As a science communication brand, I think we have a responsibility to make it clear that all are welcome here. You can be an environmentalist and also be fiscally conservative. You can eat seafood and also advocate for animal rights. You can commit yourself to helping end global warming and still fly in an airplane or eat a hamburger once in a while. Solving complex social issues doesn’t require an all or nothing attitude because most of us live somewhere in the middle.
Humanity’s response to Coronavirus offers a once-in-a-lifetime teachable moment, especially as it relates to the environmental crisis, a blanket term I use to categorize everything from ocean pollution to species extinction to global warming. Now before you jump to conclusions and write me off as an opportunist trying to relate their seemingly unrelated cause to this global pandemic, hear me out.
Standing along the banks of a small stream and watching sockeye drag themselves over rocks to reach their home while getting predated on by bears, eagles and gulls was an impactful moment I’ll never forget. These weren’t just fish, they were intelligent, tenacious, and fearless animals that refused to quit. Their struggle and fortitude was equal parts depressing and inspiring. But above all, it made me want to work harder in my own life and I loved them for that.
When we decided to start manufacturing clothing years ago, we had an initial goal of doing no environmental harm. As a company, we existed to communicate science and help solve the environmental crisis and thought it would be extremely hypocritical if we didn’t practice what we preach in our own business. How hard could it be?
I had a safe career working in the fashion industry in New York City; a steady salary and a tangible trajectory at a great company. And then I quit. I hopped in my car, jam-packed with all my belongings (sans a few boxes of pencil skirts, heels, and other corporate attire that would end up stored at my parents' house indefinitely) and headed south for Miami to help launch an environmental clothing startup.
My hand hovered over the trackpad as I contemplated the repercussions of the impending decision: to buy a plane ticket to Australia or not? It was Thanksgiving 2011, my second year as a PhD student, and I had been invited to film an interesting field experiment on rip currents down under.