Category Archives: Cotton and Water Use

Availability Cascade, Information Cascade and Reputation Cascade: The Relevance of Cascades to Cotton

Summary: An “availability cascade” is a self-reinforcing process of belief formation, in which repetition of a belief triggers a chain reaction of additional repetition. Merely because the belief is repeated, it becomes widely accepted. In other words, a belief becomes irresistible simply as a result of its repetition.

Cotton is suffering from an availability cascade of demonizing allegations that have become so thoroughly interwoven into the consciousness of retailers, organic cotton advocates and environmental and social activists that objective information, no matter how powerful, contrary data, no matter how well researched, and historical perspective, no matter how valid, are automatically rejected as invalid, unacceptable and illegitimate.

Examples of availability cascades of negative information about cotton include the Aral Sea, pesticide use and water consumption.

13b. Availabilty Cascade

Cotton and Water Use

Cotton and Water Use

(Adapted from a recent publication by ICAC and FAO: Measuring Sustainability in Cotton Farming Systems, Towards a Guidance Framework.

Resource use is a critical factor in all production systems. With the world population growing to more than 9 billion by 2050, combined with rising incomes leading to increased commodity consumption, there will be increased pressure on the use of agricultural land, water and energy. Cotton will be competing with other users, both agricultural and non-agricultural, for access to resources, and all farmers will be under pressure to raise yields per hectare, yields per liter and yields per calorie in order to remain viable in the economy of the future. Continue reading

Uzbekistan and Cotton Production

Uzbekistan and Cotton Production
Cotton production in Uzbekistan is associated with the destruction of the Aral Sea, with child and forced labor, with pesticide poisoning and with autocratic government. It seems as if no allegation is too evil that someone hasn’t tied it to the cotton industry in Uzbekistan. As one example, an NGO recently asserted that the Uzbekistan government expanded the cotton industry after independence in the early 1990s and developed a massive irrigation system and diverted water destined for the Aral Sea (Innovation Forum Special Report, a Management briefing on Sustainable and ethical cotton sourcing, sponsored by CottonConnect). “Vast monoculture farms growing only cotton were established, with huge amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides ….” Continue reading

Response to Neil Young, Protect Earth Campaign


Dear Mr. Young,


Regarding your vow to Protect Earth via advocacy of organic cotton,


Based on the latest information from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), world cotton production accounted for 2.6% of world arable land in 2011, the latest data available. Your assertion that cotton accounts for almost 5% of earth’s arable land is in error by a factor of two, and this is actually one of the more benign and least inaccurate messages about cotton on your web site. Continue reading

Cotton and the Aral Sea

Cotton and the Aral Sea

Between about 1929 and his death in 1953, most historians now estimate that Stalin had been directly responsible for the deaths of somewhere around 20 million people. Most estimates are that between a third and half the dead perished in famines in the early 1930s. (Adam Hochschild, The Unquiet Ghost, 2003) Those famines are not blamed on the wheat industry. Continue reading

A Balanced Perspective on Cotton: Responding to Valid Problems, Challenging Irresponsible Critics

Cotton and cotton textile industries are central to the economic growth of both developed and developing countries and contribute to sustainable and socially responsible development. Cotton is grown in more than 100 countries on about 33 million hectares, or about 2.5% of the world’s arable land, making it one of the most significant crops in terms of land use after food grains and soybeans.
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