Environment vs Economy in the Upcoming Elections

When it comes to discussing sustainability in fashion, it is also important to analyze the larger framework that can lead to or destroy the possibility of a more sustainable future - politics. With the upcoming election, Biden has made sure to outline his plan for climate change and environmental justice to his campaign website. The rhetoric around choosing to vote for either Trump or Biden has been overwhelmingly negative, with many leftist voters adopting the slogan “Settle for Biden.” However, I’ve seen more advocacy for environmental issues and sustainable development from Biden’s campaign than in Trump’s presidency.

Prioritizing economic gain while pushing for sustainability is an impossible balancing act, and throughout history, we have seen politicians who prioritize the economy succeed. Trump has spent much of his presidency crafting policies that undo the work of the Obama administration, editing many acts dedicated to the environment. He has openly criticized the work of Obama and called sustainable rules harmful to the fossil fuel industry and the overall economy. The New York Times recently released a list of 100 environmental policies the Trump administration has attempted or succeeded in overturning - including cancelling a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions and weakening oversight for air pollution in national parks.

Trump’s focus has always been to “Make America Great Again”: the rhetoric of his slogan is looking to the past for inspiration, rather than looking to the future for more sustainable ideals of living. Biden also has an immense amount of work to do in the environmental sector if he is elected, and the Obama administration is not the gold standard of sustainable policies.

Environmental policies can and will impact the world of fashion, as the garment industry is responsible for 10% of annual carbon emissions, according to the World Bank. However, leaders in the industry do not have to wait for policies to start shifting the way clothes are made. It’s a deeply complex issue, tangled with economic needs, labour, and capitalism, but the fashion industry is a key player in the fight for environmental justice.
Alysha Mohamed