Progress Not Perfection

Progress Not Perfection

By Gordon Fraser

21 Apr , 2021  

8 comment

Learning about and being conscious of the reasons for climate change is something that has remained at arms length for me. That all changed recently and my world view has shifted irrevocably. 

As a way to try contribute to the awareness of these hugely important issues we are launching the Haskell Global. Personally though, I have experienced some interesting things that I never imagined would happen, so I wrote about it. It’s not as easy as it seems, and more importantly, it doesn’t happen overnight.

Historically, I’ve been called many things - mainly due to my habit of putting my hand to something new - restless, unfocused, fidgety, even Mr Toad! Whether it be photography, digital painting, website design or cycling, they have all elicited an excitement, fresh and exhilarating, as I’ve been learning them. I get clued up and become more efficient in these skills, spending months, years even, enjoying all that can be found in each of them. These “projects” usually have a resolution that signals the end of my time in that particular area, and if I’ve learned all I want from it I switch over to something that elicits new excitement and interest. It’s part of the reason that we, as a company, are able to produce much of our content in-house - the skills have been developed and are here to be utilised.


Reading and writing is a passion I’ve had since my teens and, more recently, it has been enhanced by my research in the course of designing our watches. The research I do is an intensive period of digging and referencing to give me a picture of what it must have been like to experience historical events first hand. Through this prism of research I am able to design watches that feel like they are (almost) era specific - of that time and place, or at home within that subject. The Atlantic feels like an art-deco-styled vintage/modern mashup because I spent a lot of time researching the R34 airship in addition to the period itself - as it was launching and flying overhead; what it might have felt like for the world back then, watching these behemoths of the skies looming silently above, how people will have reacted or viewed the world in front of them. Then I write about it; a way to process all the information and align it in my mind. It helps us too, when we come to create the booklets or blog pieces, or even just to talk about them on camera - I need to know what I’m talking about with confidence, and writing facilitates that.


Retrospection is a meal best served cold, especially when it comes to industrial history, for every new stone that’s tentatively turned over reveals something or someone that grinds against the current way of thinking or doing. It can be frightening, alarming, worrying and oftentimes, depressing. Looking under these historical rocks often prompts huge waves of emotion, wanting to rectify or undo the injustices or impacts of these events or people immediately, to redress the balance and make positive progress. In my research into the subjects surrounding the R34 existence, and the methods through which it was created, I’ve found a number of things that have made my eyebrows go upwards. This research, and the discussions that followed, have caused a snowballing momentum of such magnitude that I liken it to being unceremoniously ripped from the Matrix, and there’s no Morpheus to fish me out of that pond. It’s that significant.


I’ve always been aware of the things that are causing our planet to disintegrate because I have eyes. I see the petrol gauges depleting and I see the packaging marked as “not yet recyclable”. I’ve read the news about microplastics clogging up oceanic arteries, ice shelves breaking and wildfires raging across continents. A couple of years ago, when I first started working for MWC full time, I worked from home, and during a long summer of heatwaves and drought I experienced a Scottish bred tan for the first time. I’ve just accepted it in my stride and carried on with my day. I’ve watched, through the medium of the internet, the droughts, wildfires and floods, and thought “that’s really crap”, then left for work as always, thinking about what I’ve got to do that day or things that are pressing in my life. I haven’t, until now, had something that has been directly relatable to my own set of unique circumstances that has caused me to stop and say “hold on a minute”. There’s not been an “in” for me which, as ridiculous as it sounds, is the truth. What more of an “in” do you need, when homes are being razed by wildfires? Well I am, reluctantly, that cliche - it doesn’t affect me until it affects me.


It’s not just a sprocket.


The research for the Atlantic project led me through the history of the Beardmore empire, who manufactured the R34 at Inchinnan, near Glasgow. It was that journey that revealed to me the origin of steel, the industrial revolution and raised the question in my head of what impact the things we take for granted today have caused historically. I may, for example, before the awakening, have looked at a sprocket on my bike and said “that’s a steel sprocket”, and left it at that. But that steel sprocket isn’t just a sprocket; it’s a carefully designed metallic slice that’s been laboriously machined from a block of steel that was itself made from molten steel, which has been refined from ores which have been mined from the earth, by machines that we’ve made. It’s not just a sprocket: it’s the manufacturing process, the design process, and more. Once you hit that question - what does it really take to make something? - it leads to other musings, even if you don’t intend it to. The same thought process has been applied to a bottle of Coke. I don’t drink it because I’m an athlete… but I see it every time I go to the shops and I might think - that’s a bottle of Coke. I don’t think about anything other than that litre of black liquid inside that red-wrapped clear plastic bottle. That’s a bottle of Coke, what else could it be? It’s fizzy water and some sugar and some black stuff. Well now, after reading about what it takes to produce a bottle of Coke, I think about the ingredients to make that litre of Coke, and I think about the 28 litres of water that it takes to make the ingredients that go into making the black liquid, and I think about the 7 litres of water used to make the clear plastic bottle. My shopping experience has taken on a different edge, one that’s far more analytical and sad. This is the burden which being unplugged from the Matrix creates.


