Ok. I'm sure you are wondering what exactly are "post carbon textiles"? Well, I have been following the topic of "Peak Oil" for a number of years. Peak Oil is the moment in time when either half the world's resources of oil have been used or when oil "production" reaches a maximum and thereafter, inexorably declines. Check the right sidebar for some links with more background on the subject. (more links to come soon)
Now, what does this have to do with textiles (that's clothes, towels, rugs, etc- everything made of fiber of any kind)? Producing anything takes energy- whether we are talking about food, clothing, buildings, transportation- everything. As human population has increased, we have been using more and more energy to produce all that we make and use. The discovery of fossil fuels made this much easier. We have been using fossil fuels to produce everything we use every day. The going rate, so to speak, to produce 1 kilocalorie of food is 10 kcals of fossil fuels. Now, imagine if you were to no longer have those fossil fuels available. Trouble!
Ok. In all the peak oil and fossil fuel related books I have read and most of the blogs, email lists, and other communication I have read, I have found very few comments or discussions about textiles. When clothing is discussed, there seems to be the impression that:
1) We have so many clothes already made, it will be years before we have to worry about producing more.
2) It can't be that difficult to make fabrics, etc.
3) Most people are SO far removed from what it takes to produce textiles, that the complexity is way beyond most people's comprehension.
So, my aim has been to write a book about the future of textiles in a world without fossil fuels. I've been working on it for a couple months and the project gets bigger and bigger! I'll have to work on narrowing the focus to get the greatest impact.
One of the first parts of this project has been to disprove the idea that we have so many clothes that we don't really need to work on textile production for quite a while. In order to do this, I purchased a set of clothes from a big box store. I bought a pair of jeans, one long sleeved top, one short sleeved top, and a long sleeve hooded fleecy jacket for a total investment of $44.47. I tried to just buy what was available- without thinking about how they would wear. I'm trying to take the clothes that are normally available and see how they stand up to hard wear.
I believe we will, in the future, have to be living a much more physically demanding life- growing our own food, fiber, and making many of the items we use in our lives. This lifestyle will put much different demands on our clothing and other textiles and I don't believe they will live up to those demands.
For a little more background, I have a small farm- I have a large garden where I raise a lot of the vegetables for my family (3 full time people and one college student who comes home to stock up on applesauce, pickles, tomatoes, jam, etc), chickens and ducks which are raised for eggs and meat, maple trees which I tap for sap, beehives, and a greenhouse in which I have an aquaponics system. All this requires a lot of work to maintain and get the greatest production. Clothes have to put up with a lot of use!
I'd love to hear thoughts from anyone about my project and post carbon textiles in general. I'll be blogging about many other aspects of my book project as well. Thanks for taking time to read my ramblings!