Unpacking With Lex: Toxic AF — We Are The Planet & We Are Killing It


It is flooding in Iran. Unseasonably flooding. Yup…go get your coffee…or your wine…maybe keep a shot nearby…If you’re looking for a ray of light…just scroll all the way to that last list about “good” at the bottom.

Y’all…I came here to give you some light-hearted enlightenment about environmental justice…There’s Earth Day this month, and we finally have solid examples of environmental racism and conclusive evidence of the effects of energy production and pollution on different demographics….Instead, I feel nauseous. My hope…just keeps getting killed over and over. When this post started coming together (I don’t really seek out these must-know topics, they just sort of take shape as I’m being inundated with news, then I kind of intuit The Issues We Can’t Afford To Ignore), I thought I’d be my normal tongue-in-cheek self about how now there’s evidence that The Former Colonizers and ‘White’ People benefit most from pollution, and People of Color and Low-Income folks suffer as a result the most…But Mamas…The State Of The Planet makes this so much less about simply social justice, and so much more about The Fate Of The World.  

Poison in the River

The most common effect of pollution in women’s creative life is loss of vitality. This disables a woman’s ability to create or act “out there” in the world. Though there are times in a woman’s cycles of healthy creative life when the river of creativity disappears underground for a time, something is being developed all the same. We are incubating then. It is a very different sensation than that of spiritual crisis.

In a natural cycle, there is restlessness and impatience, perhaps, but there is never the sense the wild soul is dying. We can tell the difference by assessing our anticipation: even when our creative energy is involved in a long incubation, we still look forward to the outcome, we feel pops and surges of that new life turning and humming within us. We do not feel desperate. There is no lunging and grasping.

But when the creative life dies because we are not tending to the health of the river, that is another matter entirely. Then, we feel exactly like the dying river; we feel loss of energy, we feel tired, there is nothing creeping, roiling, lifting leaves, cooling off, warming up. We become thick, slow in a negative way, poisoned by pollution, or by a backup and stagnation of all our riches. Everything feels tainted, unclear, and toxic…

So we see that the river must be reasonably balanced between its pollutions and its cleansings, or else all comes to nothing. But in order to carry on in this manner, the immediate environ must be nutritive and accessible. In matters of survival it is an incontrovertible fact that the less available the essentials — food and water, safety and shelter — the fewer the options. And the fewer the options, the less creative life, for creativity thrives on the many, on the endless combination of all things.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD., Women Who Run With The Wolves

Fire on the River

I grew up in the AK (aka Akron, Ohio). Home to LeBron James, the Black Keys, Chrissie Hynde, and most notably, historic astronaut Judith Resnik. The Challenger crash was devastating, especially for us kids who were watching it on TV, were attending her alma maters, and were thinking we’d have to live on Mars or the Moon as adults. Yup — that’s how I grew up…making recycled art, Biosphere 2 dioramas, and rainforest murals in elementary school…condemning anyone who littered, really believing that the End Of Life On Earth As We Know It was imminent. To be fair, I lived in Northeast Ohio, where 50 years ago this June the disgustingly polluted Cuyahoga River CAUGHT ON FIRE — but not for the first time. The numbers are unclear, but range from the 5th time to the 13th time with the 1952 fire (the one in the pictures you’ll see citing the 1969 fire) as the largest and most costly. That fire and subsequent grand jury investigations eventually led to the Clean Water Act, the EPA and Earth Day among other initiatives. It was the beginning of Earth-friendliness as we know it.

Keep Akron Beautiful (implemented in 1981) signs were everywhere, and I learned to recycle early and often. In fact, because I was certain (wrongly) that I’d be denied admission to a certain prestigious university, I submitted a poem as my college essay (imposter syndrome runs deep). It opened with imagery of a vibrant rainforest, and closed with the awakening of a young, coughing, chronically ill girl, whose mother had only water to offer, because the rainforest, which she’d been dreaming about and held curative ingredients, had been decimated. DARK….I know, but that was the future as I knew it. The admissions people must’ve agreed; in spite of or because of my “story that imparts a message,” I got in. It’s in my bones to care about the planet. HOWEVER, all that is to say, that our tunnel vision back in the ’80s was on pollution, trash, recycling, the destruction of our resources…it wasn’t on the bigger picture — climate change or even environmental justice. Which is what I’m here to shed darkness on today. UGH.

I don’t know whether to ease into this…or just come out there with it. We’re here. The Destruction Of The Earth is here. It’s not 50 years away, or 30 years away or even a generation away.

It’s not about a bomb cyclone, or even feeling annoyed because the weekly temperatures reflect multiple seasons. It’s the literal ‘seas’ of water in the midwest we saw last month with the flooding after the bomb cyclones. It’s the literal ‘oceans’ of water created in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawai last month after Cyclone Idai. It’s in climate gentrification (that’s a new one, eh?) and environmental refugees, and even in our computers. We have just 12 years to Save The Planet….I know…Oi…There are some huge conundrums here. Let’s look at them together.

This might be the saddest post I ever write…I don’t know…next month I HAVE to talk about ‘Murica and immigration, so it’s tough competition for the saddest post I ever write….actually, that one’ll probably be more angry, yeah…so this might be the saddest.

Trigger Warning: This post contains FACTS.

OK. Phew…that’s done. For those of you still with me, here we go.

rth Day plans? Eco-friendly goals? See this environmental chaos 1st. Plastic, land loss, pollution & environmental justice — our toxic planet, unpacked.

The Lowdown

Environmental Justice 

If you don’t know what environmental justice is, watch this clip of Desi Lydic from The Daily Show: That’s Fracked: Can a Colorado School Combat Environmental Racism?. I’ll also tell you, but watching The Daily Show is so much more fun (Humor + Current Events = TheOnlyWayICanHandleLifeSince2016). Anyway, environmental justice refers to fighting things like fracking sites or truck-laden roads near elementary schools, or “waste to energy” plants in low-income neighborhoods with high populations of POC. (Pssst — “waste-to-energy plant” is like the PC term for incineration plant. Even ethnic abuse wants to be on the right side of history (pun intended?). But here’s the thing: the law doesn’t have protections to combat environmental racism — yet. This is likely why there’s not much outcry that Philadelphia (and a bunch of other major cities) is burning its waste in the neighborhoods of Black and Latinx folks.

But now we have A Study. And studies mean everything to The Decision Makers (research has been done, the scientific method employed, and the results will matter). This study tells us what most of us already knew already knew: “The researchers found that air pollution is disproportionately caused by white Americans’ consumption of goods and services, but disproportionately inhaled by black and [Latinx] Americans….’Inequity in exposure to air pollution is well documented, but this study brings in the consumption angle,’ says Anjum Hajat, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington who was not involved in the study. ‘If you’re contributing less to the problem, why do you have to suffer more from it?” Indeed.

This episode of Reveal from 2017, School haze, is particularly horrifying. I was used to worrying about particulate matter and polluted air when I lived in Asia, but here…? Yup, here too. Listen because it’s about how we’re polluting our kids’ school environments (#HelloLosAngelesFreeway). BUT also, check out your school’s location. I knew before searching that our kiddos’ school was close enough to truck-laden freeways, but I’m slightly relieved that’s in the yellow? Insert laughing/crying emoji. Sadly, our apartment building is in the red….I kinda knew that because I sit and type while gazing out the window at a major interstate highway (#NeverOpeningTheWindowsAgain). Let’s face it — if you live in a gentrifying or gentrified neighborhood, you likely live near pollution. Why? Because the neighborhoods deemed by The Decision Makers ‘sucky’ enough to cut through with a highway, or drop a toxic waste site in or that cropped up along railroad tracks during segregation and red-lining, are the ones where people with time and money and resources want to live now. The irony.

