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Is Our Unicorn Obsession Destroying The Planet?

(Last Updated On: November 29, 2017)

Although people have been infatuated with these legendary creatures because the earliest civilizations, what brought on the latest millennial obsession with all issues unicorn stays a thriller. Perhaps it is right down to youngsters that have been raised on My Little Pony and The Last Unicorn magically reaching maturity. Perhaps it is Tumblr’s pastel-goth subculture coming into the mainstream. Maybe all of it simply boils right down to in search of the rainbow on the finish of the darkish tunnel; an escape from the modern-day political and financial local weather.

In Scottish heraldry, the unicorn was lauded for its supposedly proud and haughty nature, and its willingness to decide on demise over being captured. Nowadays, anyone can seize a bit for themselves, with manufacturers utilizing unicorn symbolism as a significant promoting level. Influencers incorporate the development into the whole lot from holographic make-up brushes formed like spiraled horns to pastel-swirled toast with a gold leaf topping. Typing “unicorn” into Amazon yields over 350,000 outcomes, with a model of nearly each object conceivable that includes a stylized one-horned horse. The color-changing Unicorn Frappuccino that was out there at Starbucks for a mere 5 days in April was so well-liked that it brought on a significant share improve of 1.eight% and despatched overworked baristas into meltdown from making an attempt to maintain up with demand, as streets full of lengthy strains. The as soon as uncommon and delicate beast is now just about inescapable.

Illustration by Hatti Rex

Aside from discovering it mildly infuriating to see the whole lot you like being stamped with a glorified horse’s face throughout each social-media platform out there, there are literally real-life disastrous penalties tied to the unicorn phenomenon.

Of course, there’s nothing inherently fallacious with vivid colours or equine faces. But the overwhelming majority of unicorn merchandise comprise glitter, which is fairly dangerous information for the atmosphere. The drawback is that glitter would not biodegrade, because it’s often created from tiny items of reflective plastic, or “microplastics.” You could also be wanting cute on the pageant with glitter smeared throughout your face, however as soon as it is washed away, it should final an entire lot longer swimming round in our oceans, the place it will probably trigger main hurt to marine life.

Earlier this yr, the UK banned microbeads from cosmetics, amid warnings that the minuscule plastic particles have been being ingested by aquatic life, inflicting poisoning, infertility, and genetic disruption in species starting from the tiniest plankton to probably the most large and majestic whales. The US at present has a partial ban on microbeads in place. A latest examine out of Plymouth University discovered that greater than a third of all fish now comprise plastic, with one examine estimating that there are greater than 5 trillion plastic items, weighing over 250,000 tons, scattered internationally’s oceans. What’s extra, it was reported in September that plastic fibers have been present in 83% of tap-water samples worldwide, resulting in requires scientists to determine how this straight impacts human well being.

OK, so no glitter then. But what about different shiny issues? Sadly, the primary pure various to sparkle is not all the time that golden, both. Mica is a non-toxic mineral that is organically discovered deep underground and is utilized in make-up, nail varnish, physique, and hair glitter for its pearlescent properties. However, it should be laboriously mined from deforested land, and dropped at the floor with a purpose to be used.

The course of might be extraordinarily troublesome. In India, one of many world’s largest sources of mica, employees can discover themselves clambering throughout unstable floor that is susceptible to collapse. Last yr, activists believed there have been round 10 deaths a month in India’s mines on common; one month specifically, they are saying it was as many as 20.

Last yr, the issue hit mainstream media with the rising variety of untimely deaths of youngsters as younger as 5 working illegally in Indian mica mines. It’s estimated that round 20,000 kids have been discovered laboring on these harmful websites, of which a stunning 90% have been deemed unlawful. And greater than 90% of the mica mined in northeast India is assumed to have been obtained illegally, making it near-impossible to gauge whether or not or not your newest shiny new buy has resulted in a tragic demise.

Illustration by Hatti Rex

And but, even with the specter of tragedy looming over them, total households’ livelihoods relaxation on these precarious mines. Last yr, journalists from the Thomson Reuters Foundation traveled throughout the key mica-producing states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh, solely to seek out many kids utilizing their small fingers to select mica from the ground. Others nonetheless have been seen descending rickety ladders down darkish shafts to forage for greater high quality silicate.

Lush Cosmetics is likely one of the solely main manufacturers talking out in opposition to each the environmental affect of glitter and the unethical circumstances associated to mica mining. In the corporate’s All That Glitters manifesto, they clarify that, as a result of destructive impacts of plastic glitter and mined mica, their sparkly merchandise solely comprise artificial mica, which is manufactured in laboratories however nonetheless contains pure minerals. In this refreshingly sincere report, Lush reveals that that they had dropped their prior provider as they weren’t “confident that [their] previous supplier’s audits could guarantee that child labor wasn’t a possibility.” They go on to say that each one mica, whether or not mined from the bottom or created by a dude with a PhD and lab goggles, all the time requires some type of chemical processing to make it match for human use.

Although it makes your make-up bag really feel rather less ugly, switching to lab-grown mica would not clear up India’s youngster mining disaster. Fortunately, the nice folks at Responsible Mica Initiative are working onerous — in tandem with a number of the world’s greatest magnificence manufacturers — to make sure truthful and sustainable observe to construct a authorized and livable work atmosphere.

So, about these unicorns: instantly not such an alluring development. Obsessively caring a couple of fictional creature on the expense of real-life folks, animals, and our planet is insanity. Either unicorn tradition wants a significant rebrand, or it is time for us to step again into actuality and say no to the glitter litter — all 268,940 tons of it.

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