Lions, Tigers, and Birkins. Oh MY!
Wildlife, food, and fashion all seem like rather separate topics don’t they? Funnily enough they are more closely linked than many of us realise. The majority of us have identified that meat, dairy, and leather are all related to to each other, however there more to the link between animals, food and fashion than this. Yesterday was World Wildlife Day, the international day of awareness and celebration of the incredible plants and animals that we share the globe with. This years focus was identifying that the future of Asian and African elephants is in our hands. Poaching and trafficking of wildlife such as elephants, pangolins, rhinoceros , sharks, tigers and precious tree species by organised crime groups may result in the loss of many vulnerable and endangered species. It is estimated that 100,000 elephants were slaughtered for their ivory between 2010-2012. Ivory that is trafficked across the World (with a large demand in China) and mostly used to create decorative items, jewellery items, and trinkets (and was traditionally used for piano keys). You can learn more and get involved in elephant conservation projects here, or here or if fashion is your passion you can support elephants by making your fashion dollar count at The Elephant Pants.
The golden oil that’s worth more than tigers and orangutang’s combined.
A well documented link between our fashion, food and wildlife is palm oil and orangatangs. Palm oil is used in and estimated 50% of our everyday products, from lipstick to chocolate there is a good chance (unless you actively avoid it) that something in your home has palm oil as an ingredient. Oil palms originally came form Western Africa but are incredibly easy to grow anywhere where it’s warm and wet. As the oil they produce is easily utilised in a variety of products and crops can grow easily in many developing countries lots of people are jumping on board the palm oil ‘goldmine’. Sadly this move towards palm oil has been linked to deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuse. Many areas of jungle that provide habitat for wildlife are being cleared for the monoculture plantations of oil palms. Not only does the removal of forest destroy a carbon sink and a natural resource for producing oxygen, many areas are cleared with burring regimes. The likes of which have seen Indonesia become the third highest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. It is predicted that the orangutang could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, and Sumatran tigers less than 3 years due to unsustainable palm oil industry practices (you can read more here). So while you might not think that your innocent looking lipstick purchase could be linked to deforestation or the extinction of tigers it may well be. You can learn more about what brands have signed up for using responsible palm oil sources or take action by clicking here, or check out the WWF page here. Think tiger and orangutang habitat in your lipstick is creepy? What about rainforest trees in your pants? Yuck right? How did heck they get there?! Many of the semi synthetics (read more about fabrics here) are made from tree pulp. Whose to say your fab new silky soft rayon dress pants aren’t made from wood pulp from rainforest trees? At present there isn’t a way to tell unless the company you buy from has a traceable manufacturing process. What you can do though is use your dollar wisely and make a statement with products that support conservation projects and (if you are feeling brave) state your views loud and proud like the ‘Fuck your Palm Oil’ print above.
Lamb chops, wooly blankets and homeless koalas.
While a field of wooly sheep and cattle is a pretty cute sight, the Australian countryside really wasn’t designed for them. They have hard little hooves and cause all sorts of damage to our landscapes by eroding soils. While tough tootsies are irritating to our soils, the huge issue with Australian landscapes is land clearing for farming practices (meat, veggies, merino wool, and crops like cotton). Since 1777 there 20% of our woodlands and forest, 35% of mallee country, and 45% of heathland cleared or thinned for crops and grazing (all stats from here). Which is a whopping total of 910,000 km square of habitat change and loss. Just to put this amount into perspective the total land area of Japan is 377,944 km². While Australia is a very large land mass and two Japan’s doesn’t seem like much land, the areas cleared are those that are the most fertile. These fertile areas are also the most important sources of food, water, and habitat for native plants and animals. More than 90% of land clearance has occurred in 25 of Australia’s 85 bioregions (areas of land that contain linked ecosystems). These bioregions occur across south-west Western Australia, southern South Australia, most of Victoria and New South Wales, and central and southern Queensland. It is estimated that between 1000-2000 birds loose their habitat for every 100ha of woodland cleared. Even though our fuzzy Aussie icon the Koala Bear (like that shown in the Gift Wrap above that supports the Koala Foundation) is now listed as Vulnerable with (an estimated) wild population of less than 100,000 we still continue to clear habitat for agriculture, infrastructure, and housing. If you weren’t already convinced that we should be saving our remaining native forests then the fact that 14% of Australia’s total green house gas emissions come from land clearing, should shock you some more. And the fact that land clearing invites invasive species in, causes soil salinity and erosion, and declines water quality should have you about ready for a ‘drown your sorrows’ cocktail.
PHEW… Now that’s over lets look at how it’s not all that bad!
Before you reach for the dirty martini take a moment to congratulate yourself. By exposing yourself to these kind of unpalatable facts you are now are more conscious and aware consumer. You have done what many other’s dare not and have taken time out of your busy life to become a more connected part of the global consciousness. You are a wardrobe warrior and can now use your dollar to support industries that are willing to put in the hard yards to conduct business in a way that aligns with the future you (and your children if you choose to have some) would like to be a part of. Being aware of how interconnected everything is and how valuable and precious our resources are also makes us more wary of consuming for the sake of it. No matter who you are and what you do are part of this global system of rainforests, streams, oceans and furry koalas, and you have the power to make change for the better with small scale (choosing cruelty free makeup over a brand that conducts animal testing or working with a local landcare group to plant habitat trees in your neighbourhood) or large scale actions (like organising a protest outside a company that has been linked to deforestation, or donating your time to wildlife conservation efforts in Africa). Now go ahead and make yourself that drink, check out some pretty clothes and accessories that support the idea of consumer powered conservation, and feel damn good about being a part of what will be the most interesting and potentially World changing time in human history.
Also… if you are the kind of person who likes the idea of living a more conscious lifestyle but don’t know where to start you can jump aboard the Give A Fork campaign happening in April and have eco tips delivered to your inbox! How easy is that?
Obviously this post doesn’t cover all the links between fashion,wildlife, and food production (otherwise it would be a novel not a blog post). So if there are any areas that really concern you please let us know all about it below!
The more information we can share the more others can learn.