“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.” — Mahatma Gandhi
The fashion industry righty finds itself in the eye of the climate change storm at the moment. It can’t be denied that it’s a contribution to the imminent ecological disaster is almost unmatched.
It can’t be denied that it causes pollution, it devours resources and it produces huge amounts of waste as more and more clothes end up in landfill, but the industry can’t correct itself just by looking at this one aspect of damage it causes.
The harm fashion can cause isn’t a single issue topic, sure we could reduce our consumption, immediately this lowers emissions from factories and transport, it reduces the burden on raw materials and decreases the amount of land being turned from habitat into agriculture, it slows the rate of which materials end up in trash heaps and the ground but what about the people.
We can’t fix the environmental issues without considering the impact on the lives of millions of workers. Coincidentally workers in some of the regions that will suffer most from the unmitigated disaster we face.
Any change must also be tied to working conditions and workers rights. The system currently draws on a deeply painful abuse of so many lives, the lack of equality for women, the children still being sent to work, the wages so low that families can’t support themselves or forced to live in production complexes aying back what they earn to the very same people for accommodation, food, etc.
I’ll be honest right here, I don’t have the answers to this, but we need to ask the question “what happens to the people involved in production”?
To tackle climate change we have to have an answer for how we support those already trapped in a cycle of poverty the industry has created, the people who will lose their jobs if production slows. How do we build a system that offers enough to them that they can afford to live, afford to allow their children into the classroom, not the workroom?
It’s a question I keep returning to, does saving the planet mean more pain for those at the bottom of this most unfair of industrial systems?