Through the process of reading and understanding where steel came from, I’ve read about early steel manufacturing and what it entailed, physically, to make the stuff and the likely environmental cost of that initial learning and development. It’s something that has opened my eyes to everything that we do now, today. Yes, we have more efficient processes to make steel and all the other materials that go into our watches, our phones, our computers, clothes, furniture etc. But we didn’t start at that level of efficiency - early adopters travelled through early discovery, wrestling with how to make this new material, refining the processes to make the material better and streamlining the methods to give bigger yields, higher quality, lower costs and larger profits. That train of thought - what does something actually cost to make - was alien to me because, as a draughtsman, I didn’t need to think about it; we don’t know what we don’t need to know. I didn’t have the impetus to ask myself - what is the impact of what I’m doing on the world around me? I digitally drew pipes and cooling ducts for new schools and offices - maybe a slice of paper or two for site sizing, but that stuff grows on trees, right?

Responsibility


When Oliver and I started Marloe we didn’t have to ask ourselves any of these questions, because it was a hobby that didn’t have an actual footprint. We turned six years old this year, and during that duration we’ve gone from hobbyists working in evenings and weekends, to a bonafide business with overheads, footprints and obligations. I now have the motive to ask the questions, because we’re a production business making things from materials that are extricated from the earth; I now have a way in, with a field of reference that I can relate to and understand. It’s walking this route, through the environmental and financial cost of manufacturing things - the by-products - that has opened my eyes so clearly to what we are doing compared with other fields. I can see now what we need to do to reduce or mitigate our negative legacy. I can see how our decisions, from what we eat to how we transport our watches, influence and impact the little people that will soon be reaching for the baton - my daughter, Oliver’s son and, with a year notched up in life now, Steph’s wee girl too.


I had a bit of a moment during the R34 research, as cliche or tiresome as it is, when realisation hit the cells inside my lumbering brain - why didn’t anyone consider the impact of what they were doing, whilst they were doing it? It very much is an impossible question; to know how your actions now will affect something in the future. But it bothered me, especially seeing how prolific the new invention of steel was in the R34 era, and how little of it was efficiently produced. As a way to separate myself from the quickening spiral of doom I had sent myself on, I emailed what I had found to one of our wonderful board members and an unfathomably knowledgeable and generous person - to ask him what he thought about my question. He said this, and it’s resonated with me ever since:


“I suppose as technology and society develops we progress through stages. First, we focus on just the new thing. It is incredibly hard to bring the new idea to realisation without having the time and energy to look at the 'externalities' as the economists would say. These then get embedded in the new thing and are just taken for granted until eventually someone raises the alarm. There is also the issue that the originator of the new thing only sees his version of it, which uses resources or causes pollution of whatever, but is insignificant because his is the only one. The early adopters see it similarly. The damage grows gradually. It takes time even to see the big picture, and then it takes a particular ethical viewpoint to worry about it. Both of these are missing most of the time and they are probably a phenomenon arising out of comfort/luxury – only in that situation can we afford to look around us and worry (is that why film stars jump on all the environmental bandwagons?). At that point we can’t understand why we didn’t see the problem earlier.”


We are only able to see in retrospection what we’ve done and what it has cost, financially, environmentally, physically and emotionally. It’s part of what it is to be human - to learn from your mistakes whilst experiencing something for the first time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it’s also human nature to want to improve, in yourself and in what you are doing, all the time. Efficiencies equal good; efficiency equals profit - financially and emotionally we profit from being efficient and good at something. Steel was developed over the decades to be made more efficiently, to make better quality steel and, as a result, cheaper steel. Beardmore knew it and scaled sufficiently to bolster his growing transport manufacturing empire. He saw the benefits in scale and ramped up to satisfy his own production needs - he probably didn’t consider the impact of his steelworks or the products he was manufacturing, because his mind was on growing, surviving and succeeding. He was at the pointy end of bringing steel to the masses and therefore too close to see the legacy his business was creating. They also didn’t have, in the early 1900s, the technology that we have to be able to analyse and process the data that shows us the effects of greenhouse gases. As I noted it all down and spoke more with Chris, I saw that this line of thinking wasn’t restricted to steel, obviously. It could be applied to everything that we do as humans, from food to clothing, from energy to technology. 


