Wednesday, February 6, 2013

why is conservation a zero-sum game?

The good news: the WWF is once again holding its National Sweater Day.

The bad news: they're still running with that "only grannies knit sweaters, and although they're skilful, the aesthetics are awful" idea.

Now look, I think grannies who make sweaters are incredibly cool — after all, the Oma who taught me how to knit was one. But here's the thing: since the 1990s — that is, over twenty years ago — knitting has once again become popular with people who aren't grannies. Many knitters aren't old enough to be mums, much less grannies.

Actually, the last two paragraphs themselves are far too specific, because I left out a lot of crafters doing a lot of cool crafts that don't involve knitting. Last time I researched a particular crochet stitch I was trying to learn, fully 50% of the web sites with the tutorials I needed were by men who crochet. And there are, at my last count, approximately fifty gazillion crochet sites. That doesn't even begin to include the quilters, weavers, spinners, and other enthusiastic textile DIYers of all ages, genders, and family roles who are doing their bit to keep themselves warm without stressing out the furnace.
Now, there is one (only one) counter-argument I can think of in defence of the WWF. It runs like this: the WWF isn't trying to reach the DIYers, because we're already warm 'n' wooly and don't need to be told to turn our heat down.

The problem is, the message that is getting out is that handmade sweaters are unfashionable crap and the only reason to wear them is to save the planet.

Here's another trend that the WWF seems unaware of: up until the 1980s, hand-knitters tried to keep up with fashion, but because hand-knitting takes longer than running industrial machinery (the price of producing superior fabric), the hand-knitters tended to be about two years behind fashion. In the late 80s more and more knitters started to design their own, and the rise of the World Wide Web led to a globel idea exchange that accelerated this trend right past the industrial knitwear designers.

Now the industrialists try to keep up with the DIYers. Don't believe me? Look, I have walked through The Eaton Centre and found sweaters for sale exactly the same as the one I was wearing at the time. The difference was, my sweater was custom-sized to fit me, in the colour and fibre content I wanted, and was three years old at the time of the discovery of its industrially-made clone. Yeah baby. Three years. And I altered that pattern a lot.

If the WWF thinks enabling the adjustment of thermostats is power to the people, imagine what they could do with transferring some of the means of production, fashion, and creativity back into skilled hands. We could save the energy on machinery overhead, shipping, and marketing. That's a lot more energy saved than just in some domestic dwellings.

They need to dial down the stereotypes as well as the heat.

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