Mongolia has a problem, partly due to our increased demand for cashmere and partly due to climate change. Since it became a democracy in 1990 the number of cashmere producing goats has soared from 9000 in 1999 to 27,000 in 2020. These goats need grazing and certain climactic conditions have affected how much land there is to graze on to the point where 70% of the land is now overgrazed. The goats are taken care of by 1.2 million nomadic herders which make up 40% of the nation’s population and not only is their livelihood in danger as a result so is the economy of the country. Mongolia is the world’s second producer of cashmere after China, representing a fifth of global supply and it is the country’s third largest export after copper and gold. Now as the world’s demand for cashmere keeps rising, climate change is accelerating the need for more land to graze on. Temperatures in Mongolia have risen 2 degrees Celsius, more than the world’s average, turning a quarter of the country’s lands into desert, obviously exacerbating the problem with grazing .
What touches me about this story is how our actions, our needs, our preferences, have an effect on the nomadic herders of Mongolia. You can say it’s oblique, indirect, that other factors may be more relevant, marketing, or modern transportation systems, to name but two, but it still comes down to our penchant for the softness of cashmere. And as I think about it, it reminds me of the interconnectedness of the human family and the oneness of humanity. I hope it will for you too.