Posted: Apr 28 2014
As part of my job, I get to travel to some pretty amazing places: Tahiti, the Great Barrier Reef, the outlying islands of the Philippines, etc.
And much as that may sound amazing, there's a reason for it. The reason is that pearls are the ultimate "green" product.
Oysters stubbornly refuse to grow pearls in anything but totally pure, pristine waters. Oyster farms are located in remote places with incredibly pure sea-water, incredibly untouched environments. Oyster farmers don't travel around the South Pacific by helicopter and boat for the glamour of it all, they do so because they must travel to totally remote locations that are as untouched-by-man as possible.
That means a few things. It means that Pearl Farms are the "canary in the coal mine" of the environment. Polluted water or other invasions of society will kill a Pearl Farm very quickly. It means that after investing millions of dollars in building a pearl farm, pearl farmers tend to be strong environmental activists. They have even more interest than the rest of us in stopping pollution, stopping dumping and stopping "spills" into the sea.
On the one hand, does that mean you should feel good about buying pearls versus other jewelry? Quite possibly. Whereas mining often causes environmental problems, pearl farming -requires- a strong affinity to clean environments.
On the other hand, does that mean you can buy a pearl and feel like you've "done your part" for keeping the planet green? Well... not really. Environmental awareness is built-in to the pearl business, and we can all feel good about that. But it doesn't absolve any of us of our responsibility to be environmentally aware.
Do I feel better buying pearls than other gems that have less connection to the environment? Yes. Do I feel like that means I can quit recycling and being aware of my carbon footprint? No.
Is it a "small planet" in the end? For sure. While I think we can all feel good about buying or selling or collecting pearls knowing what that means, I also think it's important we not lose sight of the bigger goal. Whether you call it the environment or mother earth or gaia... It's important that we always bear in mind that we live on a small rock hurtling through space and it's all we've got.