As an owner of some of Tom Bihn's products, I admire what the Bihn crew has done with contemporary fabrics. They are gorgeous, durable, and made in very attractive, even innovative, designs. I am a repeat customer and I look forward to patronizing Bihn again.
Having said that, there is something about Bihn wares, and a multitude of other luggage and accessories on the market, that concerns me: most of the materials used in these products, wherever they come from and whomever makes them, boil down to one basic substance: petroleum. Correct me if I'm wrong, but petroleum is used to synthesize most luggage and bag/pouch accessories today. Even Bihn's Shop Bags are made of fabrics derived from petroleum. (Some non-Bihn shop bags are made of canvas.)
Without going into alot of detail, my personal experience has taught me that we, as a civilization, have become too reliant on petroleum and that this miracle substance leads us into as many problems as it does benefits. How many military campaigns in the last 80 years were waged so that the winner can claim an oilfield, or to destroy some other nations' oil supply? In the last 25 years alone, the United States has repeatedly had to dispatch hundreds of thousands of troops to the Middle East because our addiction to oil left us no real alternative. If we had previously found a way to end our addiction to fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine, those wars could have been avoided. Think of all the items in modern life, from bags to bottles to clothes, that are being made from materials derived from oil.
But the most personal experience for me is how oil exploration has affected people I know. I'm sorry to be writing today about a very tragic situation. In 2012, an oil-and-gas operator moved in next to my parents' home in a rural area. The operator leveled numerous trees, built roads, and drilled three shallow oil wells over my parents' objections to the state environmental enforcement as well as to local governments. About a year ago, a water test confirmed that the nearest well had communicated into the aquifer, and thus, into my parents' water well. (Their home is in a neighborhood that is zoned "residential".)
My parents' water well was tested before drilling began and after fracking of the nearest well. My parents received a letter containing the official state response, identifying the oil well contaminating the home's water supply. The tests confirmed a significant rise in iron, manganese and, thought not mentioned in the letter, chlorides. The state ordered the oil operator to begin supplying bottled water, which the family residence has been relying on ever since. The bottled water is good for drinking and cooking, but there isn't enough for other necessities. All clothes and linen must be taken to a laundromat at the family's expense. My parents live a humble life and are not able to defend themselves alone again something like this. They fear that the oil operator will try to discontinue the water supply, forcing the homestead to rely on contaminated water.
There is a possibility: the family homestead is situated less than a thousand feet from a nearby residential street where there is a municipal water line. So far, attempts to get the water line extended to the homestead at the oil operators' full expense, no strings attached, have failed.
Homeowners have rights. They have a right to their property, and a right to use a water well on their property. My parents are the injured party here, and yet everyone seems afraid of the oil operator. Imagine what it would be like if YOU received a letter like this in the mail. What would you do if your property rights were being trampled?
My parents are now consulting with a new, Erin Brokovich-type paralegal who works for a law firm that deals with this kind of thing. Hopefully this new contact will work out and my parents will be on the way to having their needs addressed.
My point in telling this story is not to ask for sympathy for anyone. There should be no doubt that this kind of story has been played out (and is being played out) many thousands of times in numerous states across the country. Instead, I would like to challenge Tom Bihn and others like him to think about future generations and what can be done to make their wonderful products out of fabrics that are not derivative of petrochemicals. Surely, there are other materials that these wonderful products can be made out of.
I have absolutely no idea what alternative substances are available, or will be available in the future. If there are none today, it is my hope that someone will begin developing them soon. I wanted to start this thread to spark a discussion to see what these alternative substances may be and how they could replace the use of petrochemicals.
This thread is not about geo-politics or the supposed virtues or pitfalls of the petroleum industry. It's not about world views or partisanship or loyalty to Big Oil. It's about finding new and innovative ways to make the things we enjoy in our lives from substances that hopefully aren't tied to fossil fuels. I want to invite folks to contribute in a positive, hopefully scientifically verified, discussion to explore the possible for the sake of our future.