No — here’s the irony. Our new term of the month: “climate gentrification”. Miami is another place already living the Climate Change Dream: “Last fall, the city adopted a resolution to study ‘gentrification that is accelerated due to climate change’.” Real estate at higher elevations (like, where poor folks and POC have previously been relegated to living) is now on offer at a premium (to the people who can afford it), meaning we’ll be seeing our own climate refugees stateside — exactly yesterday.

Some Perspective on Plastic

Plastic is THE WORST — no surprise there. Steve Kurtuz, author of Life Without Plastic Is Possible. It’s Just Very Hard, documents how “Plastic purgers need to rearrange their lives to avoid the offending material.” If you’re thinking of going completely plastic-free, there’s good stuff in there. I’d listen to the Brian Lehrer Show episode here, and then skim Kurutz’s piece for the so many good resources for living plastic-free (too many to list here). One place to start though — don’t buy any more reusable bags. That’s right — I heard it on NPR — say ‘no’ to the tote bag. According to reporter Zoë Schlanger, the manufacturing process for cotton totes is worse for the environment than manufacturing plastic bags. This is, as Kai Ryssdal says over and over in the Marketplace segment, not considering the waste created by plastic bags once they’re set free. You need to use your organic cotton tote bag more than 20,000 times to make it better than using a plastic bag. So, in short, keep using the reusable bags you already own. Paper bags should also get the boot if you’re thinking of production in contrast to plastic bags — again, none of these studies consider the amazing journey of the plastic bag (if you missed it in 2011, watch it here). There’s also a cool chart in Schlanger’s original article about how other bags stack up to classic grocery store plastic bags.

If considering the lesser of all the evils, this Here & Now episode about the unintended consequences of banning plastic bags is worth a listen. When we ban plastic bags, not only do people rely on cotton and paper bags, which have a nasty manufacturing process, but they also buy more plastic garbage bags. UGH. I don’t know what the answer is. Do you? Right now I’m using recycled, biodegradable bags for composting in my kitchen (no, I don’t compost), but once that betch is in the landfill, it’s fine if it biodegrades, right?

I learned, inadvertently, while giving a practice AP Lang & Comp exam last decade, about the amount of fossil fuels not only required to make plastic water bottles, but also to ship them overseas for recycling. It’s problematic. There’s a cost for every environmental choice we make. For instance, I don’t have a car, BUT, I order a bunch of crap (not literal crap) online. If my Target.com order has eight items, those eight items might arrive at my building in five different boxes, from five different trucks. So our online shopping might decrease our automobile use, but it’s creating more traffic congestion and breaking the environment. Where’s the vaseline? (whoops, that has petroleum also).

AND, sending our recycling to China — although not a perfect solution — is over. Done. Kaput. As of OVER A YEAR AGO. Approximately 14 months after China enacted its National Sword Policy banning the import of most plastics, I pause in our co-working space, dumbfounded, wondering which receptacle to throw my trash in. Recycling or Landfill? Or this random waste basket over there that seems to be a catchall? One of the main drivers of China’s refusal to accept our nasty-ass trash? That we can’t be bothered to clean the food out of our containers (this is mostly a result and requirement for single stream recycling). “No, thanks,” said they. So what’s happening to our recycling (aka trash) now? In a lot of cities it’s being incinerated. LAUGH/SOB…ugh. Yes, it’s true. Our dear Philadelphia is the poster child for incinerating its waste out in Chester County (there’s is a commercial on the ‘radio’ RIGHT NOW, about how recycling and zero waste are the law here…sob, sob, sob — it’s a mindf*ck, y’all). It turns out that’s where a significantly high number of low-income, Black and Latinx people live. Surprise! So, instead of our recycling polluting China (where it was, to be fair, supposedly recycled and re-used*) it’s being carted out to a suburb, where it’s incinerated, and goes on to pollute the lungs of and lives of low-income and people of color here. 

The loss of this overseas dumping ground means that plastics, paper, and glass set aside for recycling by Americans is being stuffed into domestic landfills or is simply burned in vast volumes. This new reality risks an increase of plumes of toxic pollution that threaten the largely black and [Latinx] communities who live near heavy industry and dumping sites in the US.

“People in Chester feel hopeless—all they want is for their kids to get out, escape. Why should we be expendable? Why should this place have to be burdened by people’s trash and shit?”

Some experts worry that burning plastic recycling will create a new fog of dioxins that will worsen an already alarming health situation in Chester. Nearly four in 10 children in the city have asthma, while the rate of ovarian cancer is 64 percent higher than the rest of Pennsylvania and lung cancer rates are 24 percent higher, according to state health statistics.”

*The likelihood that our fouled waste was contaminating people in rural China once it could not longer be processed there, if that was the case, is equally problematic.

Even though us humans are reaping the havoc we’ve wreaked ourselves, let’s not forget the animals. The stomach of a dead whale recovered off the coast of the Philippines recently contained ‘Nothing But Nonstop Plastic’ — 90 ibs of plastic, to be precise. “Within the last 10 years, we have recovered 61 whales and dolphins just within the Davao Gulf,” said Darrell Blatchley, a marine biologist and environmentalist. “Of them, 57 have died due to man — whether they ingested plastic or fishing nets or other waste, or gotten caught in pollution — and four were pregnant.” And this isn’t just an issue related to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean. In the Mediterranean, a pregnant whale was found with a dead fetus, plus 50 ibs of plastic, including plastic plates and fishing lines.

The Land Loss Crisis

When The Levees Broke should perhaps not be a title about the past, but about the present — the present progressive — because the levee failure in the Lower Ninth Ward is just the first prominent event in a series of many recents. If you read The New Yorker, it’s unlikely you missed the two side-by-side maps of Louisiana — the one we normally see that includes, well…land…and the accurate one, that contains…ummm…islands or isthmuses surrounded by water. The rumor — that Louisiana loses a football field of land an hour — is mostly true. The actual measurement is “at a rate of a football field per hour and a half”, so it’s not that every hour a mass of land the size of a football field drops off — but that’s the average rate — and it’s been happening since the ’80s. And it’s a *manmade crisis. (the likelihood that men designed All The Ways To Contain The Mighty Mississippi is pretty high #MenHadAllTheEngineeringJobsBackThen).

Anyway — read this article by Elizabeth Kolbert — it is phenomenal. Kolbert’s description of the land (or lack thereof) and her research on the ground is enrapturing. I have not even moved on to the cartoons in the next issue, because it is so engaging to read about how faulty our decisions for managing the flow of water in this country have been #WhyAreWeNotAsSmartAsTheDutch — since the 18th-century, before the Louisiana Purchase — and we are reaping the consequences in all the ways, all right now (also aided by the climate crisis and rising sea levels, which is abetted by our terrible practices as humans, like drilling for oil in the Gulf). Not to mention that this is happening ALL OVER THE UNITED STATES – those seas in the midwest in March I alluded to above = climate change + levee failures (and an April snowstorm is hitting as we speak). You can also pick an hour to listen to Kolbert’s article, Louisiana’s Disappearing Coast — obvi while you’re doing something else, because #momming.

And yeah….remember when there was that oil rig accident over 14 years ago during Hurricane Ivan? Off what’s left of the “coast” of Louisiana? There’s been oil leaking into the Gulf ever since.

