Monday

These T-shirts are making me THIRSTY!

Digging into complex issues reveals multiple and increasing layers of conviction. In learning about the cotton industry I came across an academically respected and scientifically reliable website, waterfootprint.org. It's the face of an organization that digs deeply into what is described as the "virtual water" content of a whole host of common items. It takes into account all the water consumed in bringing something like, say a t-shirt, from seed to shelf. The shocking total water consumption connected to the t-shirt I'm wearing right now is right around 700 gallons. The milk that I drank with a cookie this afternoon that I poured out of the gallon container took 1000 gallons of water to hit the cooler at the store. A holistic perspective on water sees that everything we eat, wash, wear and just live with takes huge volumes of water. Given that clean water is an issue of life and death around the developing world and literally 50 trillion gallons of potentially drinkable water a year is consumed or polluted beyond usability for largely "luxury" or "duplicate" items via cotton textile manufacturing is troubling. It's beyond troubling, it's staggeringly disturbing and confusing.

Is it overly dramatic to ask how many people have died, children even, from lack of clean water while you and I have added yet another shirt to the closet that may have been just an impulse buy?  Are those impulse buys that sit in drawers and hang in closets virtually unused linkable to life and death struggles?  Are my decisions of whimsy responsible for misery, am I that callous?  It sure seems so.   In a very real, and very horrific sort of butterfly effect Western consumers are deciding the fate of millions.  I have to rethink my whole view on water.  But this isn't just a slam on cotton textiles, because comparatively cotton isn't any worse than lots of crops, its the impact of the whole system that's bad.  And the realization that the whole just doesn't have to be this way, and that we as consumers hold the power, really makes the buying of yet another thing seem extremely selfish.  Reducing consumption isn't just about saving the planet, it's about saving lives today.  I will be strongly encouraging folks I know to go to waterfootprint.org and look around.  Hopefully it will really mess you up!

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