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The online Oxford dictionary tells us that a Fossil Fuel is "a natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms". The 2015 G7 summit that has just finished in Germany has decided to phase out the use of all these fuels by the end of this century. They plan a cut in greenhouse gases of 40 to 70% by 2050. Never before have they set such a clear target.
This is a huge change as investments by governments in areas such as power stations will have to start changing now to avoid them still producing emissions in 2050. But if the carbon based companies can get more blame for green house gas emission placed on livestock the pressure on them will reduce, or so they will think. So the first thing we must expect is a ferocious attack on cows.
Let us be quite clear where we stand. The balance of the argument of the last decade has put an unfair bias against atmospheric emissions from animals compared to those related to carbon based fuels. The methane figures have been badly calculated, starting at 18% of all emissions and are now being corrected into single figures with a lot more to be achieved via diet and husbandry. Equally there is evidence that methane figures in the atmosphere levelled at the turn of the century so this is science needing research before conclusions and condemnation. What is ignored is the big carbon sequestration capacity of long-term grassland and good soil.
Just as important for leather is the fact we ignore the ills of many plastics that are trying to sneak into the place of leather, some even pretending to be "green". They come from fossil fuels and the manufacture has to be controlled carefully to avoid harming the work force. We are used to defending leather against innuendo and bad science about chromium and other things but in making some PU coated textiles - the material is produce in enormous quantities around Wenzhou and known as “pleather” (supposedly “plastic leather’) - DMF (dimethylformamide) is used. Women who have not had children avoid working in these factories as it causes birth defects and stillbirths and men only work for the higher wages as they know it will shorten their lives. Just read “Country Driving” by Peter Hessler who visited Wenzhou and writes about it. Not all synthetics create these issues, but more than you think, and they never hit the headlines like issues with leather seem to.
So the leather industry is going to be attacked along with every bit of livestock that non-scrupulous vegans can identify. Yet the G7 move should be a positive one for leather. We use a renewable resource not a fossil fuel based one; we make a material that lasts and does not get thrown away after just a month or two, and we make it well without damage to our workforce or the environment.
It is time to fight a proactive battle for leather.
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