I had opened the door into the impact of manufacturing products in the world in mid-2020, but I only half walked through it. I reconciled with myself that the by-products are the important elements of manufacturing and moved on to the next thing - juggling the myriad issues with COVID, production schedules shifting and a huge increase in sales and logistical requirements. During lockdown 2020, I had mentioned to Olly all the research that I had done and how I really wanted it to mean something for us, as a business. I thought about the quick things we could do to mitigate our more inefficient processes, such as packaging and reduction of plastics in our supply chain. We decided to change the way we packed our black presentation boxes in the shippers, designing a custom paper pulp insert that did away with the inefficient zig-zag filling and the huge quantity we needed to fulfil our growing order sheet. As a by-product of that decision our packing times were quartered, meaning a more efficient and more eco-friendly process - our storage requirements in the office also quartered. We talked about how else we could help bring awareness of these issues, deciding to create a special edition of the Haskell, one that we could use to bring more recognition of and contribute to the causes that are affecting us on a global scale. As watch producers, what else do we have than our watches as bridges to bring awareness to what’s important to us? Once that process was in motion though, the research and knowledge sat dormant in my mind until January this year, when Stephanie rejoined us. During the course of bringing her up to speed on a completely different company to when she left on maternity, we started chatting about the Haskell Global, my research and what the whole project meant to me.


It was at this moment that I experienced my full, vicious unplugging from the Matrix, for Stephanie too had gone through a similar process of realisation and adjustment to the impacts of what we are doing, as a global community, albeit through a different prism. It was fascinating to listen to her and hear how she found herself stepping through the “door of truth”. I had been speaking about steel and what that meant on an emissions and ecological front, but she immediately shot back with “you think that’s bad... wait until you read about the cows.”


Feed vs Food


It wasn’t so much the barrage of stats and eye-opening stories, but the way it was delivered that startled me so much; Steph was furious about it. Her prism was her experience as a new mum, and how the maternal instinct and crucial ability to feed and protect her child resonated so closely with the same situation that dairy cows experienced, and were robbed of. Feeding children is a biological process and requires a child to be conceived for the mother to develop the ability to feed that child, and the same is true for cows - they are only able to produce the milk we drink by going through the birthing process. If they didn’t have calves, they wouldn’t produce milk - cows are not some magical milk machine. I never thought about it like that, that cows are not default milk generators from the off - I just thought they produced it as a result of them eating grass and meandering around fields. When Steph relayed that it’s no different to humans and how they are able to generate milk, it set my teeth on edge. I think back to when my wife Emma was feeding my daughter Eva and how hard it was for them both, and how ludicrous it would be had Eva been taken away from Emma as soon as she was born, for slaughter or to be raised to face the same, repeated process until spent, while Emma was forced to produce milk for cows to drink. I had an “in” for that one too - a desperately sad “in”.


Steph continued, telling me about cows farmed for beef production and the impacts of the process of farming enough cows to satiate the demand for beef. 80% of worldwide soya production, the stuff that is causing the rainforests to be cleared and land to be burned to make space for the plantations, is used for cattle feed, rather than feeding us directly. We use more land to grow feed for the animals that we then eat, than we do to grow crops for ourselves to eat. There seems to be a common comeback from sceptics that “it’s all the soya milk you vegans drink” that’s contributing to rainforest razing. But soya used for human consumption pales in comparison to the actual culprit and, what’s more alarming, the nutrients we supposedly only get from meat are actually found in the plants that the cows eat; we could easily cut out the middle-cow and eat the plants to get the nutrients and protein that we so revere in meat and dairy products. It seems so clear and so simple, yet apparently so universally ignored.


It was a relentless and brutal barrage of facts from Steph, but it was also hugely impactful. I’d done the research on steel and the greenhouse gases of the related industrial processes, so I knew the rough percentages of CO2 emissions and the effects therein and swore at the damage it all caused. But when I compared the steel industry to other areas like transport, food production and energy, I couldn’t fathom that I had been this naive to it all; suddenly I could see the numbers in comparison to what impact beef and dairy had on the planet, and it genuinely scared me. 


It was at this point, with all the information I had and the complete understanding of how we had been contributing to the problem, that I realised it was not just significant, but it threatens the very existence of everyone on this planet. I probably did what most others do when they realise this - I tried to tell as many people as I could. For me, that meant my closest and most important - my wife. Fortunately for me, Emma is already a well-read, researched and adoptive person, having tried to convert us all to vegetarian diets years ago. My reluctance to adopt it forced her to give up and satisfy the will of the family over the will of herself, which now makes me really sad. It was me that forced her to stop her own progress in order to have an easier life. So when I turned up with facts in hand, I got an eye-roll and a look of deep exasperation as I reeled off all the new things I’d learned from Steph. From that point it was pretty much an immediate switch, from an animal based diet to a more progressively inclusive plant-based diet. The real blowback, the one I never knew existed, was yet to come, and it would rattle me.


