So, was there a cashmere sweater in your Christmas gifts this year? Is it warm, soft, snuggly, and just the answer to something nice to wear? I hope so, but you might read the article in the Chicago Tribune by Evan Osnos on China's cashmere production. You might think again, as cashmere is now one of China's exploitive crops, both on the global marketplace, dropping prices to new lows, and on the global environment.

Ok, I'm a killjoy. But when do we have to start paying attention to the effects our consuming is making on the world, both the people and environment, and the impact it's making on the global economy? Don't we have some obligation to be "good" consumers and think about the planet and our own actions? And why you ask? The article summarized the following.

First, it takes two or three animals to make one sweater. And China is producing so much cashmere for the world market they're exploiting their own environment to produce more, hurting the very souce of the material, the goats. Many herder-producers are having serious problems with the land and the goats to produce the product to make ends meet. When they can sell at a liveable income, they have to produce more, and compete with other producers. It's a downward spiral till it goes bust.

Second, about 70 percent of the world's production comes from the very regions in China which are over producing because of low prices. The Chinese government wants market domination, and they'll do it at the expense of their own people. The number of goats used in the Alashan Plateau on the China-Mongolian border has risen from 2.4 million in 1949 to 25.8 million in 2004, producing the world's third largest desert now, larger than the Netherlands.

Third, the average number of dust and sand storms per year from the Alashan region has risen from five in the 1950's, 14 in the 1970's to 23 in the 1990's. The severe one in April 1998 travelled from there to the Western U.S. in 6 days, creating environment and health problems from the pollution. And more are predicted as the number of storms rise and the desert expands.

My point? It's the one I'll continue to pound away as I have and will. It's time we paid attention to the "Made in China" label on the products we buy. It's obvious we can't change direction of things, but we can raise our individual voices to send the message we won't tolerate it.

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