In a previous article, I promised to tell you how Untraced has developed since our mission changed. I promised to keep you informed on our progress, discoveries, and learnings but, I haven’t done any of this yet… Until today 😇
For the last five months, I have been doing everything I can to publicize the project and clothes in the most ethical way possible. I’m testing online and offline processes and considering all possibilities to make the brand run smoothly. I’ve also been preparing to move back and live in Europe, where I predict Untraced will have more traction than in Australia. In addition, I’m learning a little more each day about global warming, and the more I discover, the more I find this subject fascinating.
This sweet program occupies all my days and generates both satisfaction and stress. Developing a D2C brand in an oversaturated fashion market is complicated and the current unstable context does not make it easier. It is difficult to anticipate.
Nevertheless, after the past few months of activity, I can say three things are true:
- An ecological commitment in our case, as in the majority of others, slows us down. I had already mentioned it before and my suspicions have been confirmed. Doing things well is expensive. And pushing people to consume less means selling less.
- Establishing healthy and consistent guidelines gives us very little in return. It’s sometimes frustrating and discouraging to see other brands operating haphazardly, and in return, growing more successful than us.
- Global warming is not considered as big an issue as it should be, and it’s really confusing to see the subject so ignored when it’s so important. Needless to say, it's not a good selling point.
Yes… My observations are not so crazy, given what we have already put in place, are they?
But still, when you think about it, it all makes terrific sense! Doesn’t it? Committing to the environment is necessary and difficult to reprove… am I wrong? Wanting to operate in a virtuous way is better than continuing to maintain a consumerist system… No? Talking about global warming, when we are convinced that its consequences will be dramatic in the near future, cannot be a foolish thing to do… Can it?
Come along, I'll give you my answers!
Yes, of course it all makes terrific sense! That's why so many mission-driven companies and truly ethical brands keep fighting everyday for what they believe in. They know what they’re doing is right, even if it’s hard. They know that their mission/vision is crucial and that our world needs it. They know that, in the end, they will have the last word, because we will soon have no choice but to do as they say.
It’s clear that going against the grain of the market is dangerous today, but frankly, isn't it more fun and challenging to try something new rather than pay for clicks like everybody else? Patagonia and Veja are my guiding lights in the fashion world. They don't function the same as everyone else, instead they break market codes, they don't play the game of ruthless advertising or fundraising, and yet they’re superstars. This is beautiful to see. They show that another way is possible, even if it takes time and energy. Today, in our globalized world, we need this kind of story more than anything.
There you go, that was an introduction to our thoughts on our positioning in the fashion market… 😁
Then, I must say that I hesitated a lot about how to approach and deliver these posts. Talking about Untraced and our story was an option. Talking about sustainability, circularity or upcycling was another. But many entrepreneurs are already brilliantly sharing their vision in relation to these topics and I wouldn’t be contributing much by also doing it myself.
I’m tempted to talk about global warming though; I am tempted to share my journey and discoveries on the subject. Why? Because when I started to take an interest in climate change, I would have felt reassured when reading feedback from people who preceded me. I would have loved to learn from their reflections, doubts and struggles. I would have liked to browse their blogs and benefit from their advice. Fortunately, I met a few people who guided me (🙏🙏🙏), but I still would have liked to hear more from my advisors about their backgrounds and moods to be able to situate myself and feel less alone.
My goal here is to share what I learn and how I feel about it. I will talk about the subjects that capture me the most. There will be no specific order to the topics covered, I will just write on what’s important in the moment. Global warming is a vast, complex, controversial and worrying subject and, by writing on it, I hope to provide answers to some and inspire others to learn as well.
Disclaimer: it’s possible I’m wrong or I’m not precise enough sometimes, I’m not an expert, I’m a newbie. It’s possible that I popularize too much at times, or that I issue hypotheses or opinions, but I will make sure that these are clear and they’re my sole responsibility. Feel free to correct me when necessary.
Are you tempted to go on this journey with me?!
Today, I’ll tell you how I came to be interested in global warming and what I’ve done so far. I will also slip in some tips for those who are interested.
Where my head’s at in the end of 2020:
I don't know anything about global warming. I've seen the subject covered many times on the internet, I've read headlines in the newspapers, I've vaguely heard of the IPCC and greenhouse gas emissions, but I never looked into the subject.
I have just finished a crowdfunding campaign, we are one month away from Christmas and I am listening to an episode of the Thinkerview podcast (chosen somewhat by chance) in which Jean Marc Jancovici and Philippe Bihouix speak. The episode titled “Croissance et effondrement (Growth and Collapse)” is fascinating but I don't understand everything. Why speak of collapse? Everything is fine, right?