All our veg came in paper bags!


Unfortunately, I’m very far from being alone in the perils of extolling the benefits of mindful lifestyles to family members. It can easily and quickly be translated as virtue signalling or pretentiousness, which I’m accused of anyway just due to the way I look and how I speak - I use big words, try to be eloquent and style my hair. But I felt clued up enough to broach the topic on a recent family Zoom chat and boy oh boy, did I regret it. I’ve heard other people talk about veganism, plant-based diets and suchlike before and I guess from my previous side of the fence, it was a bit like someone selling rubber trousers - not for me, thanks. I had worked with people who were plant-based semi-pro athletes, running ultra-marathons and looking all healthy and stuff, and had associated that lifestyle with diets of nuts and fruit, because that’s what they mostly appeared to eat. Anyway, off I went with what I thought were enough relatable facts that could easily show people the benefits of moving, progressively, towards a more mindful plant-based diet. The response was shocking - an attempt to discount and destroy anything and everything that I said. 


It wasn’t meat production that was causing the Amazon rainforests to be razed, it was poverty, because meat is cheap - sort out the poverty first. What about the jobs in the meat industry, where do they go if the meat industry closes? It’s not our fault, all our veg came in paper bags. What good can I do with an electric car when private jets taxiing to a runway cancels everything I have saved in a year? What does Greta know, she’s 15 for goodness sake!


All of this and more - and it was my job, since I brought it up, to deliver all the answers there and then, otherwise shut my face. A complete disaster. I asked Steph the following day what her experience was when she broached the subject of moving to a plant-based diet, and it followed pretty much the same process - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance - or in other words, the five stages of grief.

I can see how our decisions, from what we eat to how we transport our watches, influence and impact the little people that are soon reaching for the baton.

I can see how our decisions, from what we eat to how we transport our watches, influence and impact the little people that are soon reaching for the baton.

Responsibility


When Oliver and I started Marloe we didn’t have to ask ourselves any of these questions, because it was a hobby that didn’t have an actual footprint. We turned six years old this year, and during that duration we’ve gone from hobbyists working in evenings and weekends, to a bonafide business with overheads, footprints and obligations. I now have the motive to ask the questions, because we’re a production business making things from materials that are extricated from the earth; I now have a way in, with a field of reference that I can relate to and understand. It’s walking this route, through the environmental and financial cost of manufacturing things - the by-products - that has opened my eyes so clearly to what we are doing compared with other fields. I can see now what we need to do to reduce or mitigate our negative legacy. I can see how our decisions, from what we eat to how we transport our watches, influence and impact the little people that will soon be reaching for the baton - my daughter, Oliver’s son and, with a year notched up in life now, Steph’s wee girl too.


I had a bit of a moment during the R34 research, as cliche or tiresome as it is, when realisation hit the cells inside my lumbering brain - why didn’t anyone consider the impact of what they were doing, whilst they were doing it? It very much is an impossible question; to know how your actions now will affect something in the future. But it bothered me, especially seeing how prolific the new invention of steel was in the R34 era, and how little of it was efficiently produced. As a way to separate myself from the quickening spiral of doom I had sent myself on, I emailed what I had found to one of our wonderful board members and an unfathomably knowledgeable and generous person - to ask him what he thought about my question. He said this, and it’s resonated with me ever since:


“I suppose as technology and society develops we progress through stages. First, we focus on just the new thing. It is incredibly hard to bring the new idea to realisation without having the time and energy to look at the 'externalities' as the economists would say. These then get embedded in the new thing and are just taken for granted until eventually someone raises the alarm. There is also the issue that the originator of the new thing only sees his version of it, which uses resources or causes pollution of whatever, but is insignificant because his is the only one. The early adopters see it similarly. The damage grows gradually. It takes time even to see the big picture, and then it takes a particular ethical viewpoint to worry about it. Both of these are missing most of the time and they are probably a phenomenon arising out of comfort/luxury – only in that situation can we afford to look around us and worry (is that why film stars jump on all the environmental bandwagons?). At that point we can’t understand why we didn’t see the problem earlier.”


We are only able to see in retrospection what we’ve done and what it has cost, financially, environmentally, physically and emotionally. It’s part of what it is to be human - to learn from your mistakes whilst experiencing something for the first time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it’s also human nature to want to improve, in yourself and in what you are doing, all the time. Efficiencies equal good; efficiency equals profit - financially and emotionally we profit from being efficient and good at something. Steel was developed over the decades to be made more efficiently, to make better quality steel and, as a result, cheaper steel. Beardmore knew it and scaled sufficiently to bolster his growing transport manufacturing empire. He saw the benefits in scale and ramped up to satisfy his own production needs - he probably didn’t consider the impact of his steelworks or the products he was manufacturing, because his mind was on growing, surviving and succeeding. He was at the pointy end of bringing steel to the masses and therefore too close to see the legacy his business was creating. They also didn’t have, in the early 1900s, the technology that we have to be able to analyse and process the data that shows us the effects of greenhouse gases. As I noted it all down and spoke more with Chris, I saw that this line of thinking wasn’t restricted to steel, obviously. It could be applied to everything that we do as humans, from food to clothing, from energy to technology. 