We Are What We Breathe, We Are What We Eat

I don’t know which part of all this is the most depressing, but it might be this (again, anyone putting all the pieces of the puzzle together has already figured this out): Air pollution is way more harmful than Science previously acknowledged — in addition to suppressing lung growth and lung function growth, it crosses from our lungs into the bloodstream and affects our cardiovascular system and our brains. ALSO — bad eating habits are more harmful than smoking — and if everyone in the world ate the healthiest diet for us all — we’d run out of food.

…So just forget about corn. If there’s one food our country is full of (#ThanksGovernmentSubsidies) it’s toxic corn. While we’re all obsessed about reducing the amount of beef we eat, so that there aren’t so many farting cows creating methane, (which destroys the ozone) or with how much water is used to produce one almond or some alfalfa sprouts, we might want to consider all the corn produced in this country.

Fertilizer application, gas use, pesticide production and dust kicked up from tilling all affect air quality….The researchers found that corn production accounts for 4,300 premature deaths related to air pollution every year in the United States….Previous work has found that agricultural practices — like fertilizer production, running tractors and tilling land — account for about 16 percent of all human-caused air pollution of a type called PM2.5….exposure has been associated with cardiovascular problems, respiratory illness, diabetes and even birth defects….That’s about a quarter of all [air pollution-related] agricultural deaths. That’s significant.”

PM2.5 is what we all want to avoid (it’s part of the reason I left Sai Gon with a growing Goose).

And we wonder why the number of adults with allergies has increased by 400 percent since around 1997-1998? Right now, one in ten (or 10% of) adults have food allergies, and another ten percent suffer from food intolerances. For the lowdown on all that, listen to this episode of The Pulse.

Opening the Overton Window With A Green New Deal

Thank goodness for Sam Sanders! When I heard about The Green New Deal, I desperately tried to think of the official term for drastically moving or expanding a public conversation by positing an absurd, extreme idea. That’s not the official definition, but it is the gist, and on a recent episode of It’s Been a Minute, Sam Sanders said exactly what I’d been thinking — “the Overton Window”. Here’s the thing — we have #45 in the White House and AOC in congress — BOTH of them are brilliant when it comes to expanding the Overton Window — (the range of ideas the public is willing to consider and accept).

The Overton Window is WIDE OPEN right now. The Green New Deal, sponsored by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and some other dude, does just that. It’s a loose set of ambitious goals outlined in a nonbinding resolution (not an actual bill) that calls for a global goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 — but no policy specifics on how to get there. Dismissed by Congress’ Queen of Snark as “The Green Dream or whatever“, and voted down (even though it wasn’t a bill) by the Senate, this pie-in-the sky framework is absolutely necessary. It’s what allowed us to send a man to the moon within a decade of Kennedy saying it, and it’s what still allows us to strive for a day when ‘little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.’ It is also what allows us to imagine that we actually have a chance to Save The Planet somehow.

As Samantha Bee opines “it’s too expensive and too hard isn’t a reason not to save the world, it’s a reason not to have a destination wedding”. Truly — the idea that we should try to save a planet that will be ravaged by climate change in a mere 12 years if we do nothing about it should not be controversial. Beyond getting Americans re-energized about taking drastic measures to actually save the planet, it’s also gotten us talking about tax avoidance by millionaires and a Universal Basic Income (championed by This Guy You’ve Never Heard Of as a potential “crown on capitalism”, more on that next month). At this point, I’ll give anything for a chance to ensure Goose reaching adulthood isn’t at risk simply because we’re too comfortable to give up our fossil fuels and plastic. The ideas in her personalized [Goose] Saves the Planet book seem laughable in comparison to what we’re facing.

Toxic Tech

Tech won’t save us either — at least anytime soon. Our tech is biased. This covers a range of situations, from predictive policing and trying to find works of art that look like you, to medical diagnoses for women and people of color. We have a HUGE data gap. Lulu Garcia-Navarro spoke with Caroline Criado-Perez about her book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, and why women are more likely to be injured in car crashes and more likely to die after a heart attack, plus data incidentally geared toward producing more male coders. Listen to Weekend Edition clip here. Criado-Perez also highlights the need for gender-disaggregated medical data, which Irene Chen also wants to fix. Because let’s face it: most medical research through the early Aughts, is on white males. Chen, a graduate student in the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, found huge data gaps for Asian Americans in her research on an algorithm for predicting who needs the highest level of attention in an intensive care unit. How Can Doctors Be Sure A Self-Taught Computer Is Making The Right Diagnosis? speaks a bit more to how algorithms are being used and fine-tuned right now for diagnoses.

In Full Frontal’s ‘Black Future Month’, Sasheer Zamata speaks with all manner of talented black women to learn exactly why algorithms are biased — one reason: fewer than five percent of employees at the vast majority of social media and tech companies are African American, producing racial blind spots. Because humans are biased, our tech is biased. Solutions include not only Black Girl Magic, but also black girl money and black girl power. Get the word version (hilarious video included) from the LA Times here, or just watch the Full Frontal segment here. To hear what it’s like as a black women working in tech, check out Catt Small’s description of a video game she created (listen to the interview from Marketplace here):

I released “SweetXheart” in January of 2019. “SweetXheart” is what people call a visual novel. The goal behind “SweetXheart” was to convey what it’s like to be someone like me in the United States, a black woman who works in technology. As you go throughout the day, Kara [the main character] has a lot of different interactions that she experiences and depending on those experiences she either feels more positively or she starts to feel really negative, and at the end of the week the hope is that you can have a positive week which requires five good days. It’s really challenging to get five positive days in a row which is honestly quite accurate for me in real life. But things have gotten better lately.

And that’s the thing — things do get better, even when they’re not perfect. We’re at a tipping point, but we’re not toppled, and that’s why I’ve added a little section to highlight that. So for just a minute, let’s take a few breaths of fresh air…

The Good That We Don’t See

Good On You – The members of the Commonwealth tend to make it clear when you yourself have done something AMAZING. They don’t say “you’re so lucky” or “well done” or “great job”…they say “Good on you.” It’s clear exactly who took action and did the good. So, Good on you…

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern –  In less than a month you showed the world’s leaders how to unite your country after a massacre, you led women and children in donning headscarves to stand in solidarity with a community victimized by terrorism, and you banned military style semi-automatics and assault rifles nationwide. WOOT!

Brie LarsenDespite attempts by the alt-right to derail Captain Marvel, it earned $153 million opening weekend. Larsen had noticed that the critics showing up to do interviews about her films were overwhelmingly white and male. So she offered to sit down for the magazine Marie Claire with journalist Keah Brown, a woman of color who has cerebral palsy. The “mens’ rights” protest of bad Rotten Tomatoes reviews against Larsen failed.

Ellen Page – I can’t tell you much about Ellen Page’s filmography, but I can tell you she’s a passionate human being. During her appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, she goes from celebrating the first anniversary with her wife and noting Hollywood’s lack of progress, to setting us straight on environmental racism and railing against our hateful leadership. Her perspective (and emotion) commands our attention.

Jessi Roberts – Author of Backroads Boss Lady: Happiness Ain’t a Side Hustle spoke with Kai Ryssdal on Marketplace last month, about starting her boutique in rural Idaho, basically….because she had kids to feed. The online apparel and accessories brand, Cheekys, is now a multi-million dollar enterprise.

