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Sustainable Menswear?

Phileas Fogg

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the real tragedy is that there is a commons. If it were private property, I wonder how different it would be.
 

JFWR

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the real tragedy is that there is a commons. If it were private property, I wonder how different it would be.
Private property is the solution to these problems. Commons can't sustain large use.
 

Keith Taylor

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Oh for Gods sake! Fucking sustainable?

Cotton is a crop. Sustainable.
Wool/cashmere? Sustainable.
Leather? From cows. Sustainable and given the recent fetish regarding cow farts and global warming, I’d say buy more leather.
Silk? Pretty sustainable last I checked.

I’d argue 90% of clothing is made up of these such things.

What’s not sustainable, the labor used in sweat shops and Chinese concentration and prison camps to produce this stuff.
I'd suggest you read a little about the history of the Aral Sea, specifically the part about the Soviet irrigation project that wiped from the earth what was formerly the world's fourth largest lake in an effort to grow cotton as a cash crop in a place that didn't have enough water to grow cotton.

And yes, as DWW points out the cashmere industry has had an incredibly deleterious impact on the environment of my adoptive home of Mongolia. Goats are hungry motherfuckers, and they eat right down to the root. The industry continues to desertify my wonderful country while folk around the world assure themselves that they're responsible for investing in something that doesn't contain man made fibers.

These things *can* be grown sustainably, but the fact that a fabric is natural doesn't automatically make it sustainable.

Did everyone take angry pills these last couple of days? This is usually such a calm place.
 

usctrojans31

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I'd suggest you read a little about the history of the Aral Sea, specifically the part about the Soviet irrigation project that wiped from the earth what was formerly the world's fourth largest lake in an effort to grow cotton as a cash crop in a place that didn't have enough water to grow cotton.

And yes, as DWW points out the cashmere industry has had an incredibly deleterious impact on the environment of my adoptive home of Mongolia. Goats are hungry motherfuckers, and they eat right down to the root. The industry continues to desertify my wonderful country while folk around the world assure themselves that they're responsible for investing in something that doesn't contain man made fibers.

These things *can* be grown sustainably, but the fact that a fabric is natural doesn't automatically make it sustainable.

Did everyone take angry pills these last couple of days? This is usually such a calm place.
Old school SF snark. Where's Cleav when we need him?
 

Keith Taylor

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Private property is the solution to these problems. Commons can't sustain large use.
That won't work for the cashmere industry in Mongolia. They're a nomadic people. Communal ownership of the land is pretty much baked into the Mongolian identity, and the concept of privately owned pasture land would sell about as well as trying to convince Americans to nationalise McDonalds. The only solution is to address the demand side of the equation, to dissuade people from buying shit cashmere.
 

Phileas Fogg

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The article itself alludes to it; the government still has its paws in how the land is used. That there are policy issues and failures does not make cashmere an unsustainable commodity.
 

Phileas Fogg

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That won't work for the cashmere industry in Mongolia. They're a nomadic people. Communal ownership of the land is pretty much baked into the Mongolian identity, and the concept of privately owned pasture land would sell about as well as trying to convince Americans to nationalise McDonalds. The only solution is to address the demand side of the equation, to dissuade people from buying shit cashmere.
the small nation of New Zealand produces about 11% of the world’s wool supply. Australia accounts for early 25%. They’re issues aren’t as acute.

That technology, cultural and policy failures are creating a desert of Mongolia is separate from the fact that cashmere is sustainable.

Companies like Loro Piana are working with Mongolian herders in an effort to curb some of this, but the notion that we should stop buying “cheap cashmere” strikes me as a bit patrician.
 

Keith Taylor

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The article itself alludes to it; the government still has its paws in how the land is used. That there are policy issues and failures does not make cashmere an unsustainable commodity.
That doesn’t really make much sense. Anything that *can* be renewed is capable of becoming sustainable. Hell, the oil industry would be technically sustainable provided we use it at a lower rate than it’s created, but that’s neither here nor there. When it comes to cashmere the only pertinent question is “Is the industry sustainable right now?”

The answer is no, and the reasons for the lack of sustainability go far beyond policy failures. Demand is simply too high for cashmere producing regions to satisfy it without extensive environmental damage. The only solutions are to either greatly increase the volume of land used for cashmere production (tricky, as Mongolia alone is the size of Western Europe and still only supplies about half of the world’s greasy cashmere), or reduce demand.
 

Keith Taylor

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the small nation of New Zealand produces about 11% of the world’s wool supply. Australia accounts for early 25%. They’re issues aren’t as acute.

That technology, cultural and policy failures are creating a desert of Mongolia is separate from the fact that cashmere is sustainable.
Mongolia is mostly steppe, forever teetering on the edge of becoming desert. The problems of the cashmere industry here really aren’t due to policy failures. They’re due to the simple reality that the land can’t support around 30 million goats along with all the other grazing wildlife. You can’t easily grow more food for them as the growing season is short, our winters drop to -40C, much of the country has permafrost, and we don’t have enough water. You can’t rejig policies to fix those issues. The only solution is to get rid of many of the goats.
 

Phileas Fogg

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That doesn’t really make much sense. Anything that *can* be renewed is capable of becoming sustainable. Hell, the oil industry would be technically sustainable provided we use it at a lower rate than it’s created, but that’s neither here nor there. When it comes to cashmere the only pertinent question is “Is the industry sustainable right now?”

The answer is no, and the reasons for the lack of sustainability go far beyond policy failures. Demand is simply too high for cashmere producing regions to satisfy it without extensive environmental damage. The only solutions are to either greatly increase the volume of land used for cashmere production (tricky, as Mongolia alone is the size of Western Europe and still only supplies about half of the world’s greasy cashmere), or reduce demand.
that’a a straw man argument. Oil and cashmere are not the same thing. Perhaps cashmere vs. wool but then I believe your argument falls apart.

To blame the consumer for the problem, again, is very patrician; “if only the filthy, lowly masses would stop buying cheap cashmere so the rest of us can enjoy this luxury fabric!”

Demand is what it is. If demand outstrips supply then market forces will balance out the equation. Goats are indeed hungry fuckers! But they’re hungry fuckers everywhere as is other livestock.
 

Phileas Fogg

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Mongolia is mostly steppe, forever teetering on the edge of becoming desert. The problems of the cashmere industry here really aren’t due to policy failures. They’re due to the simple reality that the land can’t support around 30 million goats along with all the other grazing wildlife. You can’t easily grow more food for them as the growing season is short, our winters drop to -40C, much of the country has permafrost, and we don’t have enough water. You can’t rejig policies to fix those issues. The only solution is to get rid of many of the goats.
Animals are herded and farmed throughout the world in extreme conditions.

The Scandinavian countries have worked with Reindeer herders and farmers in order to make sure that the industry remains sustainable. There’s not as many reindeer as goats but it does provide a model for sustainability.

There are engineering, technological and policy solutions to these issues. The answer is not to tell people to not buy “cheap” cashmere. If that were the case, we shouldn’t buy any cashmere.
 

Keith Taylor

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It’s not a straw man. You could argue that it’s an appeal to extremes, which was kinda the intention. Your second paragraph, on the other hand, is very much a straw man, and an especially absurd one as reducing the availability of cheap cashmere would price me out of the market. I’m a cheapskate.

And no, market forces don’t balance out the equation in this case, or at least if they do then the balance comes *after* Mongolia has already become a desert. Herders will continue to increase their herds as long as there is demand. There’s no safety valve that can be tripped by the market until the environment is already well past the point of no return. If that strikes you as patrician then I guess I’ll just have to live with the judgement.
 

Keith Taylor

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Animals are herded and farmed throughout the world in extreme conditions.
I’m really not sure what you want from me :) I’ve been here for 12 years now. I know the land and I know many people in the cashmere industry. Our land can’t support the current demand. That’s just the reality of the situation, no matter how much we might wish it wasn’t so.
 

Phileas Fogg

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I’m really not sure what you want from me :) I’ve been here for 12 years now. I know the land and I know many people in the cashmere industry. Our land can’t support the current demand. That’s just the reality of the situation, no matter how much we might wish it wasn’t so.
and I’m not sure what you want from me. Should I stop buying cashmere?

It’s Mongolia’s primary export. Sounds like policy makers and herders need to sit down and sort it out.

p.s. I don’t want anything from you nor did I ask you for anything.
 
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Keith Taylor

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All I’m telling you is that cashmere isn’t sustainable in Mongolia, that it’s an environmental issue rather than a failure of policy, and that as the industry exists today there are no market forces that will intercede to correct the problem before it’s too late to recover from the damage.

Keep buying cashmere if you want, but if, like the OP, you’re at all interested in sustainability then cashmere probably shouldn’t be on the menu. I’d just buy vintage if I were you. Plenty of good stuff on eBay.
 

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