I had opened the door into the impact of manufacturing products in the world in mid-2020, but I only half walked through it. I reconciled with myself that the by-products are the important elements of manufacturing and moved on to the next thing - juggling the myriad issues with COVID, production schedules shifting and a huge increase in sales and logistical requirements. During lockdown 2020, I had mentioned to Olly all the research that I had done and how I really wanted it to mean something for us, as a business. I thought about the quick things we could do to mitigate our more inefficient processes, such as packaging and reduction of plastics in our supply chain. We decided to change the way we packed our black presentation boxes in the shippers, designing a custom paper pulp insert that did away with the inefficient zig-zag filling and the huge quantity we needed to fulfil our growing order sheet. As a by-product of that decision our packing times were quartered, meaning a more efficient and more eco-friendly process - our storage requirements in the office also quartered. We talked about how else we could help bring awareness of these issues, deciding to create a special edition of the Haskell, one that we could use to bring more recognition of and contribute to the causes that are affecting us on a global scale. As watch producers, what else do we have than our watches as bridges to bring awareness to what’s important to us? Once that process was in motion though, the research and knowledge sat dormant in my mind until January this year, when Stephanie rejoined us. During the course of bringing her up to speed on a completely different company to when she left on maternity, we started chatting about the Haskell Global, my research and what the whole project meant to me.


It was at this moment that I experienced my full, vicious unplugging from the Matrix, for Stephanie too had gone through a similar process of realisation and adjustment to the impacts of what we are doing, as a global community, albeit through a different prism. It was fascinating to listen to her and hear how she found herself stepping through the “door of truth”. I had been speaking about steel and what that meant on an emissions and ecological front, but she immediately shot back with “you think that’s bad... wait until you read about the cows.”


Feed vs Food


It wasn’t so much the barrage of stats and eye-opening stories, but the way it was delivered that startled me so much; Steph was furious about it. Her prism was her experience as a new mum, and how the maternal instinct and crucial ability to feed and protect her child resonated so closely with the same situation that dairy cows experienced, and were robbed of. Feeding children is a biological process and requires a child to be conceived for the mother to develop the ability to feed that child, and the same is true for cows - they are only able to produce the milk we drink by going through the birthing process. If they didn’t have calves, they wouldn’t produce milk - cows are not some magical milk machine. I never thought about it like that, that cows are not default milk generators from the off - I just thought they produced it as a result of them eating grass and meandering around fields. When Steph relayed that it’s no different to humans and how they are able to generate milk, it set my teeth on edge. I think back to when my wife Emma was feeding my daughter Eva and how hard it was for them both, and how ludicrous it would be had Eva been taken away from Emma as soon as she was born, for slaughter or to be raised to face the same, repeated process until spent, while Emma was forced to produce milk for cows to drink. I had an “in” for that one too - a desperately sad “in”.


Steph continued, telling me about cows farmed for beef production and the impacts of the process of farming enough cows to satiate the demand for beef. 80% of worldwide soya production, the stuff that is causing the rainforests to be cleared and land to be burned to make space for the plantations, is used for cattle feed, rather than feeding us directly. We use more land to grow feed for the animals that we then eat, than we do to grow crops for ourselves to eat. There seems to be a common comeback from sceptics that “it’s all the soya milk you vegans drink” that’s contributing to rainforest razing. But soya used for human consumption pales in comparison to the actual culprit and, what’s more alarming, the nutrients we supposedly only get from meat are actually found in the plants that the cows eat; we could easily cut out the middle-cow and eat the plants to get the nutrients and protein that we so revere in meat and dairy products. It seems so clear and so simple, yet apparently so universally ignored.


It was a relentless and brutal barrage of facts from Steph, but it was also hugely impactful. I’d done the research on steel and the greenhouse gases of the related industrial processes, so I knew the rough percentages of CO2 emissions and the effects therein and swore at the damage it all caused. But when I compared the steel industry to other areas like transport, food production and energy, I couldn’t fathom that I had been this naive to it all; suddenly I could see the numbers in comparison to what impact beef and dairy had on the planet, and it genuinely scared me. 


