When Fortune Magazineannounced that The North Face’s “Moon Parka” collaboration with Spiber would hit shelves in Japan (for the handsome price of $1000 each), I could feel the ground shifting; something truly revolutionary had happened. And then Patagonia announced similar plans with the American company Bolt Threads. Both companies began making high-performance garments from spider-silk, but no spiders were involved in the process.
I read the Spiderman comic books growing up, and the fantasy of having a readily accessible store of spider-silk, a material five-times stronger than steel ounce-for-ounce, to swing from and capture bad guys with was enthralling. But my rational brain convinced me that Peter Parker’s web-shooters – equipped with wet-fluid spider silk cartridges – was pure fiction. But two decades later, real wet-fluid spider-silk is about to change the fashion industry and the world as we know it. We are approaching a time where silk-lined wool suits with horn buttons, leather oxfords, and beaver felt hats will all be brewed from yeast like a rustic ale.
We are approaching a time where silk-lined wool suits with horn buttons, leather oxfords, and beaver felt hats will be brewed from yeast like a rustic ale.
I’d been following developments in biofabrication for some time, but these were more than momentous events. I hate to use the term “revolutionary” because I feel like it’s exhaustingly overused in marketing and advertising. As a guy who still works in mainstream commercial production, I’ve developed an allergy to many marketing clichés, so when something truly revolutionary happens, like, say the biggest advancement in large-scale material manufacturing since the industrial revolution, we’re sadly left with a word that’s used in every car commercial: revolutionary.
What’s so great about a coat made from protein that came from yeast cells that were implanted with genes and fermented with sugar, salt and water to produce proteins with the “exact same chemistry” nature’s thread-makers? To wrap your head around that one, it’s helpful to understand how mainstream, large-scale materials manufacturing works. So here it goes in a nutshell:
Most fashion is a beautiful object with a secretly ugly past.
Fashion materials begin as plants, animals, chemicals, or even minerals. The major problems, whether it’s pollution, waste, animal cruelty or worker exploitation occur outside of what most people buying or wearing fashion ever see or experience. Therefore, most significant impacts happen before the clothing hits the racks, and exist outside of what most advertising and marketing illustrates. Nearly invisible problems are difficult to confront. Most fashion is a beautiful object with an secretly ugly past.
The impacts of simply growing cotton, or rearing billions of sheep and cows are so staggering that even if no further processing occurred – if cows magically transformed into leather boots – they’d still be unsustainable materials. So you can toss all the “vegetable-tanned leather” “organic wool” and “naturally dyed” cotton right into the hamper to be thoroughly greenwashed.
The revolutionary thing about cellular agriculture and biofabrication (growing things like leather without cows, and brewing things like cellulose or keratin fibers without cotton plants or sheep) is that it cuts out that first, hugely impactful step of having to dedicate fragile resources like land, water and fuel, for example, to process 33 million hectares (each hectare is 100 acres) of cotton fields. Think about all the energy and resources it takes to get that much cotton from seed to sewing machine and consider the circumstances of modern-day slavery and child labor for many people who work in cotton fields. Now plug sheep into a similar production framework for wool, or cows for leather, or mink for fur – but now make it even more troubling by considering the ethics of controlling, confining and killing enough animals to produce 7.7 million tons of skins and hides or 87 million mink pelts. Who wouldn’t want to find a way to completely eliminate these first, most harmful and costly steps?
The global fashion and textile industry is valued at 3 trillion dollars, and what companies like Bolt Threads, Spiber, Modern Meadow and others are doing is seizing a big financial opportunity to start a new mode of manufacturing that will make industrial production-as-we-know-it obsolete, while solving some really big problems.
Brewed spider silk is the first to market, but it’s only a matter of time before cultured leathers, hairs, feathers, and materials that we can not yet even conceive of will replace their less efficient predecessors. That’s what’s so great about a coat made from cultured protein.
The Discerning Brute is excited to welcome Dr. Garth Davis as our medical expert who can answer some serious questions. Dr. Davis is medical director of the Davis Clinic at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, and starred on the hit TLC show Big Medicine. He is also the author of “Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It“
Today, a letter came from Alex:
I was wondering if you could help me. I have been vegetarian for close to 11 years, 5 of those vegan. I have huge cravings for red meat. Something that I have never had before in my life ( I never really liked the taste even as an omnivore). I take my b12 and my d as recommended and eat plenty of greens with Vitamin c for iron. I take adequate calories and plenty of all variety of whole foods. I am male. Doctors say my blood work is perfect, but I feel very tired all the time regardless of a pretty low stress life and believe I might have adrenal fatigue. I do not drink coffee or tea. Never liked the taste. Anyway, any help would be appreciated.
Funny thing happens when people go vegan. They get bombarded with a lot of nonsense that can create a nocebo effect, similar to placebo, but negative.
So, people say to you over and over that being vegan is bad for you and will make you weak, and guess what, you feel weak. Similarly, people tend to blame every possible symptom on the vegan diet. I had a patient who was hypothyroid and her doctor said it was because of her vegan diet. Understand how ludicrous this is. What does the doctor tell all his meat eating patients who are hypothyroid? There hypothyroidism’s genetic but the vegan’s is because of diet? Turns out that actual research shows vegan have much lower rates of hypothyroidism.
That is not to say that you may not be low in certain nutrients. Certainly you need a B12 test and an MMA test is actually more accurate than a B12. If you need to supplement B12, it is so easy and cheap. I would also check vitamin D. I do supplement my patients with vitamin D to get above 50. I also highly suggest getting 10-15minutes of sun daily, or as often as possible.
Fruits are often avoided by people for some mistaken brief they can make you fat, which is ridiculous. Fruits are great source of energy. Apples have quercitin which is great for energy. I know many people who swear by adding Macca to there smoothies for energy.
Sleep is another area that you really have to look at. Circadian rhythm is vital to health and energy. You may want to be checked for sleep apnea. Make sure you are following good sleep hygiene, and DO NOT use your phone at night in bed!
Finally, people are working out too hard. Over training is a real problem. People don’t realize that growth happens when the body is allowed to recover. Make sure you are alternating high intensity days with low intensity days and taking days off when necessary.