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  • Writer's pictureNick Keppel-Palmer

Herds like locusts

There are far too many animals in Mongolia - it's turning into a desert

And a system narrowly focused on "fair" pay for herders makes it worse

On 10th January at the Volans "Tomorrow's Capitalism" event we referred to the damage caused by mass market knitwear and cashmere. Cheap cashmere mean that the only way herders can increase their income is by increasing the number of animals. This has led to a mass of livestock that is completely out of whack with the ecosystem. Paying herders "fairly" only exacerbates the problem.

Two things need to happen:

We need to recognise that a $60 cashmere sweater is a planet threatening abomination. Any brand purporting to do good whilst it's flogging cheap cashmere is greenwashing, no matter how much it crows about fair pay

Herders need to earn much more, much for what they do for the environment. We need to pay the herders for the value they create - which is not fiber treated as a commodity but the the role they play in maintaining and nurturing the eco system. For centuries they have managed the right number of animals for the environment - but in the past few decades mass market brands have screwed this whole balance up by driving down costs and - directly and indirectly - caused a huge increase in herd numbers.

Creating the desert.

Our partner in the Altai Institute, Barry Rosenbaum, writes:

Essential to the identity and economy of Mongolia, the grasslands are under increasing threat from overgrazing and climate change. Multiple studies over the past decade have shown that the once lush Mongolian steppe, an expanse twice the size of Texas that is one of the world's largest remaining grasslands, is slowly turning into a desert. An estimated 70% of all the grazing lands in the country are considered degraded to some degree.

Overgrazing has caused 80% of the recent decline in vegetation on the grasslands. Since the 1990s, the country has gone from 20 million grazing livestock to 61.5 million. When animals eat more plants than can grow back naturally, the landscape begins to shift in subtle ways, as plants become sparser and patchy, and dead areas emerge, accelerating soil erosion. During the same time period, annual mean temperatures have increased by more than 2.0°C, more than double the global average.

Most species of wildlife suffer from overgrazed grasslands. The consequences of increasing livestock numbers and change in herd structure with the resulting over-exploitation of land and plant resources, coupled with effects of climate change, has become the main contributing factor to the increase of species being categorized as endangered. For example, populations of Altai argali have coexisted with nomadic herders and their livestock for centuries, but today the impact of overgrazing by livestock on the habitats of this species is very high and have pushed argali into marginal habitats. Argali are a primary prey species of snow leopards. When the numbers of prey species decline, the decline of rare predators is not far behind.

So the first Good Growth products are designed in a system that reverses this stupidity. Watch this space.


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