It was at this point, with all the information I had and the complete understanding of how we had been contributing to the problem, that I realised it was not just significant, but it threatens the very existence of everyone on this planet. I probably did what most others do when they realise this - I tried to tell as many people as I could. For me, that meant my closest and most important - my wife. Fortunately for me, Emma is already a well-read, researched and adoptive person, having tried to convert us all to vegetarian diets years ago. My reluctance to adopt it forced her to give up and satisfy the will of the family over the will of herself, which now makes me really sad. It was me that forced her to stop her own progress in order to have an easier life. So when I turned up with facts in hand, I got an eye-roll and a look of deep exasperation as I reeled off all the new things I’d learned from Steph. From that point it was pretty much an immediate switch, from an animal based diet to a more progressively inclusive plant-based diet. The real blowback, the one I never knew existed, was yet to come, and it would rattle me.


All our veg came in paper bags!


Unfortunately, I’m very far from being alone in the perils of extolling the benefits of mindful lifestyles to family members. It can easily and quickly be translated as virtue signalling or pretentiousness, which I’m accused of anyway just due to the way I look and how I speak - I use big words, try to be eloquent and style my hair. But I felt clued up enough to broach the topic on a recent family Zoom chat and boy oh boy, did I regret it. I’ve heard other people talk about veganism, plant-based diets and suchlike before and I guess from my previous side of the fence, it was a bit like someone selling rubber trousers - not for me, thanks. I had worked with people who were plant-based semi-pro athletes, running ultra-marathons and looking all healthy and stuff, and had associated that lifestyle with diets of nuts and fruit, because that’s what they mostly appeared to eat. Anyway, off I went with what I thought were enough relatable facts that could easily show people the benefits of moving, progressively, towards a more mindful plant-based diet. The response was shocking - an attempt to discount and destroy anything and everything that I said. 


It wasn’t meat production that was causing the Amazon rainforests to be razed, it was poverty, because meat is cheap - sort out the poverty first. What about the jobs in the meat industry, where do they go if the meat industry closes? It’s not our fault, all our veg came in paper bags. What good can I do with an electric car when private jets taxiing to a runway cancels everything I have saved in a year? What does Greta know, she’s 15 for goodness sake!


All of this and more - and it was my job, since I brought it up, to deliver all the answers there and then, otherwise shut my face. A complete disaster. I asked Steph the following day what her experience was when she broached the subject of moving to a plant-based diet, and it followed pretty much the same process - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance - or in other words, the five stages of grief.

Websites like Mob Kitchen have sprung up to assist those wanting to make world cuisines using plant-based ingredients, and it’s all been incredible so far.

The Five Stages of Grief


Denial is easy - there’s no way that the total square footage of soya plantations is more than the surface area of the moon, are you stupid? There’s no physical way that 1kg of beef contains 15,000 litres worth of water - it’s too small to fit all that water in. Eating a credit card sized amount of plastic each week - that’s ludicrous! Microbeads from car tyres causing the ocean’s sub-aquatic life to disintegrate - they’re CARS, not boats! 


Anger is soon to follow - keep your veganism to yourself, you self-righteous little *****. Me, change!? At this age!? I could barely get to Morrison’s and back in one of those electric cars - come back to me when I can drive from Scotland to Spain on a 10 minute charge.


At this point it’s really easy to give up and follow the crowd, because there’s literally nothing more upsetting than family gutting you and dangling your particulars in your face. These two initial stages are also, ironically enough, what someone learning about this stuff goes through too - denial that it can be such a huge issue and everyone not know about it, and anger that everyone isn’t doing everything they possibly can to fix it. For those freshly unplugged from the Matrix however, the next 3 points are far more visceral. 


Bargaining is reconciling how far you can go without turning into a jute-wearing, canvas tent camping, living off the land and smelling faintly of kippers, nomad. There’s a huge grey area between doing nothing and doing everything, and it’s difficult to know where to pitch yourself in that vast spectrum, especially with noise coming from all directions. For those at this stage, the depression sets in quickly too - even if I do everything I can, everyone else is still blindly going along as they always have done, ignoring the flashing red warning beacon; soon we’ll all curl up into a little prune shaped sweaty blob. 


Bargaining and depression might happen to those watching you go through this unplugging - look at what he’s doing to himself, he’d rather die of hunger to spite us. If you get stuck on the A9 in your little electric car give me a call and I’ll come rescue you. Perhaps there’s reconciliation in their own thinking and reason that, one day, you’ll come around, or maybe not - depression follows either way. It’s the last stage though, that everyone on both sides is aiming at - acceptance.


By accepting that you are (even if you’re not) fully “eco-warrior”, everyone slots back into place and things move along as they did, albeit with a lot more side-eye. The doers move along, living mindfully and knowing that, deep down, they’re doing what they can to change the trajectory of this extinction event; perhaps along the way some might see it and follow, and others will see it and ridicule, but you’ll be ok because it’s your choice and you have accepted it. The non-doers will move along too, triumphantly stating that they’re too old, or too set in their ways, or too picky, or too poor, or too allergic, or love Morrisons too much or are too viciously sensitive to almonds to change; that’s for the next generation - we’ve served our time and accept our fate.


