Albatross Designs was started as a ‘sustainable design’ company over 6 years ago now, and in this time we’ve seen the definition of environmentalism twist, change, deform, expand and contract depending on who you talk to. In many ways there is now more attention on some of the critical issues regarding the environment; however, the amount of misinformation and manipulation of these ideas has exploded too. Moreover, many important environmental ideas seem to have been forgotten all together.
As such, we wanted to take a moment to reaffirm what environmentalism means to us. After all, we are a green design company spending all of our time working on ways to protect the integrity of our natural world, and therefore, we should be explicit about what these efforts are focused on.
First and foremost, Environmentalism is a humanism. We do what we do - work to protect Nature - because we strongly believe that the human condition benefits immensely from a healthy Natural world.
Human health depends immensely on, for example, clean air and clean water. These things themselves are dependent on both controlling pollution and preserving natural equilibriums within ecological systems.
Human livelihoods also depend immensely on healthy natural systems. For example, while significant technological advancements have emerged in the agricultural sector over the years, our farming industry is still largely dependent on weather. When climate change exacerbates the frequency and severity of droughts in farming communities, the resulting water scarcity makes it much harder for farmers to make a living. It is also more likely that some people will suffer from food insecurity, which ultimately lends itself to further societal disruption in our world. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there have been nearly 22 million climate refugees since 2010 who have fled not just sudden natural disasters, but complex food and water shortages that are the result of a rapidly changing climate.
So, for a variety of reasons (and there are many more than the 2 mentioned above) Environmentalism is a necessary human pursuit for us. We want to make human lives better, create more happiness and stability in the world, and maintain these capabilities for health and joy long into the future. We only have one planet, we must protect the things that once gone cannot be resurrected.
Beyond the human aspect of pursuing a healthy environment, we have some specific thoughts on what environmentalism should mean. Firstly, we think environmentalism ultimately implies a preservation of natural systems as they have been for millenia. Some historians have begun to call our current age of human history the “Anthropocene” because of the level that humans can now shape and change the natural world and climate. As a civilization, we must recognize this capability to change and destroy the natural, the sacred, and be disciplined enough to refrain from certain actions.
The Anthropocene era really started at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The machines powered by coal and oil have ultimately led to the greatest technology boom in civilization’s history. We support technological advancement. In fact, many of our upcoming inventions are highly technological. However, technology alone is simply an amoral force that constantly reinforces its own growing efficiency. It is up to humanity to ask: “What are the costs of this process?”. For example, we can drill for oil miles underneath the seabed, but what are the costs of this? We can manufacture disposable plastic widgets at an unprecedented pace, but what are the costs of all this consumption? We can catch at-risk fish species on fishing lines that stretch for miles, so that families in the middle of the plains can eat fish every night at a cost on par with fast food. But what are the costs of this?
Albatross Designs celebrates technological innovation. However, we must acknowledge that the current ecological crisis is in fact the result of a global technology approach that looks at the benefits (and profits) while neglecting to ask ‘what are the costs of this?’. Going forward, technology will most definitely play a hand at helping to save our planet, but it is our responsibility as global citizens to reject the perverse effects technology can create.
When it comes to discussing the environment, Climate Change seems king. At Albatross Designs, we without a doubt worry about climate change [and have several projects aiming to specifically address it], but we view it as yet another symptom and not the whole disease. In circles of all sorts, from politics to the financial world (think the rise of ESG data), well intentioned folks have adopted an environmental strategy so focused on climate change that they often neglect other important aspects of a true approach to preserving our Natural world.
To be clear, if our civilization is able to hold climate change to a 2 degree celsius rise, we will have achieved an incredible win. Perhaps this is the most important win too. Yet, climate change is the result of excess CO2 emissions. These same emissions not only trap excess heat within the planet’s atmosphere, they are also absorbed by the oceans where they make the water so acidic that shelled animals and coral reefs are now threatened by it. The combination of this with the at times immense heat that is absorbed by our oceans, and our coral reefs are now under constant threat of bleaching, and death.
We make a new paragraph here to emphasize what was just discovered in the above paragraph. The same forces causing global warming are threatening our coral reefs. Coral reefs are at the foundation of our singular, global ecosystem and truly support life as we know it. Everything - from about half of the planet’s oxygen, to the primary protein source for up to a billion people, to millions of livelihoods based on tourism - rely on coral reefs. As such, we ponder: should environmentalists be more explicit about what is really going on within our planet, our biosphere, our home?
There are many more environmental issues Team Albatross pays attention to. Toxins, for example, surround us in modern day life. Most of them are not regulated. Others, like the attention-gaining PFAS or “forever chemicals” are beginning to be regulated, yet somehow already found in the blood of essentially every living human being. We want to know why. We want to know how. And we believe that humanity should be explicit in asking these questions and uncovering these answers. These are questions fundamental to the quality of life all living beings can enjoy. Importantly, summarizing an environmental policy solely under the heading of “climate change” will neglect to address these questions.
Ultimately we believe that healthy natural systems are integral to healthy, and therefore, happier people. We also believe that there is intrinsic value in biodiversity. Having surfed with, say, dolphins and whales, we have been touched by their majesty. We believe their existence, and the continuation of all species, has unseen value to humanity. What would the world be without dolphins? Or, birds? Or, even spiders in your tub? The importance of bees is now better understood, and the bees create direct value for humans by pollinating our crops. But beyond that use value, we feel all animals have a certain artistic value to humanity. They trigger our imagination, inspire us to fly, and even at times show us how to be a true friend (we love dogs!).
Environmentalism means so many things to us and we certainly only began to scratch the surface above. Earth’s biosphere is complex, diverse and beautiful. We hope this beauty lasts eternally. We also feel starting conversations about these things could have great value that ripples through society.
A long time ago, a member of our team read Michel Serres’ book The Natural Contract. In this book, Serres posits that civilization must create a ‘contract’ of sorts where we lay out how to treat the planet. This contract is in many senses akin to the ‘social contract’ that began to evolve as early as the 16th century. Because we were so inspired by this idea, our team recently launched NaturalContract.com. Our goal with this site is to spark widespread discussion on all of the complex issues our environment must reckon with, then to identify potential solutions, and work together to bring these solutions to life. Please check it out, participate in the dialog, and help us find creative solutions to protect our beloved planet!