Kaiser Permanente – The health care company is partnering with local social service agencies to provide health care and housing for 500 homeless people in Oakland. They’ll spend $3 million in 15 communities nationwide to combat chronic homelessness. This is huge. Recognizing the link between housing and healthcare (currently, there’s a return of Medieval diseases among America’s homeless populations), the goal is not only good PR, but also better community health and lower healthcare costs.

Fed-the-FU*K-up Female Animators – In #MeToon, Samantha Bee highlights a group of female animators who pressured the Animation Guild to take down a repeat sexual harasser. So f-ing inspiring. The link for the Slate synop is here, and the Full Frontal video is embedded right there.

Full Frontal Writers Kristen Bartlett and Ashley Nicole Black – I love these two segments about fat shaming, and the way the media (and medical community) treat people who are fat (it’s OK to say it – just watch). Sam Bee and her writers have created positive camera roll of fat people called “Fat People Have Heads” that the media can license, and they also wrote this important piece: Thicc not Sick about how our country’s obsession with obesity is getting in the way of other proper (and life-threatening) medical diagnoses.

Moriah Ratner – This photographer spent a year a half documenting the life (and death) of Lola, a 12-year-old with a rare inoperable brain tumor. The survival rate of children with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is 0. The interview between Ratner and NPR is here. The story about Lola giving her final days to science is in National Geographic. The Washington Post highlights how Lola shows us how to live.

Katie Bouman – Say Her Name. Dr. Bouman is the 29-year-old woman who became the face of the first image of a black hole.  She’s one of 200+ people on the project (from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the MIT Haystack Observatory) who all deserve credit, and her algorithm is one that helped make it possible. Dr. Bouman’s been a recent target of internet trolling for getting so much credit (and for being a woman), but that doesn’t diminish her accomplishments.

Everlane + The New York Times – Teaming up against climate change are two stalwarts when it comes to doing the right thing. We’re obsessed with Everlane’s ethical business model and The Times’ commitment to truth and information. Check out their ‘Truth’/climate change collection, the proceeds of which sponsor NYT subscriptions for students.

Finally, we must celebrate the youth. They skipped school last month, (some inspired by Greta Thunberg of Sweden, whom you may remember from Shana’s recent weekend post), for the Youth Climate Strike (happening again next month), because those of us who are supposedly ADULTING are doing a piss-poor job of protecting the planet. As I reflect on that, combined with the last paragraphs of Elizabeth Kolbert’s land loss article, where she waxes poetic on our catastrophic attempts at human nature, I am paralyzed. We are imbalanced.

Through activities like farming, mining, and clear-cutting, people have directly transformed more than half the ice-free land on Earth—some twenty-seven million square miles—and we’ve indirectly altered half of what remains. As with the Mississippi, we have dammed or leveed most of the world’s major rivers. Our fertilizer plants and legume crops fix more nitrogen than all terrestrial ecosystems combined, and our planes, cars, and power stations emit about a hundred times more carbon dioxide than volcanoes. We now routinely cause earthquakes. (A particularly damaging human-induced quake that shook Pawnee, Oklahoma, on the morning of September 3, 2016, was felt all the way in Des Moines.) In terms of sheer biomass, the numbers are stark-staring: today, people outweigh wild mammals by a ratio of more than eight to one. Add in the weight of our domesticated animals—mostly cows and pigs—and that ratio climbs to twenty-three to one. “In fact,” as a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences observed, “humans and livestock outweigh all vertebrates combined, with the exception of fish.” We have become the major driver of extinction and also, probably, of speciation. In the age of man, there is nowhere to go—and this includes the deepest trenches of the oceans and the middle of the Antarctic ice sheet—that does not already bear our Friday-like footprints.

Atmospheric warming, ocean warming, ocean acidification, sea-level rise, deglaciation, desertification, eutrophication—these are just some of the byproducts of our species’ success. Such is the pace of what is blandly labelled “global change” that there are only a handful of comparable examples in Earth’s history, the most recent being the asteroid impact that ended the reign of the dinosaurs, sixty-six million years ago….

If there is to be an answer to the problem of control, it’s going to be more control. Only now what’s to be managed is not a nature that exists—or is imagined to exist—apart from the human. Instead, the new effort begins with a planet remade, and spirals back on itself—not so much the control of nature as the control of (the control of) nature….

Don’t forget to plant a tree, choose YOUR lesser of two (or twenty) evils, and have a happy Earth Day!


Previous articleWeekly Favorite Finds in Home Decor 4.13
Next articleFour Cute Rainy Day Outfits
Lex is our resident nerd, watchful editor & Chief Innovation Officer. Voted most likely to win BIG on Jeopardy!, she keeps us ahead of the curve, whether in mapping out strategy that has us dropping content at the moment you’re Googling for it, or branching us out into new channels/ media & letting us know what trends are giving. If you sit in on any meeting, you’ll often hear the phrase, “Ok, so Lex was right…” With her own personal style (boots, dresses, scarves), she doesn’t consider herself a fashionista, but she is keeping us #well #sustainable #empathetic #inclusive #current #DownToEarth & #OpenMinded; her wisdom ranges from yoga home practice & Feng Shui-ing an apartment, to living overseas & crushing analytics.

Shop Lex's Closet


  1. There is a degree of cognitive dissonance I feel reading about this on what is essentially a consumption-oriented blog. Not really sure there’s any way through that than us all doing our best but it just feels at odds with buying new clothing at the rate that has become normalized. :-/

    • Hi, Allison — I really appreciate this comment. I think it brings up an issue we need to address with our readers directly. I’m going to respond thoroughly when I have more time this week, but for now, I do have to say that I didn’t intentionally omit any discussion of fashion. It just so happens that it didn’t come up at all in any of the podcasts or articles I heard and read in the last month or two. Since “Unpacking…” is essentially a distillation of recent noteworthy news cycle items that I happen to have come across, I don’t search out which topics to cover. I’ll respond with more later, but I think it’s worth pointing out that fashion and caring about the planet don’t have to me mutually exclusive. Thanks for giving us an opportunity to explore this conundrum further. xo, Lex

    • Hi, Alison! I’m going to start here, and I may jump to your other comment re: carbon footprint, as well as save some more in-depth thoughts for actual content and/or conversations elsewhere. I really appreciate the way you presented this idea. It’s a thoughtful, pointed comment that deserves addressing. Secondly, I was including myself as being part of the “we” I was addressing — I don’t have a perfect record on the planet, and I wasn’t implicating any one person’s actions were worse than anyone else’s. I think we’ve all been led to believe we were doing “enough” or status quo at serving the Earth, and it’s now clear that that is nowhere near enough. Overall, I think there are several points to make. First, we are a fashion and lifestyle blog, so everyone who is here — readers and contributors — is here because they want to have some part of that, regardless how small. Secondly, I think you raise a good point that perhaps we could be more transparent about our values — that will likely require more than a response here in the comments section — but I also think that because we discuss issues sooo much as a team — everything from supporting brands that feature diverse models to brands who are fair trade or who promote transparent practices, as well as whether or not to do certain sponsored posts, we think you all see too, but that’s not likely if you don’t read every single line of every single post and aren’t in on those discussions. TME really prides itself on being thoughtful and authentic. We wouldn’t have published this post if we didn’t believe in it, the same way we wouldn’t promote a super-sustainable brand if all their models still look like Kate Moss simply because said brand is less harmful to the planet than other brands. We, and it seems more obvious to those of us behind the scenes, get really excited about brands who promote diversity, who are transparent, who use recycled materials, who facilitate recycling of their clothing, who use natural materials, who create plus-size lines, etc., That excitement may not always filter through to our audience because it might result in only a few posts here and there (Laura’s recent Bloomingdale’s post, her Earth-friendly changes post, my recycling clothes post, our nods to Reformation, Veja, Everlane, EILEEN FISHER, Adidas, etc., and a bunch more that were before my time).

      I’ve done a lot more research into where we (humans) are with fashion and sustainability. It’s in a high state of flux due to the demand for change. There is a lot of controversy around whether or not fashion was the second-highest most polluting industry as was oft noted (it is not now, even if it was before, since agriculture for food has now surpassed fossil fuels for the “top” spot) and it’s likely that if it was, it was the textile industry overall, not just fashion. It’s also clear that to only promote ONLY the brands with the best record on the planet at this point, would price most regular folks out of the market. It’s also clear that more change, so that there’s more competition between brands to get better on sustainability and thus a drop in overall prices, will only happen with more transparency and more pressure from consumers — the same way we would approach fossil fuel companies, and the way that the chicken industry was forced to make change on antibiotics.

      Further, I think “the rate that has become normalized” is going to mean something different to every reader on this blog. Regardless of income level, I think all of us shop differently. When I first came aboard, I was under the impression that the contributors were shopping all the time — but that’s not the case at all. They’re usually highlighting this one new piece they love, with pieces they already have — which is what we encourage: intersperse your existing wardrobe with some investment pieces you’re really crazy about. There are some people who would never shop if they didn’t have to, but when they do, they appreciate having one go-to blog they can trust to help them with that. I’d also argue that 2018 was likely the height of the fast, disposable fashion craze we saw at the beginning of the Aughts. The consignment shops in NC are constantly telling my second mother that they’re full and can’t take anything else for months (since the Konmari craze began), and there are frequent news stories about how full places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army have become since last fall. The majority of Gen Z and Millenials want to know about the sustainability of the sources of their couture, and there is greater interest in minimalist wardrobes, and in sharing and reusing clothing. We believe in each person remaining true to their unique style and making the choices that best suit them.

      This post was not a fashion post, and as mentioned, it didn’t exclude fashion purposefully. Most of what has been in the news about fashion recently has been about blackface and sexual harassment, and that did not fit the topic of this post. As a team, it’ll be important for us consider how we address your idea with content, and we truly value the engagement it sparked among the readers. xo, Lex

    • Interesting. I checked out quite a few articles about the study, and this one seems pretty sound. They explain how the study worked, and how they tracked and translated the data. Is it because they don’t specifically explain that black and Latinx folks typically have lower incomes? From my read, they focus more on black and Latinx communities (physical communities) and less on how much income is earned. If they focused more on income, I think they would have included more information about poor people, including lower-income whites — it seems this article just omitted them altogether, which may be problematic — or may be addressed the more the data is disaggregated. It’s worth considering though. I don’t think public radio or these university researchers are trying to foment racial discord — but I could be wrong. xo, Lex

  2. 1. I am on a yearlong clothes buying fast and still enjoy this fashion blog. Turns out it’s fun to look at outfits even if you never purchase from a single affiliate link! Any cognitive dissonance I feel is a product of living in a late capitalist, comsumerist nightmare society. I can’t blame anyone for making a living within that framework. I actually respect the fact that TME HQ is willing to confront issues like pollution and the ways humans are destroying our own earth here on their platform, no doubt knowing they’d be called out for the discrepancy.

    2. I look forward to Alexis’ articles. I enjoy her voice (“sponsored by AOC and some other dude”–dead!) and the comprehensive links to sources I may not have read already. Just want to offer an alternative take.

    • Thank you so much, Katie! This comment is the only reason I got any sleep at all last night. “Any cognitive dissonance I feel is a product of living in a late capitalist, consumerist nightmare society. I can’t blame anyone for making a living within that framework. I actually respect the fact that TME HQ is willing to confront issues like pollution and the ways humans are destroying our own earth here on their platform, no doubt knowing they’d be called out for the discrepancy.” Spot on. And thank you for the compliment. It’s wonderful to have readers who appreciate the range of voices TME offers. Your take is always welcome. xo, Lex

  3. The world isn’t going to end in 12 years. I agree with the general sentiment of this post- we have a moral imperative to be better stewards of this planet and of the people who inhabit it- but am not a fan of hyperbole.

    I’d also caution against citing/linking to so many celebrity figures. It’s true that they have a lot of power in our society and can be a force for good when they wield that power to draw our attention to potential injustices. But they are not experts, and are certainly not unbiased. This societal trend of trying to distill complex and nuanced issues into clever hashtags and comedic sound bites does us all a disservice, I think.

  4. I cringe when I read articles about whales dying with bellies full of plastics, garbage in the oceans, people breathing polluted air, etc. But. I also click the “buy now” tab on my prime now app when I realize I’ve forgotten something for the kids’ spring party- the one that’s today (!). This article does bring a lot of things to my attention which I do appreciate. Articles that I find super helpful are ones with suggestions for small changes that have big impact. I believe recently Laura had one with some easy suggestions- and now it’s been a long time since we’ve used plastic straws or ziplock bags. In general I think I need to concentrate on slowing down enough to make more thoughtful decisions about what I purchase.

    • Thanks, Kristen! I’m the same way with Prime, although I’ve tried to avoid relying on Amazon when I can – but only recently, TBH. I agree that slowing down and making thoughtful purchases is a great strategy. A few weekends ago, I forgot do my supplemental Instacart/Amazon Fresh grocery order, and I thought we were going to starve all week, but with each weekday that passed, I didn’t have time to do it, and the weekend came and we hadn’t starved (Goose just had a lot of leg cramps b/c it meant we had no bananas :-). xo, Lex

  5. I have to admit that I am perplexed by this response from Lex. There are links in this article from well beyond the past month or two (there’s one from 2017). But, there’s an assertion that there’s no mention of the environmental impact of the fashion industry because she hasn’t seen anything specific over the past few weeks? The harm that excessive clothes production and consumption create has been well known for YEARS. Maybe that’s why there hasn’t been a flashy article recently? I don’t disagree that you can care about both fashion and the environment at the same time, but sustainable fashion is definitely not the focus of The Mom Edit.

    • You’re right Sam, I should not have responded in such haste, and should have waited to address Allison’s point fully when I have more time. The 2017 Reveal episode was unforgettable, and just came to me as I writing. Perhaps I shouldn’t have included it? I thought that as moms it would be something we cared about? As I mentioned to another reader on Facebook, this post could have gone on for days. After I finished but before we published, I was confronted by at least 6 more topics I could have easily included, one of them about a fashion brand, but at that point the post was long enough (as noted by Kelly). If you remember, my first post for the blog was about recycling textiles, which I’ll get to later when I have time to reply to Allison, because that happened to be a genuine discovery in real time that I was excited about — just like a lot of these conundrums with our planet genuinely engaged me and felt too big to ignore right now. Again, I’ll respond more thoroughly to Allison’s eloquent (albeit complex) question later. Thanks. xo, Lex

  6. I’m curious about what in the post makes you think it is angry and hostile. I was heartbroken the entire month, and stated as much throughout. In fact, I took out the part about “crying every time” I worked on the post (which is true), because I felt I had mentioned my sadness/depression about this topic so much. If anything the tone is melancholy with an undertone of cynicism. I can’t imagine it’s the words in the post that make people think it is an “angry” article, but I’d honestly like to know where it came off that way.

  7. I’m disheartened by the amount of comments here saying this piece is ‘hostile’ or ‘out of place’ on this blog.

    Where and when and with what tone would you like to discuss how we’re all about to face (any many already are facing) very real and very serious consequences for the effects of our consumption and refusal to accept the basic facts about climate change?

