At the Victoria and Albert Museum yesterday, Dame Vivienne Westwood warned everyone about our unsustainable world of capitalism, or as she calls it: “rot dollar”.
“One day the sun’s rays will burn our flesh if we stick our head out of the door and it will kill us. There won’t be any life, animals won’t survive,” says Westwood to the packed out lecture theatre. She isn’t telling a dystopian horror story, this is real talk about the real world. Revving up for today’s climate march to take action against global warming – during which all of Westwood’s shops and offices will close – the British fashion designer and activist spoke out in support of a climate revolution at the Global Design Forum as part of London Design Festival.
For her 40-minute speech, Westwood was joined on stage by young and old fellow protestors holding placards that read: “The House is on Fire” and “What’s Good for the Planet is Good for the Economy”. She hopes to sell the biggest poster for £1,000,000 and to donate all profits to the rainforest, an endangered region and the source of one third of the oxygen we breathe. Learn from our five takeaways below.
IF YOU THINK USING A RECYCLING BIN IS ENOUGH, IT’S NOT
Chucking your rubbish in the recycling bin and continuing with your day is not going to stop the global warming crisis, funnily enough. And as we all know, humans are creatures of comfortable habit. That’s why Westwood is telling you to: “Get a life, a more interesting life”.
Saving the environment can encourage social interaction, like taking the bus or train instead of a car to actually engage with the world you rather than riding through it in your own personal bubble. But Westwood says that we need the government’s help to make these life changes – starting with free public transport. Now that’s something we can get behind.
THE CURRENT ECONOMY IS THE ROOT OF ALL PROBLEMS
“We say that overpopulation is a problem, stabbing is a problem, but all of these things are a direct result of the rotten financial system,” says Westwood.
She uses the British purchase of lettuce to exemplify her point. We’re able to purchase lettuce in supermarkets all year round because it’s shipped from places like Africa. Places where people don’t have access to water, yet the water they do have is being used to cultivate our lettuce. As Westwood says plainly: “Water has been sold. Africa is suffering, but we get lettuce.”
“What nature gives us free should not be privately owned,” says Westwood, before stating that no one should be able to own land. In her eyes, the current system is flawed as the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer at the expense of others, from “Mark Zuckerberg’s team in Virginia polluting as much as an airplane flight”, to the forced purchase of basic human rights.
WE NEED THE OCEAN AND THE RAINFOREST TO BREATHE
The ocean, or that place we fill with plastic – yet still expect to trawl healthy fish from – is a principal source of oxygen yet us humans are killing it. Pollution is prohibiting the ocean’s plants from carrying out photosynthesis, but as Westwood highlights, people need that oxygen too. “Two thirds of our breath comes from the ocean. One third comes from the rainforest.” Both of these places are at a high risk thanks to both global warming and mass consumption. “We should be able to say that nobody can own the forest,” she continues, “we must leave the rainforest under the protection of the people who live there.”
LIVE BY THESE THREE RULES: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
In that order. After explaining the worldwide problem of “rot dollar”, Westwood arrived at her solutions and she started with the three Rs. Chances are you’re most familiar with them.
Reduce your output and impact on climate change (she recently reduced her collections by half), reuse things rather than acquiring new “stuff” that you don’t really need and always recycle.
ACTIVISM HAS CHANGED THE WORLD, IT’S NOT TOO LATE
The world might appear to be spiralling into an unmanageable state, something that Westwood admits causes her constant anxiety, but you can still disrupt the system in hope of swerving its current direction.
Westwood referenced a successful Greenpeace campaign from 2018 that was put in place to stop Holland and Barrett using krill products (small crustaceans that penguins must consume to survive) in their vitamins and supplements. Within 24 hours, 47 supporters had phoned Holland and Barrett’s head office and by the following day they had vowed to stop using krill. Her point? That if everyone works together the world can change. And don’t we know it needs to.
“You are a part of what has to happen,” Westwood desperately urges, “If we don’t do anything, then nothing will happen.”