What does a martial art uniform have to do with over 60.000 square kilometers of desert?
This desert, only a few years ago, was one of the largest lakes on the planet. April 22 is Earth Day, a day where we humans are asked to reflect upon the relationship we have with the earth we live on. Since MISOGI DOGI is creating a sustainable cotton product (our dogi!), we would like to highlight an important example of the impact that regular cotton production has on our planet.
Not so long ago, the Aral Sea was the world’s fourth largest lake, home to a variety of fish and surrounded by fishing communities, lush forests and wetlands. While the lake was salt water, the rivers that fed it were filled with fresh water.
In the 1950s, the Soviet Union began using the rivers to irrigate the surrounding agricultural area, a process that has been continued to this day by Uzbekistan. Water usage rose explosively, and soon the immense body of water started to shrink. Wetlands dried up and the lake bottom turned into a desert.
The cotton industry has an important role to play in this environmental disaster due to its enormous water usage. In the area around the Aral Sea, 1.47 million hectares of cotton are grown. Cotton is a hugely water intensive crop (For example, in order to make a regular cotton uniform, a staggering 30.000-50.000 liters of water are used!).
Next to this, regular cotton production relies heavily on pesticides. Although it is only grown on 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land, it consumes 16% of all insecticides and 6,8% of all herbicides that are globally used. These chemicals are washed out of soils, and pollute rivers and groundwater. Pests often develop resistance to the pesticides that are constantly sprayed on the cotton fields, which requires even stronger chemicals and increasing dosages. These chemicals eliminate not just the pests, but also many other species. This interference with the ecosystem considerably reduces biodiversity.
The exposure of the bottom of the lake due to the ongoing drought, has released salts and pesticides into the atmosphere. These are poisoning both farm land and people alike. Carcinogenic dust is blown into villages causing throat cancers and respiratory diseases. Many small farmers fall ill or die due to pesticide exposure.
To us, the fact that uniforms worn by aikido practitioners are linked to these and other kinds of environmental and social conditions, doesn’t fit with the aikido spirit.
Fortunately there are promising solutions 🙂
Organic cotton provides the world with an alternative. Although still needing water for production, organic farming practices focus on creating healthy soils which make better use of water inputs. In this way the fields are more resilient in drought conditions. By eliminating the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, the water pollution impact of organic has been shown to be 98% less than non-organic cotton production.
On this Earth Day we encourage you to take a moment to think about your relationship with this beautiful planet you live on. Do you feel connected to your surroundings? Have you ever thought about the environmental impact of the things you are buying? Are there better alternatives? Little increases in awareness and small lifestyle changes are all valuable and contribute to a more balanced world.