    There will literally be no reason for blogs like this to exist if our planet is suffering from a global crisis within the next decade or two, as scientists are predicting.

    These issues should be all we’re talking about, really. In every facet of our lives.


    • Disheartened is the perfect word for it, Mandi. Thank you for this thoughtful response, it means the world to me. I was beginning to think it might be the end of ‘Unpacking’ as we know it?. I certainly didn’t expect this post to be the most divisive one. Thank you again — and I love your comment about what should leave a bad taste in the mouth — indeed. xo, Lex

  8. Excuse the typos. Sometimes I get a bit caught up when I think about the impending doom we’re all facing within our very lifetimes.

    Marc Maron, my favorite comedian, did a bit in a set I saw him do last year about how “we’re all going to die choking for air and burning from the sun” – I think about this every day, multiple times a day. Because, while it may be a comedy bit, it’s not far from the truth. And THAT should make you angry/upset/dismayed/leave a bad taste in your mouth as you sip your morning coffee. Not this article.

  9. I’m curious as to what you find hostile in this piece…as someone who admits to skipping past most of the post, it’s odd that you would then come to the comments to add an argument ad hominem. I’m also not sure who you think I’m accusing…unless you’re the person who decided to send all of our plastic out to the suburbs to be incinerated, then there’s nothing to be ashamed of. As I’ll note in general, I always write with the assumption that we are all on the same team. We’re all doing our best — I just think it sucks when we think we’re doing the right thing only to find out later that it’s not what we think it is (for instance, separating our recyclables only to learn they’re not being recycled). As I noted too many times to count, this is the saddest post I have every written — more broken-hearted than I’ve been in years (until I read these comments) — so I’m perplexed at how it came off as angry. It leads me to believe that that assumption has more to do with who I am than what I wrote — as curiously noted by others. I can only hope that I’m wrong. xo, Lex

  10. Thank you for this article. I found it very informative and it really opened my eyes. Not quite sure why people found it hostile or angry. The title pretty much lets the reader know what the article is about- skip it if you aren’t interested. Good job, Alexis. I look forward to your next article!

  11. This topic is incredibly important to me. I think about it almost daily, because it’s connected to what I do for a living. I appreciate VERY MUCH that I am seeing this perspective reaching wider and wider audiences. Alexis is absolutely right–action NOW is what’s needed.

    However, the post is too long and too dense for me–the writing style requires some commitment. And I read The Mom Edit as a fun release–while eating my lunch, or while waiting in line, etc. I personally would prefer to keep my interest areas “siloed” and keep coming to TME for swimsuit reviews, black jeans, etc.

    FWIW, my favorite sources for climate and environmental reading are Grist and Yale Climate Connections, which are excellent at packaging vital info in a really readable way.

  12. While I will agree with the general concerns addressed in the post, and admire Lex’s passion, I want to point out that many reactions seem to center on how the tone, seriousness and subject matter were out of place, perhaps even jarring, on a blog that many of us have come to expect lighter fare. Fashion & parenting mostly, with some deeper reflective thoughts on our world — but not such an incredibly deep dive as was offered in this post. Many of us get our news and issues analysis elsewhere, and come to this site for a break from it all. So, there’s my two cents. Lex’s viewpoint is important and passionate, but felt slightly jarring and out of context here, on a site that appears, mostly, to offer something different for its readers. It only made me wonder, “has themomedit changed it’s mission?”

    • You have a very wise ‘voice’, Sue. I wouldn’t say we’ve changed our mission…I think overall we’re just choosing not to be silent. I’ve been here for almost a year now, and my first post was on retailers who help us recycle our clothes — yet that seems to be conveniently ignored in this comment thread (it’s due for an update, unrelated to these comments). Since then, I’ve definitely written on way more controversial topics than this, and because I hadn’t received much ire since the post about helping kids through scary times, (another surprising round of angry comments, though not nearly as mean and personal as these), we all assumed readers who don’t like these uncomfortable topics simply decided to skip my posts. I’ve written about child separation and homeless women veterans, but also about bags for working women and cowgirl boots. Someone, in some round of comments, pointed out that fashion and parenting don’t happen in a vacuum, and I think Shana feels the same way. Postpartum depression and sexual abuse are not comfortable topics either, yet we’ve broached them here as well. We’re all complex beings. You may have heard Elie Wiesel’s 1999 speech The Perils of Indifference, and I’d say that’s where we stand — in the context of being women and mothers. There’s a lot of power in silence. In terms of quantity, aside from Shana’s Weekend Post, these current issue posts are rare — roughly one out of maybe 60 or more posts per month. It’s not so much a change in mission, as it is maybe making space for more mothers and more voices. xo, Lex

  13. OK, I admit, I had to wait a few days before I was ready to read this, and I did skim most of the long quotes that were excerpted. And I do agree a bit with the early comment about how this site often does promote fast fashion, and I think y’all need to reconsider that. BUT, I am so glad to see topics being addressed here that go beyond the weekly sales posts (I hate the weekly sales posts. More style and parenting topics, less sales, please). This is The Mom Edit. Most, although probably not all, of the readers are parents and as such we have to consider how what we do affects the world our children grow up in. So I don’t think this is out of context or off-mission. Also, the “why ya gotta make it about race” and “why ya gotta be so angry” comments, while expected, are disheartening. 1. The “it’s about income, not race” argument is a conservative talking point that is not based in actual fact, and is used to discredit the very real effects of systemic racism. 2. Expressing passion and frustration and despair are not the same thing as anger directly personally at you. People need to learn to make that distinction. 3. WTF is wrong with being angry when anger is justified? We have a president who has abandoned our environment. We have corporations who prioritize profit over limiting their pollution. This is worth being angry about! 4. “Hostile” is a word frequently used against people of color and women to try to keep them in line when they express anger about injustice. It’s used to diminish their arguments, writing them off as “emotional” or “unstable”, so that the listener/reader can escape taking them or their concerns seriously. I would suggest finding another word to use when a woman of color holds up a fact that makes you feel uncomfortable.

    • Thank you, thank you, thank you, Renee! You win for making it possible for me to sleep tonight! I am so grateful that you addressed what I no longer felt welcome to say — effectively silenced — even though I work here, and it’s crazy that I was suddenly rendered voiceless. And you just opened the window and made it possible to breathe again. I am so grateful. This needed to be addressed and I’m so grateful for you for taking the time and courage to do so. Big hugs. xo, Lex

  14. Since I don’t see this mentioned yet, I also noticed the discrepancy between the Samantha Bee quote about skipping a destination wedding (meaning flights) to reduce CO2 emissions, yet we see this blog discussing trips to Utah parks, skiing in CO, flights to Normandy, Greece, Ecuador multiple times per year…Those posts seems to just encourage flying more often.

    Anyway, I think the tone is angry because of cursing, seeming despair that anything is worth doing (her Save the Planet book is laughable) etc. There’s a way to say it (hey guys, this is real and I’m worried…We should all consider doing x,y,z). I’ll point back to Laura’s post on ways to go green that someone else mentioned. Just notice the difference in tone. The ‘save the planet’ book isn’t worth dismissing, this is the way we introduce children to these topics. It’s not a be-all end-all. I think these are the things that come across as ‘angry’ in the piece.

    Regardless, this is a worthy topic and good for you for putting it out there.

