Pierre Desrochers abridged a 2008 article of his into a most interesting article for “Spike” on the development of synthetic dyes. The following is its conclusion:

Sustainable-development theorists’ aversion to, and environmental activists’ dislike for, synthetic products, long-distance trade and economies of scale is most unfortunate. True, manufacturing operations are not yet perfect, but the ‘green’ alternatives touted as inherently superior, from organic food to local and smaller-scale productions, are typically much worse.

Natural dyes are a case in point. What well-meaning activists and ‘enviropreneurs’ miss is that their ‘solution’ to a largely non-existent problem would come not only with a hefty price for consumers (in terms of paying a lot more for inferior products), but it would also affect the environment given that many parts of the world that have been allowed to ‘rewilden’ in the past few decades would need to be, once again, put under the plough.

Market processes are not perfect, but they constantly reward the development of more efficient and less problematic alternatives over time. Ignoring the lessons of business and technological history can only deliver a poorer and more environmentally stressed world.

The piece is worth reading in full. It is the very interesting story of a “mini industrial revolution,” as Spike titled it.