Ahead of COP26, British designer and longtime environmental activist Dame Vivienne Westwood penned a “Letter to Earth” calling for urgent climate action.
“The word economy means ‘household management’. Earth is our home, so on a global scale economy means sustainability. We don’t have that. We have no future. We have a financial system based on perpetual war, trade war, and competition. It is the cause of climate change,” reads Westwood’s contribution to the Letters to Earth campaign.
“Wars are fought for land and cheap labour. True economy is based on the value of land. Land belongs to no one. We are custodians of land. One payment to the public purse for the use of land. Massive untapped revenue. No tax. All other transactions: man to man. Cooperation not competition,” she wrote.
The designer, 80, has been an outspoken proponent of climate action for decades. In her letter, she urged for a land-based economy, including efforts to promote wildlife conservation, such as land corridors.
“Rewilding is not to do with stop farming and let everything go, it’s to do with start farming in collaboration with nature. Let nature bring the soil back to health,” she told Reuters.
Westwood’s environmentalism is a driving force behind the eponymous label. According to the brand’s website, the company exists to produce “more than clothes and accessories.”
“We use our collections, collaborations and catwalk shows as a platform to capture the imagination, promote innovative design and campaign for protecting life on Mother Earth, Gaia,” reads the website.
“We strive to make our clothes with greater care, promote Arts & Culture and always use our voice to mobilise people around Climate Change and Human Rights.”
In an op-ed for the New York Times last year, Westwood said corruption is “global,” calling capitalism a rotten apple years past its sell-by date.
“We are looking through the lens of a changing world. If the human race does not turn the telescope around, we face mass extinction. Climate change will reach a tipping point,” she said.
“There’s only one way out of the destruction: Substitute it with a fair distribution of wealth,” she wrote.
After handing over the bulk of the fashion business to her husband Andreas Kronthaler in 2016, Westwood has pivoted, or rather, reverted to her rebellious roots. Like the punk movement that made her a household name in the UK, Westwood’s now re-focused on using her voice for the planet via her Climate Revolution project and the Vivienne Westwood Foundation—the platforms that she hopes will be not just her legacy, but the planet’s too.
“This is why I formed Climate Revolution: to save the environment through work with nonprofits. Our target is to speak with one voice. As an activist I have created many graphics promoting political and environmental issues, which I reimagined in the design of a pack of playing cards. Lo and behold! In the cards lies the answer — a complete strategy to save the world: Buy less, stop subsidies to industrial fishing, educate children, and so on. We even have a manifesto, detailing our need to move away from capitalism toward what I call ‘No Man’s Land’ — a vision for the world based on the principle that no one should be allowed to own land.”
Westwood also urged her industry to take charge.
“Reduce, reuse, recycle. Recycling is not enough to slow down climate change, but by reducing and reusing we can have real impact. One of the most important things I have probably ever said is: Buy less, choose well, make it last. It’s all about quality, not quantity,” she wrote.
“Popular clothes are now reduced to a quantity of machine-made sportswear and cheap rags constructed in places like Indonesian and Chinese sweatshops. We need to go back to producing high-quality garments instead. Our choices as consumers can have an enormous effect on the fashion industry.”
Letters to Earth
Westwood joins a global movement of letter-writing for the planet. On November 5th, as part of the COP26 events in Glasgow, the Letters to Earth campaign will host a “unique reading” of letters from around the world featuring special guest performers, leaders, and activists. It has amassed thousands of letters from concerned citizens.
The campaign features contributions from Love Island presenter Laura Whitmore; Skins star Freya Mavor; Booker Prize-Winning author Ben Okri; Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors, Steve Waygood; Founder of Riverford Guy Singh-Watson; climate justice activist Daze Aghaji; and Britain’s Got Talent Semi-Finalists SOS From the Kids.
“COP26 represents a decisive moment,” the campaign says. “The current commitments of every nation participating in COP26 are significantly inadequate to stabilise global temperatures to below to 2°C or even 3°C.
“World leaders have a chance to take bold and decisive action so as to not breach dangerous and catastrophic levels of global warming. But to do so, they need to hear from people from all walks of life and know that this is what they demand. They need to hear from us all,” the campaign urges.
In her letter to Earth, while damning, Westwood is also hopeful. She says a solution isn’t impossible.
“I have a plan to save the world that can work,” Westwood’s letter reads. “Because I have analysed the problem and the solution. My team is Climate Revolution. And we have begun our campaign for a land-based economy by rewilding: aiming to open up the land corridors for wildlife,” she writes.
“We demand government cooperation. Save our souls.”