Letter from the Executive Director

(To download a PDF of the full 2019 Annual Report, click here or on the cover image below.)

As I write this, there are 413 parts per million of carbon dioxide in every breath inhaled. The last time this same concentration of heat-trapping carbon dioxide was in our atmosphere, oceans were 20 meters higher than they are today. The full expression of the impacts of burning lithosphere-based carbon has not yet fully manifested. Yet, each year, we feel, see, and experience the life-threatening nature of the consequences compounding. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) most recent report (published in late 2018), declared the necessity for “rapid far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” grounded in the work to reduce global emissions by 50% by 2030 and to net-zero by 2050, all of which will give us a 50% chance of staying within a 1.5°C degree average global temperature increase.

While 1.5°C degrees may sound small— the consequences of the 1°C degree average rise in global temperature that we are currently enduring has caused a succession of events including a few notable cases just in the last 12 months—19 million acres of productive farmland in the United States went unplanted due to unprecedented late-season flooding, 15 million acres of Australia have burned in one unprecedented fire season with 480 million wildlife deaths estimated, and 4,000 firefighters were transported from multiple western states to keep just one of our state’s hundreds of wildfires from taking out the highly inhabited and prized growing grounds of Western Sonoma County. In response to all of this (and so many other climate-induced crises), 7.6 million human beings walked into the streets in global protest within the last week of September, during the hottest year on record—2019.

The grassroots-driven protest response provides strong evidence that people are (on some level) conceptually ready to make the necessary changes for humans to attain balance with the carbon cycle. As was stated at our local climate strike—the strikes themselves do not remove carbon from our atmosphere, however, the mass mobilization of human beings all wanting to take society in the same direction at the same time, together, provides fertile ground for what comes next.

Within the IPCC recommendations, it is developed nations that are tasked with 15% reductions in emissions per-year. The biggest emitters with the highest consumption footprints have the deepest transformations
to undertake. The question then becomes what levers do we need to pull to meet these targets? The first holistic emissions footprint model within one Bay Area city illuminated that direct emissions (building energy use, transportation, and land use) contributed 41%, while material use and waste (consumption and use of goods) contributed 43%. However, consumption of material goods is not typically included in industrialized countries footprints, whereas, direct emissions commonly are measured (residential & commercial energy use, transportation)—this leads to materially wealthy countries not taking full responsibility for their contribution to climate change and the countries that produce goods for consumption
for wealthy nations bear the burden of having to tackle emissions within complex supply chains that are often designed to meet price point demands and not environmental standards.

The climate crisis is a grand opportunity to look at our material lives and relationships with the earth’s biomes and diverse human communities through an equity lens. I love the old bumper sticker with the quote commonly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi advising that we “live simply so that others may simply live.” The question becomes, how can we live simply so that all beings can simply live? How can we extend the life of what we have, and how can we regionalize our economies and take full responsibility for our material culture? Fibershed continues to digest these questions and develop strategically deployed programs and projects to move the textile consumption dial in a more thoughtful and less impulsive direction. We worked extensively this year on demonstrating and beginning to fully operationalize regionally focused Climate BeneficialTM soil-to-soil material culture.

We focused upon regional economic development, state-level climate goal setting, public education, and direct financial and technical support for land stewards managing our working landscapes. Our work yielded some noteworthy goals being met—including laying the groundwork for a new social impact investment in late-stage milling that is on track to provide a 250-fold increase in locally grown, ranched, and milled Climate Beneficial textiles that can return to the compost pile after years of wear and care.

We collaborated with 14 land and resource management organizations to develop coordinated state-level policy recommendations focused upon achieving Carbon Neutral Agriculture in California by 2030, and we worked with our producer community to implement 83 new Carbon Farming practices on 135,337 acres of land managed by Fibershed producer members that are active within our Climate Beneficial verification pipeline. Our national and international affiliated communities grew by eight new Fibersheds for a total of 44 active affiliates, and there are now six new local cloth and sourcebook projects being developed by these organizers.

Many ground-building efforts were made in 2019, far too many to chronicle right here. However, the following pages hold the documentation of the hard work and accomplishments made by our growing and dedicated team and community of collaborators.

We are grateful to each of you for your contributions to this work. Without your dedication, care, and generosity, none of this work would be possible. We are looking forward to an incredible 2020 and to a new decade that brings serious and life-transforming work to our table. To help send us forward, I’ll share the January 1st, 2020 words of Van Jones, “Humanity’s most consequential decade is now upon us. Your permission to play small has been permanently revoked.”


Thank you,

Rebecca Burgess

Executive Director


Fibershed is a California non-profit corporation exempt from federal tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.