How can something as important as the ending of the planet be so divisive? It feels like an affront to people’s livelihoods when it’s suggested that they could cut down their meat and dairy intake 2 or 3 days of the week and save the planet. Save The Planet. Yet it’s not just me that has experienced the backlash, and I doubt that it’s just me, Steph and our close relations that have followed suit, either. It will undoubtedly have happened to everyone who has realised the impact of their lifestyle and made a move to change it. What is it about progress that makes other people so angry?


Everything we do at MWC comes from a position of honesty, and it is reflected in all facets of our business. Our business is Oliver, Stephanie and me, and what we feel is ultimately what the business feels. For me, that now includes acting mindfully and doing things that will have a positive legacy for us and the business, but also for Eva and the world that she will grow within. I can’t knowingly continue to ignore the impacts that a lifestyle including meat, dairy, petrol, diesel, plastic and excess creates, and still look at my daughter with pride and excitement as to what she will grow up to be. If we carry on the way we are, she’ll be faced with a very different landscape than what I had growing up, one that revolves around surviving; that offers her the choice to breathe toxic air and drink plastic laced water. It might seem far fetched doomsday stuff, but there’s literally thousands of official studies into atmospheric destruction and the impact of disintegrating plastics in our water supplies right now.


Progression, not Perfection


The Haskell Global fits into all this from a position of wanting to show people the things we’ve found - a genuine “take a look at this!” standpoint - that exists only to offer people a way in to this line of thought, where these issues that face the world as a whole can be digested and resolved. We have a small, limited platform to bring awareness to this global crisis, and we can use that, through the medium of watches, to show our customers what we feel is important. If we do nothing, despite knowing our limited sphere of influence won’t change the world’s opinions, then we are complicit in the whole damn thing. That is why the Haskell Global exists - our gateway for seeing the truth about our global trajectory. We don’t have every answer and we don’t know everything, but we have seen and read enough to know that doing nothing is not an option anymore.


For me and the way I live, it’s irrevocably changed and I couldn’t be more comfortable about it - it’s almost a feeling of belonging. I know how I fit into the wider community and feel a lightness of being that I don’t think I’ve ever felt. Every decision I make now, as a designer of watches, will be laced with the question of how it impacts things on a global scale. Every decision I make as a father will be laced with the question of how it impacts things on an Eva scale. Every decision I make as a person will be laced with the question of how it impacts my life, my wife’s life, how we feel, how I look at things and what difference I can make to mitigate the risks of doing nothing. As ludicrously elitist as it sounds, we were considering converting the small patch of grass in our back garden to astro-turf. Eva can play on it all year round and it’ll look nicer. We had seriously considered it. Last week I watched a United Nations video of 8 minutes in length, showing the impact plastics have on the wildlife around our shores. In this video a researcher took a recently deceased seabird, cut open its stomach to reveal it was jam packed - stuffed full of multi-coloured shards of plastic - bottles, caps, battery covers from electrical devices. The bird had starved to death, not able to digest the plastic and not able to physically eat any food either. Astro-turf is not an option any more, maintenance be damned. I cannot live with knowing that a bird can jump down and peck away at the plastic blades, filling its gut with the shredded plastic until it suffocates or starves. I am in a privileged enough position that I can think about these silly things, but I’ve researched enough to know I can never return to the way I previously thought. 


Another recent decision I was able to make was joining the electric car revolution, removing myself from the guilty cycle of refuelling at petrol stations and getting into forecourt shouting matches with angry gardeners… that’s another story for another day. Choosing to embrace this technology is another privilege not everyone has, especially at this early stage in electric car development, but it was important to me with the options I had, to convert to fully electric transport as soon as I could. The new offices at Kinross will be 3 miles away from my house and I’ll be cycling most days it’s not blowing a gale (in Scotland... that must be few and far between). But for those days when I need to drop Eva off at school, or it’s snowing, I’ll have the electric car to get me to and from work. What’s more the battery will see me through a month on a single charge, and the recharging, through the charging points installed at the new office or through the wallbox attached to my house, will cost me around £5. If I charge the car through one of the charging stations growing in abundance around Scotland, it’ll cost me next to nothing - just a small annual admin charge. It’s an enticing picture, albeit restricted to those who can afford it, but for me to be part of this adoption of the alternative transport method is really exciting.


