is not acceptable to certain eco-stalinistas

    report to your local Ecosystem Regeneration Camp for re-education ( if you are lucky )

    Forbin

    PS: did anyone send the memo to China and India ? because they aren’t listening …..

  22. Davy on Mon, 24th Dec 2018 10:22 am 

    I read somewhere Europe just past a robust policy on single use plastic.

  23. I AM THE MOB on Mon, 24th Dec 2018 10:52 am 

    A cashier wished me a merry Christmas today

    I grabbed him by the shirt collar and yelled “What the fuck did you just say to me? I celebrate (((Kwanzakah))) winter solstice, motherfucker.” I demanded to speak to his manager. The transgender manager fired his privileged-Christian ass right on the spot. The other employees proceeded to spit on him and yelled “crucify him.” We grabbed pallets from the back and made a cross. We forced him to carry it all the way home, his head adorned with a crown of thorns as we flagellated him. Little shit fell twice on the way. When we got to his house we put him on the cross with the piece of cardboard on his neck. Being good KKK-founding Democrats, we lit the cross on fire as he screamed “Donald, Donald, lama sabachthani.”

  24. hellokittyImeantranny on Tue, 25th Dec 2018 1:00 am 

    So dem “femmes” in dem pics be trannies cuz of dem plastiques or did dey just snip them the old fashion way?

  25. Repent on Tue, 25th Dec 2018 9:23 pm 

    Plastic pants destroying the world. It makes the very bottom of my list of things to worry about. Top three are Chemtrails, The Mandela effect, and peak oil.

  26. Dooma on Wed, 26th Dec 2018 5:01 am 

    Polyester socks = stinky feet. Why would you?

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