On 22nd April we mark World Earth Day - an annual event to demonstrate support for environmental protection.
It’s safe to say that the most pressing matters globally, right now, aren’t the trials and tribulations of a small watch company. In fact, it might be even more accurate to say that our worries and concerns are, in the grand scheme of things, a drop in the rising ocean. On a day-to-day level we deal with a few things - our wonderful customers and their orders, logistics partners to get our watches around the world, and designing and manufacturing said watches. But as we march along we ruminate on a myriad of topics, such as how to get better at what we do, how we can offer something interesting that others are not, or even just talk about how we balance this little thing called life with our goals at work. In our quest to do all of this and more, we often segue into various topics that, more often than not, catch us unaware or perhaps even educate us to the contrary of our beliefs.
One example of this could be the stories of human endeavour that we find so inspiring, or perhaps there’s a better way to package our watches if only we looked at it from a different angle, with different priorities. It’s all part of the growth of us, as a business, but also as people running the business. We work hard and try, where possible, to be mindful of our actions both as a business and personally - discussing issues that we are having or that we are seeing in the world means that we become more aware; more clued up than we previously were.
Everything that World Earth Day stands for has been widely available for decades, yet for most, including us, it has remained outside of our consciousness. Whether that be due to the process of growing up, working, having families and living, or perhaps our lifestyles - something has prevented us from truly appreciating or understanding the issues. It wasn’t until we started our research in the process of designing the Atlantic collection, specifically the industrial revolution, that we began to unravel the contributing factors of current global issues. The importance of the environmental challenges facing us has increased to a level that we are compelled to share what we’ve learnt through the medium of what we do - respectfully designed watches - as a way to raise awareness of these issues.
The Haskell Global will be the first of many watches that highlight the issues we're facing as a global community, and positively contribute to mitigate them. We will be contributing £10,000 through sales of the Haskell Global to charitable and sustainability causes that can make a bigger impact than we can alone. If we do this, as well as continually assess our own legacy, by-product emissions and sustainability, we can be part of the drive towards reducing and reversing the negative impact on the environment. It is our children and their children who will have to face the very real prospect of a world in crisis, if we do nothing. And that is just too important to ignore, because we don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
What is Global Warming?
We tend to use the terms ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ interchangeably - but the latter term is the most reflective of the true scale and reach of the issue. While the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere is indeed increasing, climate change shows its ugly face in more ways than one. Some areas are experiencing cooler than average weather, while others are being racked by an increasing number of extreme weather events and natural disasters, and the very air we breathe is degrading in quality.
A temperature change of 2 or 3 degrees between friends doesn’t seem like a huge deal. Some days are sunny, others are chilly, right? But when the global average increase in temperature is sustained, and unnatural, the consequences are devastating. The Paris Agreement - an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - brought together 191 members of the UNFCCC in a pledge to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, recognising that this would substantially reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
To put it frankly, climate change is the biggest security threat that humanity has ever faced. Our most basic survival needs teeter upon the brink of collapse, if we do not act - swiftly - to slow global warming.
The main driver of climate change is the emission of greenhouse gases, most importantly carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide - these are primarily released when fossil fuels are burnt. Meat and dairy production, producing cement and some industrial processes, such as the production and use of fertilisers, also emit greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere - since the mid-nineteenth century, the world has emitted over 2.2 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide. Energy from the sun falls on our planet and normally gets reflected back as infrared radiation. But instead of escaping back out into space, this radiation gets absorbed by molecules of greenhouse gases, which then emit them in all directions. This process causes more heat to be kept near Earth’s surface, warming our world and setting off a catastrophic domino-effect.
When the world warms, ice melts. Arctic sea ice could disappear entirely in a warming world, and Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets could be destabilised. This would result in large sections melting, which would add more liquid to the ocean. Some places will see drawn-out seasons, while others may experience a higher frequency of extreme weather and natural disasters, such as hurricanes, heat waves, drought, wildfires and floods; something that we saw with stark clarity in 2020. Humanity’s food chain will continue to be disrupted and risks being destroyed entirely, while the very air that we breathe negatively impacts upon our health. Animals and plant species are becoming extinct at record pace - up to 150 species every day - and humanity is now facing its own mass extinction event; one caused by ourselves.