Summing up my experience so far, I can only offer a small amount of advice based upon what I’ve read and learned. It’s mostly just trying to find a way to look at things from a more global perspective, using something you can understand or relate to. Asking someone how much water is in a litre bottle of coke is a good one, because the answer is often in millilitres - oh... 700ml of water? When you shoot back 35 litres, the look on their face is enough to show you that this stuff really matters; if you can connect with another person on a level that is relatable, the questions soon follow - how much water is in a kilo of... bananas? You might not think that choosing to eat non-animal products can sway the direction of deforestation in Brazil, but if you do it, and your pals do it, and their pals do it, soon enough the court of public opinion will sway things, and it’s only then that we will see a shift change in the way we operate on a global scale. 160 litres by the way, if you’re wondering - bananas use loads of water!


Just look at the Montreal Protocol of 1987, or as we’re all probably familiar with it, the banning of harmful gases in aerosols - CFC’s. Banning these greenhouse gas emitters, which were linked to the destruction of the ozone layer over Antarctica, allowed the atmosphere to recover from the brink of death. There’s no better inspiration for what can happen if we group together to fight extinction level environmental threats. 


There are huge hurdles to all of this - governments being the biggest blockade - only this month did the UK government reduce the financial incentive for electric cars whilst simultaneously bolstering support for petrol cars. That is often all it takes to dissuade someone on the fence from making the switch. There’s the small financial burden of choosing to eat plant-based alternatives - it’s not huge but it is a factor. There’s more to learn, especially with cooking and getting your cupboards restocked with the right ingredients. But the diversity and flavour you can achieve through some simple, cheap ingredients has surprised me no end. Websites like Mob Kitchen have sprung up to assist those wanting to make world cuisines using plant-based ingredients, and it’s all been incredible so far. Supermarkets offer a greater choice of plant-based foods every week, including convenience and fast foods. There needn't be any 'going without' when following a plant-based diet.


Often it seems like there’s nothing we can do that isn’t damaging in some way or another. Microfibres from clothing being washed in your machine at home can create issues in the oceans, as the microfibres sneak through filters in water treatment plants and are eaten by fish and other sea creatures. Clothing is not immune! It can get overwhelming, and it has overwhelmed me many times - I’ve really struggled to reconcile the way I act and think with the growing inevitably of climate change and the apparent damaging nature of pretty much everything I’ve ever known; Steph keeps reminding me each time I get overwhelmed, “you still need to live - you have to accept that there’s some things you can’t change right now, but you can make a difference in other ways”. By choosing to be on the side of mitigation I am making moves in the right direction. It shouldn’t have to get to the point where the street outside my house is combusting from the heatwave, for me to act - it’ll be too late by then anyway. 


The time to act is now; the powerful brains that spend their lives dedicated to understanding the impact of our habits on the earth are declaring it to be an imminent threat to the survival of the human race, and we need to listen; we need to react and we need to mitigate, one little plant-based electrical plastic free step at a time.

8 comments

Gordon

@Mario – absolutely. It’s daunting and worrying to put yourself out there as a business of change, especially with something as divisive as climate change, but we must do something. By doing anything that reduces our impact on the world around us, we are moving in the right direction – towards hope, rather than fear. There will be people who disagree, and that is understandable and perfectly ok, but we feel, as people and as a business, that the time to move over to a more aware and conscious method of living, working and growing, is now.

Gordon

@Mathieu – One step at a time.

Everything you write is exactly what needs to happen – sustainable sourcing of materials and zero-impact methods. We are nipping away at all of these things and more as we go – it’s not going to happen immediately, overnight, but the industry is becoming more aware of the requirements of the global environment, and are reacting too. We are seeing the increase of vegan and alternative material straps appearing more and more – each time we see them, we get samples in to try them and we are now starting to see proper quality alternatives. We are delighted to say we have started the transition from animal based straps for all new production runs.

It would be extremely odd for us as individuals to be mindfully living whilst running a business that is impactful, but the two are not mutually exclusive. Oliver, Stephanie and me, as people running a business, will apply any personal attitudes and motivations to our business, because they are one and the same. Our business is us. You can rest assured that, wherever possible, we will transition to a more sustainable and positive impact operation.

It takes time, but we are moving in the right direction. Thank you for engaging with us and we hope you stick around :)

Mario Mallia

It is so refreshing to read of enterprising people who go beyond the reaches of their own pockets and the confines of their self interest. That means going against the grain in many ways but it is a liberating experience. Being co responsible for our collective destinies does not tie us down. It saves us.

Mathieu

Long and constructive thought process. From now on, will MWC use recycled steel for the watch cases? Will you stop using leather straps, or only veg tanned leather? Will your sailcloth straps be made of recycled plastic? And the movement and saphire production, are they sustainable? Wouldn’t it be odd for you, as an individual, to be developing as much as possible an environmental sustainable way of life, but lead a business having a negative environmental impact?

Brian Cox

What a truly honest and thought-provoking journal entry. I admire you guys for your honesty and transparency as a modern business.

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