    • Thank you, Jem! This is super-helpful (and K, too)…we do have this tension surrounding what the tone of these posts should be — the discussion seems to cycle through the idea of TME being an escape, to keeping the same irreverent tone of the blog, to maybe using a serious tone for the serious subjects, and coming back to not wanting our readers to walk away feeling too heavy, but wanting to approach these topics…so my clumsy attempts at trying to make this not too heavy by undercutting my despair with humor (like adding in the faux cursing) backfired — is that what I’m hearing from not only you, but maybe also Jessica and K and Autumn? And I’m going to assume the good in all people and note that if that is one of the main observations here in the comments section, it’s a separate issue from Renee’s very eloquent and much-needed point. Thanks for jumping in! xo, Lex

  15. It leads me to believe that that assumption has more to do with who I am than what I wrote — as curiously noted by others. I can only hope that I’m wrong.

    I feel like I missed something – where did anyone else note that? It also feels a bit rash to start accusing your readers of racism because they criticized your writing.

    FWIW, I did not find the tone to be angry. Perhaps panicky, for a good reason though? What I actually did find a little jarring was the same sort of breezy, hashtag-y OMG style of writing that I’m used reading in article about say, boy shorts being used in an article about how the planet is dying and there are no solutions and everything we might to do is not actually helping.

    Also, I’m pretty sure your readers KNOW that everything is terrible. Reminding them of this, with no actual concrete suggestions to try to help, is not what most people come here for. But, also to those people I say – this is a free optional website, you don’t have to read these articles if you don’t want to.

    • The suggestions to help were in the post — there’s the chart for how each type of bag stands up to single-use plastic (if you choose to continue buying reusable bags); the link to the full PDF of best 50 foods for the planet is there, all of the resources about how to live without plastic are in the Steve Kurutz article…to be fair, this was not a solutions post, it was a ‘hey, we’re at a tipping point’ post. It seems like to solution for most of the problems mentioned, other than changing our diets and not buying anymore bags, is to organize and, as Tanaya pointed out, figure out how to address our school infrastructures, what’s happening with our recycling, what’s wrong with our algorithms, how our levee systems are failing us, and to recognize a severe imbalance. We have done and still do solutions posts (mentioned in other comments). I don’t have the answers to all these questions, but I did see that the people in Greeley, Colorado took action, and it looks like that state is about to pass a law forcing oil and gas companies to consider public health and safety in decisions about permitting and local land use. xo, Lex

  16. Yup. (What Allison said. But also a thanks to the author for using a platform to reach consumption-oriented women. Brilliant.)

  17. Thanks for your thoughtful replies so far Lex. I actually really appreciate seeing other content here and as a long time reader who has shifted to a low impact lifestyle, I don’t really come to read the sale/shopping posts and feel much of the despairing urgency you also describe as regards climate change. I like the Shana lifestyle/weekend posts in a blog type way since I’ve been visiting since the ANMJ days and enjoy her voice. It’s not that I think the Mom Edit should avoid this topic but more that it seems in conflict with the consumerist bent of much of the rest of the content without acknowledging that paradox.

  18. SO, someone left a comment that I read but can no longer find, but I really wanted to address it here. It was about this line: “The ideas in her personalized [Goose] Saves the Planet book seem laughable in comparison to what we’re facing.” This, understatement, was not meant to diminish this book at all — I LOVE this book and so does Goose. In fact, one of those annoying Facebook reminders just “shared a memory” from when Goose was 3 and said “We don’t want to throw it out. We have to re-use it, so we don’t break the Earth. We have to love the Earth…and kiss it…and hug it.” This book is exactly what we need to read and share with kids when they are young — whoever you were who left the comment, you were spot-on. My point — which I didn’t expand on b/c I felt it was unnecessary in a post that was already too long — was to highlight the differences between what seem like small daily steps that will help the planet and the monumental task at hand to limit the damage already done. did not intend to indicate that these steps are pointless, but to underscore the difference between where we thought we were and what we thought we could accomplish, and where we actually are and what we need to do to catch up.

  19. I’m about 2/3 of the way through Caroline Criado-Perez’s book ( which I’m sure a few readers might find angry and hostile. 🙂 – it’s really making me see the world through new eyes. As for environmental writing, there’s a bit piece I found interesting a couple months back (written in 2017): https://www.theguardian.com/environment/true-north/2017/jul/17/neoliberalism-has-conned-us-into-fighting-climate-change-as-individuals. According to this theory, obsessing over which bin to throw our plastics in isn’t going to help as much as collective, corporate pressure. Good, short read.

    • THIS…this is the depth of action that seems to parallel where we are right now. That’s why I felt so stuck by the time publish time came — the bins don’t seem to matter (as much as we thought we did) anymore. Not to diminish our individual actions at home — we should still make those changes, but what we really need is collective action and BIG change. I love how how these comments have taken us deeper. Thank you, Tanaya! I want to read the book too, and I’ll see what I can find on people getting involved in studies so we can correct the algorithms?. xo, Lex

  20. Keep it up Lex. Great piece – yes, sad and depressing but excellent writing and too much truth. I come to the Mom Edit b/c I love all of your voices whether we’re talking about paper bag shorts or the end of the world as we know it. It’s like a conversation with women I know would be my friends if we all lived in the same neighborhood. Please don’t lose sleep over any of the comments. xo

  21. Thank you for writing this, Alexis! I’m sorry that you have to deal with hostile comments that seem to play up tired tropes when racial disparities are mentioned. Please don’t stop writing. Change is hard, and people can feel sensitive when confronted with the contradictions and paradoxes in their lifestyles.

    As an environmental scientist – who also likes cute jeans – I’m glad that this platform is sharing info about deeper topics. One suggestion, based on my studies of environmental communication and motivation, is to consider doing shorter, more-focused posts, with actionable steps at the end. So many of us feel paralyzed and hopeless when confronted with the news of plastic poisoning, air pollution, melting ice caps, and a federal government that doesn’t care about our kids’ futures… sharing some ideas about what we can do at the personal and collective levels might help alleviate some of this despair.

    And since this is a shopping-oriented blog, I’d love to know how to make more sustainable clothing choices. What do you all think about Amour Vert or Blue Canoe or Eileen Fisher? Why does so much sustainable fashion take the form of shapeless potato sacks? How can mamas put pressure on clothing companies to give us clothing that lasts longer with less toxic outputs???

    • Amour Vert is on many lists I’ve found in the past few days. It looks like they need to improve some on labor practices, but they have a great environmental rating. I haven’t come across any reviews of Blue Canoe from outside sources about its sustainability, but I will keep a lookout. EILEEN FISHER has an okay rating from Good On You (a fashion sustainability rating app) that looks like it can only go up from here. They have their Vision2020 manifesto, and it seems like the ultimate sustainable EILEEN FISHER purchase is from their RENEW store, which we mentioned in last year’s retailer recycling post. As a brand, it’s definitely worth our continued support. I love the idea of determining how we can come together to demand change…let’s work on that 🙂 xo, Lex

  22. ^^ LOVE this. I fully agree – I commend the level of effort and diligence put into this post, and this certainly isn’t a topic that can be fully explored in one paragraph, but… perhaps make it into more of a series of articles that break down into smaller segments with suggestions at the end to alleviate the general sense of hopelessness most of us feel when reading/thinking about this topic.

    But please take this, and all the comments here, with a grain of salt. Yes, perhaps you inspired some frustrated comments, but people are willing to engage and want to feel heard! Part of what I love about this blog is the authors’ willingness to respond to comments. Don’t take to bed with you what others post and forget about 10 minutes later!

