Friday, March 25, 2011

Small scale vs. large scale change

An interesting area of debate revolves around the effectiveness of individual change for the greater good. Do I really think that by choosing eco-friendly clothing that I am saving the planet? Well no, not me personally, but I am curious to see if it's something that everyone can do... and then if everyone can do it, could we save the planet? I guess I still don't know. Although slightly off the eco-fashion topic, this article from the Economist brings up the question of small scale vs. large scale change in making a long term difference in environmental sustainability. 

The article is about a venture capitalist named Vinod Khosla, who is only investing in environmental/energy startup companies that have a high chance of failure. He believes that we can't solve the energy crisis by recycling more and driving less because that's ineffective. Khosla thinks the only way we can make a real difference is to find a solution that is completely revolutionary. That's why he's investing in really radical ideas, because if even one of them succeeds it could change the world.

Here are few interesting quotes: 
"Environmentalists are fiddling while Rome burns. They get in the way with silly stuff like asking people to walk more, drive less. That is an increment of 1-2% change. We need 1,000% change... Everything’s a toy until it reaches that point"

"Most non-profit organizations are completely ineffective... Proving the capitalist tool as a solution for poverty is high on my priority list."

“I don’t view climate change as a moral thing. I view it as a risk, no different from nuclear proliferation, terrorism or national defense”

Although I don't agree with all of Khosla's philosophies, I think he brings up an interesting point which anyone who is involved in sustainability needs to consider: will what your doing actually make a difference? 

I'm not sure if I can answer that question about eco-fashion. Is it even realistic to imagine a world where everyone lives eco-fashion consciously? Fashion is a concept, but clothing is a reality. It is a fact that everyone on Earth needs to wear something everyday. It is also a fact that we live in a capitalist society. One of my biggest concerns with eco-fashion is how we make it profitable, how do we turn eco-fashion into a solid business model? Especially when we are talking about creating supply without the demand. I believe until eco-fashion becomes popular and therefore profitable, large brands are not going to adopt this change. It's all fine and good to want to save the planet, but we have to make change that will work within the structures of our society.

I'm not saying that this in anyway has changed my motivation or drive for my personal eco-fashion goal! But I do think it's important to think in a large scale about what kind of change is possible, and what kind of change will really make a difference.

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