The best place to start, in our attempt to understand and tackle climate change, is with gas. There’s a growing focus on reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that we release into the atmosphere - this is what the Paris Agreement centres around. What most people aren’t aware of however, is that methane and nitrous oxide are more damaging than carbon dioxide, and have received far less attention and action. Why is this? The short answer is that it’s primarily our consumption of meat and dairy products which are causing methane and nitrous oxide levels to reach the critical heights, and us humans are reluctant to face up to and act upon that knowledge. A special report commissioned by the UN, entitled Climate Change and Land, urged every one of us to look at our consumption and cited adopting a plant-based diet as the single most effective way of slowing global warming and addressing the climate change crisis.
Since the 1950s, the use of plastics has risen to the point where most things, from tech products to fishing equipment, have plastic somewhere within. It’s cheap, easily manufacturable, durable and strong. It can be rigid or flexible and can be made in any colour you like. The applications for plastics are vast and the inherent properties of plastics are ideal for a number of areas where other materials would simply not work, or wouldn’t be as cheap. It is, in many cases, the perfect material.
However, in the most important areas - environmental impact - it’s becoming the worst offender. Bottles that hold liquids, such as water, fizzy juice and washing detergents, are typically made from materials like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and more recently recycled polyethylene (rPET). This serves the purpose of holding liquids under pressure perfectly well, but once those bottles make their way into the oceans, it becomes a different prospect altogether. Cosmetics, up until 2018, included microbeads - little balls of plastic - in a lot of the “scrubbing” face washes and rinsable makeup. Food containers and packaging are also made typically from plastics because they have inherent properties of hygiene, air tightness and durability for transportation around the world.
However, and a little surprisingly, it’s fishing nets and equipment made from plastic that are the worst offenders of all marine plastics.
Plastics have numerous impacts on our oceans, the first being the build up of bottles, caps and containers washing up on our shores. These build-ups are eaten by sea birds and other animals, filling their stomachs with indigestible plastic and suffocating or starving them to death, whilst other animals become entangled in the webs of plastic too.
The second impact is less obvious, and it’s that of microplastics, which are generated when the plastic disintegrates. These microscopic plastic particles make their way into smaller marine life as they inhale or eat them, and can settle on the seabed and affect delicate marine systems - they’ve even been found on salt. Microplastics also come in the form of microfibres from washing our clothes. As we wash our clothes the wastewater heads off to water treatment plants which filter the waste water to recycle it, but these microfibres are so small they pass through the filters and make their way into the oceans, into our food chain, and are even found in potable water. It’s a cyclical process of our own volition - plastic is manufactured and used for the intended purpose, which is then consumed by us, deposited by us, makes its way into our oceans, eaten by sea life which is then caught and eaten, by us.
We are eating our own plastic.
The third impact is even less obvious and even more “controversial” - nets and equipment from the fishing industry are being left in the oceans which ensnare and kill fish, turtles, whales and dolphins. Fishing nets are being eaten by whales, the same way plastics are being eaten by birds. Fish and sea life are being devoured at an unbelievable rate, much like the trees being razed in the rainforest, to satisfy our appetites - even more are being killed and discarded unused through bycatch. In doing so, it’s not just destroying the marine ecosystems that allows our oceans to flourish, but impacting the ability for our oceans to maintain the carbon neutralising processes that combats climate change. The oceans, after all, are even more effective at reducing the impacts of climate change.
Plastic use for food is starting, slowly, to shift to more sustainable materials like paper, card and metal. Meanwhile, plastic films and packets that perform sealing duties are still to be exchanged for something that does the job just as well, but work is being done through the development of alternative delivery packaging, like glass. However, there are of course downsides to shifting to more sustainable materials - for example glass is heavier and more bulky to transport, so finding the balance is complex and will take time.
Due to the nature of their microscopic sizes, microplastics is a harder problem to solve, but progress is being made - such as the banning of cosmetics that feature scrubbing microbeads by governments. The bigger issue of plastic containers making their way into the oceans is yet to be resolved, and this can only happen through mass-adoption of alternative materials.