    You’re a brilliant writer and a thoughtful person and contributor. Keep going <3

  23. On point Renée! Some of these comments reek of white fragility & tone policing. Lex, don’t let that shit get to you.

    • Thank you, Shannon! We didn’t think the environmental justice post was going to be the one where’d have to be ready to address racism and microaggressions?. So thanks for stepping in in the meantime. xo, Lex

  24. No Jenni. The only people who confuse pointing out very real racial disparities with “fomenting racial discord” are racists.

  25. Hey Y’all. I’ll be working through these comments as I can — I have not forgotten about anyone I need to respond to (some of you are doing just fine are your own, thanks to those of you doing me/us some major solids), but a few things to say on this topic tonight before anyone’s head explodes:

    We love all the positive ideas floating around in these comments. We don’t have a lot of womanpower for a brand new post in time for Earth Day, BUT, if y’all want to send me one novel Earth-friendly suggestion each, with relevant links (like ‘use Goodtraveler.org to offset your carbon footprint each time you fly’), I’ll be happy to throw together a ‘reader suggestions list’. We’d love to see it go beyond the obvious. You can post them here or message us.

    For the record, farming livestock for food has now surpassed fossil fuels as the number 1 most polluting human activity on the planet — (I know. I just heard Saturday, too late to publish: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/meat/). In terms of fast fashion, it’s possible that it’s still next on the list at number 3, BUT one of the main reasons is because of the waste, so I’ll be updating the retail recycling list ASAP. Full disclosure: we still eat meat; my medical issues have complicated the decision to eliminate it (another post, another time). It is something Goose and I have decided to change this year (again). Soooo…

    Also, per Tanaya’s comment: Bill McKibben, climate change advocate and author of Falter, was just on Fresh Air tonight (https://www.npr.org/2019/04/16/713829853/climate-change-is-greatest-challenge-humans-have-ever-faced-author-says), and agrees with The Guardian post she listed. “We’re past the point where we can do this one house at a time…. It’s this idea of nonviolent movement building, the idea that individuals can become a little less individual and join together with others to form movements big enough, maybe, to take on even the power and wealth of the fossil fuel industry.

    xo, Lex

  26. Ask your local grocery store, the one that you shop at regularly, to move away from using suppliers that have single-use plastic packaging or ask that they use their influence to get suppliers to change packaging (many alternatives made from compostable “bio-plastic” or woodpulp/cellulose already exist). You can also ask for things like a plastic-free aisle, or price incentives that are by quantity and not based on a prepackaged-in-plastic unit. Asking for systemic changes will mean you help reduce everyone’s impact in the longer term.

  27. My reader suggestion is to go vegan or reduce the consumption of animal products. You’ve mentioned how animal agriculture is the top most human polluting activity on the planet and it’s true. But going vegan yields a major Earth-friendly impact, even by just avoiding meat and dairy porducts. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth)
    It’s not just deforestation, greenhouse gases, land and water use/pollution, there’s an impact if we stop or reduce the consumption of seafood. Approximately half (46%) of the plastic trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a floating trash “island” larger than Texas) is fishing nets (not plastic bottles, straws or toothbrushes, although those are to be avoided too).
    Also, it extends to things we wear such as leather. For example, the tannery industry in Bangladesh are dumping toxic and poisonous chemicals into the water supply, ground, everywhere.

  28. “Why does so much sustainable fashion take the form of shapeless potato sacks?” YES! I have a friend who once described the aesthetic of Eileen Fisher as “post apocalyptic sadness”. I have seen a few cute things from them since then, but yeah, not all of us want to be shapeless lumps of rumpled grey linen.

    • We love this comment, Renee! We will do our best to find all the cute, sustainable fashion we can — that looks not like “post apocalyptic sadness”?. xo, Lex

  29. How about TME running a series on everyone’s favorite meat-free, kid-approved recipes? The best vegan leather accessories? The best, most stylish outfits you can put together with $50 at your local thrift store?

  30. Reader suggestion for the style challenge: update something you have had in your closet over 10 (or more!) years and make it fresh. Suggestion #2 what is going on in your community to help, spreading the word can make it infinitely easier than starting a project from scratch and can point someone in the right direction to get action started…Mine, our community is doing a bike trade in at a local elementary school–like bring a bike take a bike. I don’t know if it is sponsored by a company or just families promoting this through our district (there are 22 elementary schools in our district, so this isn’t a small gathering), but I will find out. My husband’s engineering company also does a bike collection that gets donated to a local organization that distributes to kids (and adults) who can use this service. Looking forward to more of your posts Alexis!!

    • Thank you for all of these, Annie! You may have seen the last style challenge post, https://themomedit.com/hair-barrettes-2019/, in which we decided to add in this 10+ year wardrobe item. See that post if you want to send in your pic. I’ll add your trade-in idea to the reader suggestion post, so keep an eye out. xo, Lex

  31. Alexis- thank you for your beautiful and thought provoking article. I love that you are a part of the TME team and always look forward to your posts. Keep em’ coming.

  32. Alexis, I’m coming late to this *shit-storm* (Shana’s description), but I wanted to add my voice to say “you go girl” contingent!

    I much appreciate you (with TME), are taking on tough issues. Your blogs are always full of facts, interesting perspectives, and great links. We might not like the facts, but putting our heads in the sand is not the way forward. We can debate about what to do next, but let us not pretend it isn’t happening. You are not hostile, you are smart, passionate and informed.

    Please please please don’t stop writing. TME is a great way to reach a diverse audience and prompt discussion on topics that affect all of us. I assume many readers here are outside my echo chamber (and that I am outside of theirs!), which makes these discussions even more important.

    Looking forward to your next post!

    • I can’t express enough how much I appreciate your sentiment, Marnie. And don’t worry…if Shana’s passionate about anything I do here at TME, it’s Unpacking?, so I think you’re all stuck with me — as beautiful & messy as it is. xo, Lex

  33. Alexis, I too am coming late to this “SS” discussion and very much value your time and effort to compose the initial post and to respond thoroughly and thoughtfully to so many reader comments. You are one classy woman! I also value the discourse the comments started, this whole thread is very thought provoking and educational.

    Fashion/earning a living from selling fashion and sustainability/environmentalism are not mutually exclusive but they aren’t the obvious “bedmates” either. Just because it’s complicated doesn’t mean it’s not possible, however, flushing out these ethics of TME, (which you said always existed on the inside) in a more public form will be messy. Some of us will welcome the mess, some of us not so much, but I say bring on the mess! Messy is authentic, messy acknowledges the importance of humility, messy means not having all the answers but being willing to keep asking the questions, messy is participating in life versus being a spectator, and messy is beautiful…or so I keep telling myself so I don’t decide to pull the shades and just go to bed for the rest of my days ;).

    My top-of-the-head suggestions for sustainability:

    –Join a CSA (community support agriculture) spring is the perfect time.
    –Do a post on how to style these awesome high waisted vintage pants on Etsy…still so many sizes left…and I love them but need help.
    –Possibly partner with vintage clothing shops on Etsy to do styling sessions.
    –Feature more sustainable make-up/cosmetic brands.
    — Do a post on this small rad baby wear company that takes old t-shirts and makes them into baby onesies. https://www.pfamilias.com

    Keep on thinking outside the box. Thanks for all the inspiration.

    • I LOVE everything about your comment (contribution?), Annie! Your elaboration of messy from authentic to beautiful is oh-so-apropos. AND, thank you for the suggestions :-). I’ll add them in. xo, Lex

Leave a Reply