Siberia sends a warning

Redwood Comment
Published:  15 July, 2020
Dr Mike Redwood

Whatever your personal view about the science of climate change, there is no doubt that everyday weather is now impacting our lives in many ways. 

Rains are often sudden and heavy, making destructive flash floods more common. In response, hill-top landscapes are being adapted to slow the descent of the water. Concrete canalisation of streams and rivers are being reverted to allow historic meandering, creating ox bow lakes. Livestock and general biodiversity are an integral part of these new approaches. The leather industry needs to be aware.

The disappearing seasons in much of the world have already caused wardrobe confusion, with winter returning the moment summer clothes are put out. The seasons have become so indistinct, the relentless pursuit of them with large ranges will soon be a thing of history. Brands may claim sustainability as the motive, but the true drivers have been consumers and the bottom line.

The recent moments of Siberian heat when the temperature peaked at 38C (100F) has more than provided food for thought. According to NASA’s satellite photographs, this period has seen a huge number of spontaneous tundra and peat fires over hundreds of thousands of square kilometres on land that is normally frozen. This, and the very prolonged period of high average temperatures, put alongside the fact that Arctic ice is melting at twice the historic average speed, is more concerning to experts than the headline of a one day high.

Melting Tundra was one of the most used examples when Malcolm Gladwell wrote his Tipping Point book and popularised this old concept at the start of this century, albeit he was talking about marketing and using mostly footwear to prove his points. It is an issue for leather, as post pandemic leather does have to demonstrate a benign impact on both climate change and biodiversity.

Economic recovery beats the environment
Some had thought, or certainly hoped, that the global pandemic would itself be the Tipping Point to make governments get behind some form of Green Agenda. But events are quickly showing nation states acting independently to recover their economies as fast as possible, with scant regard for anything to do with the environment.

Yet, it is clear that our new, younger generations of consumers will move away from leather if we cannot reverse our current image; one not based on truth but the relentless attacks over three decades spreading untruths and misinterpretations. The next UN Global Climate Change Conference (COP 26) is going to be a vital one to headline leather as one of the best materials to use.
Time is advancing for the planet and the leather industry, if our children and grandchildren are to have somewhere reasonable to live and have a strong leather industry to work in. COP 26 has been postponed until autumn 2021, giving the leather industry time to get its act together - we have many areas of weakness to be resolved around the world - and use the moment to push for leather as one small element in the solution for a better planet, capable of regenerating without damaging or depleting fragile and scarce resources.

Mike Redwood
July 15, 2020

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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