Why We Might Be the Last Generation to Prevent Climate Collapse

Slow Factory founder Céline Semaan details why this decade is one of action, particularly for those in the fashion industry.

In this op-ed, Slow Factory founder Céline Semaan details why this decade is one of action, and why we might be the last generation to prevent a total climate collapse, in preparation for her annual fashion-sustainability event Slow Factory Library Study Hall, where she brings together fashion insiders to talk about climate change.

We just concluded the decade with the most climate change–related records of all time. Carbon dioxide emissions. Global temperatures. Arctic sea ice melt. Coral reef bleaching. According to scientific evidence, we are stepping into what scientists and the United Nations have named the “Decade of Action,” which calls for governments, industries, and citizens to collectively reduce our carbon emissions by 2030 in order to prevent total climate collapse. By the end of this decade, we must have implemented systems, technology, and culture that work together to absorb the excessive carbon that still remains in our atmosphere.

After centuries rooted in colonialism, environmental exploitation, and climate denial, the past year has been a pivotal historical moment, where elected officials and industry leaders took their promises for a cleaner and better future to the public stage, encouraged by an increasing public demand and, at times, outrage. The past year has brought climate change to the forefront of public awareness and concern; the question that deserves our attention this coming decade is “What do we do now?”

Feeling powerless in the face of this global challenge is simply not an option. Many experts think that individual action, although important to foster a better culture and community, will not be sufficient in achieving the 2030 goal of 50% carbon emission reduction. In fact, according to many organizations, including the United Nations, in order for us to achieve the goal, we must reform across industries to adopt systemic changes.

Social and cultural impacts can prompt and foster this type of change in substantial ways. For instance, in his book Drawdown, editor Paul Hawken defines 100 ranked solutions to reverse global warming, where “educating women and girls” ranks number six in helping to reduce the total atmospheric carbon footprint by 51.48 gigatons. Eighty percent of workers in the garment industry are women; addressing the need to educate them all can help us reach our global goals faster. And because education in fashion isn’t always accessible, I founded Study Hall, an open education initiative free of access, with its fifth installment happening this Friday, January 31. Our first round of early bird tickets sold out within a few hours, another sign showing a growing interest from the public, elected officials, industry leaders, and experts as well as leading scientists to come together and to kick off the Decade of Action with data, knowledge, and culture. The global fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year — more than the amount produced by all international flights and shipping.

Today, we will be exploring climate-positive solutions that are ready to be implemented at scale through renewable energies, regenerative agriculture, recycling materials, and new materials with low-to-positive carbon impact, circular systems mapped after modern landfills, and anti-racist laws that protect women in their working environments by providing them with fair wages and career development to support their families. All of which could help us reduce the total carbon emission and get us closer to the 2030 goal.

When teenage activist Greta Thunberg said, “I want you to listen to the scientists,” the fashion industry celebrated her, and rightfully so. Now, it is our responsibility to do our part to make it happen, to invite science into fashion and establish necessary systems of exchange. That is why Study Hall has partnered with the Earth Institute at Columbia University to highlight geologists, chemists, researchers, and innovators to share their scientific methodology with fashion’s leading experts. Our conference series will provide clear solutions, a guidebook, as well as a report in partnership with British sustainability consultancy firm Techstyler, following the event. If we want to see change at scale, we have to stop preaching to the choir. We must make the effort to engage with and translate concepts to groups outside of the climate community who equally deserve and are now asking for this information. This used to be the mandate of a diplomat; however, the new power, the one coming from the people, democratizes this very idea of diplomacy. Tina Knowles, Mari Copeny (Little Miss Flint), Noah Clothing founder Brendon Babenzien, Adidas director of purpose Nikole Hunt, G-Star Raw vice president of sustainability Sofie Schop, Katharine Hamnett, and Christopher Raeburn, to name a few, will share their wisdom today. Kicking off NYFW and the Decade of Action with a clear plan of action.

Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue