forcechange.com AUGUST 7, 2013
Mongolia is one of the world’s largest producers of cashmere wool, a luxury fiber sheared from certain varieties of indigenous goats. Unfortunately, as the global demand for cashmere increases, so too does the environmental impact of the cashmere industry: increasingly large herds of goats destroy sources of food for other species, and contribute to the desertification that is affecting Mongolia. The government of Mongolia should take action to scale back on the production of cashmere, in order to keep the industry sustainable and preserve the unique ecology of the area.
It is estimated that 75 percent of Mongolia has been negatively affected by desertification to some extent, due in large part to the destruction of grassland by large herds of cashmere goats. In addition, the goats’ destruction of native plants has put the population of native herbivores into decline, which in turn could prove a death knell for the already-endangered Tibetan Snow Leopard. If these problems are not addressed, they could endanger the pastoral lifestyle that many Mongolians hold dear.
Many solutions have been suggested that would allow for a balance between goat herders and the environment. While some form of limit on the size of goat herds is obviously imperative, it is important to consider the needs of the hundreds of Mongolia goatherds that rely on cashmere as their sole source of income. For this reason, a “green labeling” project has been suggested, which would involve direct collaboration between goatherds and buyers of cashmere. This, in turn, would allow goatherds to achieve the same profit with smaller herds.
Regardless of what solution is chosen, we must encourage the Mongolian government to act as quickly as possible. In the long run, such a solution will benefit the entire world.