The biggest issue - the fishing industry and the legacy of fishing - is the one area that seems to be lagging behind. Despite plastic straws being highlighted as the main contributor, it’s in fact only 0.03% of the contributing factors to marine plastics. It’s the fishing nets, buoys and equipment, as well as the huge damage fishing is causing to ecosystems and carbon control, that needs addressing, but unfortunately not much is being done at this stage to combat or reduce these issues.
What is Deforestation?
Deforestation, the constant razing of forests, grasslands, and natural habitat, occurs primarily to feed our appetite for animal products. Seven football fields worth of land are bulldozed every minute to make way for farm animals. Huge swathes of the Amazon rainforest – the ‘lungs of the earth’ - have been flattened and burned to graze cattle. Raising animals for food uses 30% of the earth’s land mass – that’s about the same size as Asia. More than 90% of the Amazon rainforest that has been cleared since 1970 is used for either grazing or growing food for cattle. That land used to be habitat for a hugely diverse population of wildlife, native plants and trees.
Climate change, land degradation and overexploitation are causing temperatures to rise, land to dry up and fertile soils to erode. This causes serious problems such as extreme droughts and famine. Soil which has been deforested, burnt or overused for animal agriculture is degraded, and vegetation cover is poor. Rainfall is often concentrated in a few rainfall events with heavy downpours - this combination causes most of the water to flow away as surface runoff, causing erosion, soil fertility loss and flooding downstream. Most flood-water flows away, underutilised, towards the ocean. The land remains bare and droughts can occur just weeks after floods. Once vegetation is lost, it no longer helps to create clouds, nor can it cool the atmosphere. This results in even less rain and more eroded land. It’s a vicious circle.
Animal agriculture is the single biggest player in the extinction of the majority of living animals on our planet. The trees which cleanse our air are removed and, in their place, animals are grazed or crops are grown to feed those animals.
Water sources are polluted by manure and agricultural run-off, with animal agriculture the leading source of water pollution and ocean dead-zones. But the water problems don’t stop there; animal agriculture is responsible for 20%-33% of all freshwater consumption in the world today. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1lb of meat, whereas it takes only 25 gallons of water to produce 1lb of wheat. When you consider the fact that 790 million people – that’s 11% of the world’s population – don’t have access to a clean water supply, the fact that we pour so much water into animal agriculture begins to sit a little less comfortably.
Our daily choices matter now more than ever. There’s a tendency to make ourselves feel small when we consider the magnitude of the situation; how could one person’s actions impact upon such a huge problem? The best way to look at it is to examine the processes which bring us the physical things that we use and eat every day, and to focus on this - the origin story of what we consume, not the product or utility itself.
For example, you’d save more water by not eating one pound of meat than you would by not taking a shower for 6 months. It seems bizarre, but the amount of water required to grow food for farmed animals is astronomical. When we can’t see the water pouring down the drain, we don’t know it’s being wasted.
We present this information with the hope that it is received with an open mind and an open heart. We can’t do better until we know better, and now we know better. The facts are stark and confronting, and the issue is daunting in its scale and reach, but how we choose to respond to this is entirely up to us, as a community of unique individuals.
Here at Marloe Watch Company, we are making steps in the right direction. We're all parents now, and our children, and their future children, are relying on us to turn things around. We're all in various stages of transitioning to a plant-based diet, and have been enjoying a voyage of culinary discovery (hit us up with any plant-based recipes!) while reaping the health rewards. However, it's important to recognise that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing - every step towards a more sustainable lifestyle is a step in the right direction, and has a significant positive impact.
Our new office has no footprint on the earth; it is entirely carbon neutral, with solar and geothermal power sources. We are exploring vegan strap options and are on a constant mission to ensure our packaging and shipping practises have as little of an impact as possible, and we are continuing to create long-lasting, heirloom-quality watches which go against the flow of disposable tech and plastic gadgetry. We aren’t perfect, but we are improving; and that’s something to be proud of. We hope that you will join us in making a commitment to our planet; to make changes, big or small, to act as swiftly as we can to slow the damage that is being done.