Sustainable Development Goal #2: ZERO Hunger
Achieving Sustainable Development Goal #2: zero hunger, requires rethinking how we grow, share, and consume our food (United Nations). To find sustainable alternatives it is necessary not to think about the immediate solution, but instead the long term consequences if we were to continue with our current practices. Solutions like simply producing more food may sound like the easy fix but it is not a sustainable solution to a global problem. The United Nations (UN) outlines that the goal is not to just eliminate hunger globally but to also “achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”.
Finding sustainable solutions to shift the current agricultural practices to a more eco-friendly approach will help us in the fight against climate change and would also allow for healthier consumable options for generations to come. For example, using less chemicals, equals less contaminated soil and less ingestion of chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides. These chemicals used in the growing process are meant to deter animals and insects from eating the plants but in order for them to work, these chemicals must first be fully absorbed by the plant. But what are the side effects for not only ingesting pesticides but also for those that come in constant contact with these chemicals? Californians for Pesticide Reform explain that pesticides can cause short-term adverse health effects, which are referred to as acute effects, as well as chronic adverse effects that can occur months or years after exposure. They go on to explain that acute health effects include stinging eyes, rashes, blisters, blindness, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea and death.
These chemicals are not only absorbed by the plants, and ingested by the people who eat them, they are also in the fibers of the clothing we wear. The farm to table movement has served as an amazing eye opener for what goes into our bodies and where it comes from but there is a less distinct connection between what goes onto our bodies and where that is coming from. The fracture between where the textiles come from and the process which takes place before the newest collection hits the stores, leaves us, as consumers, without a clear picture of just how massive the environmental footprint is that the fashion industry is leaving behind.
FASHION’S LINK TO HUNGER
Fashion used to be primarily associated with style, creative geniuses, and the latest trends. Now it is most closely linked to pollution, waste, and excess consumption but nonetheless it is a highly profitable industry. This promise of profitability has served as the catalyst for why former farmers of subsistence crops have shifted towards growing things like cotton, hence, the “cash crop” to be spun into textiles (Ag America, 2019). In order to grow cotton in a way that leaves the crop undisturbed by animals and insects, the crops are saturated in chemicals which then seep into the ground causing soil degradation. 23% of the produced agricultural chemicals are used to sustain the textile industry (sustainyourstyle.org). Soil degradation also minimizes the chances of increasing food production efforts because it results in the land no longer being viable for continuous planting. This is why we must take action now and begin the process of healing our vast lands before it is too late.
Synthetic fibers which shed from our clothes as we wear them are creating another obstacle as these fibers end up in landfills across the globe and take hundreds of years to decompose. Plastic for example has a decomposition time of a thousand years, this is why a good alternative is natural fibers which have much shorter decomposition times and would ultimately free up this idle space for something more productive. Natural fibers can be divided into two groups, animal fibres and plant fibres. One of the advantages of these fibers is that they are degradable so when a piece of clothing is disposed of it does not stay in a landfill for hundreds of years, also, the production of these fibers is more eco-friendly. An example of a more sustainable natural fiber is alpaca fiber. As a matter of fact, even this majestic animal has been graced with characteristics that make it eco-friendly. Alpacas pull on grass which allows it to continue growing and also the soft padding on their feet is gentle to the soil (sustainyourstyle.org).
As the demands of fast consumption have converted our wide open spaces into endless farming grounds, the demands of the earth are also becoming more apparent with each passing year. Our world is hurting. We must urgently stray from detrimental agricultural practices and turn to sustainable ways to grow crops that are also more nutritious. For instance, the cultivation of cotton is an example of how damaging and harmful current agricultural methods are for our earth. Ponder on this, to produce a kilogram of cotton 20.000 litres of water are necessary (worldwildlife.org)! Considering that nearly half of the existing textiles are made with cotton, it is necessary to employ methods that make its production more sustainable.
The solution to hunger and agricultural sustainability is not easy, the answer has eluded us for centuries. This is mainly because there is no one size fits all solution to most global issues. What works for one part of the world won’t work for another but one thing that HxN can suggest doing is taking a step back and slowing down, getting back to our basics. Let’s work together to apply the serene ancestral wisdom that is much needed to trade in fast fashion and quick consumption habits and opt for a slower and more conscious approach.
Note: Hailey Matarese, Alondra Magana, & Agustina Gold Novoa HXN collaborators
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