At one point in the episode, they talk about a book that explains the situation well. Its title: “Comment tout peut s’effondrer (How everything can collapse)” written by Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens. I order the book, I start it and PAF! Big slap! I discover the risks associated with climate change, and the fragility of our global system.
In parallel with my reading, I listen to more episodes from the same podcast, which also deal with climate change, but also with energy and the environment. Pablo Servigne is involved in some of the episodes.
Where I’m at in the beginning of 2021:
I’m continuing my exploration. I watch interviews, debates, etc. I read articles and try to understand what’s going on. I learn about nuclear power, sea levels rising and radiative forcing (this one is tense). I try to grasp the financial, political and geopolitical interests hidden behind the speeches of heads of state.
I try to understand what the real threshold is; +1.5 degrees? +2 degrees? +2.5 degrees? When it is important not to exceed the latter, in 2030? 2040? 2050? 2100? The numbers and dates vary depending on the sources, and so does the share of emissions that each industry accounts for.
I try to find my way around the COPS, the Paris agreements and the climate demonstrations. I digest newspaper articles and books as they come to me. I get information by hanging out on Linkedin, I feed on the opinions of supposed opinion leaders and I realize that, in the end, so many components of the problem still escape me and I find it difficult to make the link between all of them.
At the same time, I am moving forward on Untraced and I realize that in business too, we are talking about global warming. Many brands, directly competing or not, take up the subject on their own and proclaim themselves Carbon Neutral, Net-Zero or Climate positive (do you know the difference? Personally, I was lost).
The big fashion brands suddenly call themselves champions of sustainable development, they become “conscious” and make lots of green-colored ads to talk about it. Sports equipment manufacturers make sneakers from waste they collect from the ocean and make videos showing how they save the planet from disaster.
Outside of fashion, I note the same trend. Airlines are planting trees to offset their emissions and are making beautiful infographics to conclude that they will be at the top in 2050. Car manufacturers are setting new, very strict standards, to now offer non-polluting and environmentally-friendly vehicles because they understand the magnitude of the problem.
In short, it's a happy mess and the more I advance, the more everything seems to confuse me. Who is telling the truth? Who lies? Can we start from the beginning?
In March 2021, a friend calls me and asks if a place for a workshop called La Fresque du Climat might interest me. I answer yes, I go, and then everything becomes clearer. The workshop is a game, interactive and dynamic, very playful and clear. The players are placed in front of several piles of cards which, once placed in the correct order, one after the other, clearly trace the causes and consequences of climate change. The conversations are fascinating, the atmosphere is good-natured, and I finally understand how all the ins and outs of the problem are linked.
After the game, Laure and Matt, who lead the workshop, split the group into two and start a discussion. We talk about the problem and we talk about concrete solutions, at our level and in regards to society. At the end of the three hours, our facilitators recommend that we read and continue to inform ourselves because that is the important thing to do. To be informed. They give us lots of good sources of information and I follow their advice.
If I had to start all over again, the first thing I would do is go to this workshop, without any hesitation! Starting there, I would have had a global understanding of the problem more quickly. The photo at the top of this article was taken after this first workshop.
The climate Fresk exists in many countries and sessions are organized regularly by volunteer facilitators. The level of knowledge doesn’t matter and whether you are a complete beginner or a super expert, you are bound to get something positive out of these three hours. I quote at the bottom of this article, the resources that I read during these last months. The list is not exhaustive but it’s a great start. I’m aware there are still plenty of resources I have yet to discover and I look forward to doing so.
Between April and July 2021, I continue to train myself on global warming, while working on Untraced. And the more time passes, the more I tell myself that I should connect the two. The further I go, the more I realize that climate change is a fight that drives me more than making golf inclusive and cool; a mission nevertheless remains fascinating and very necessary. The more time passes, the more I want to create the first sustainable golf brand, and engage Untraced with concrete initiatives that will tackle global warming.
In August 2021, we resume with the project and pivot towards a new philosophy, mission, text, and website. Conveniently, the products leave the factory exactly when we put everything new online. Perfect timing.
In September 2021, we carry out many actions consistent with our new mission. In particular, we integrate a movement in France called En Mode Climat, which intends to shake up fast fashion by changing the laws. We continue planting seeds right to left, and then as the end of the year approaches, I start thinking about 2022. Normal, right?
I participated in a second Climate Fresk in November 2021, and I then decided to push further and follow a training course to become a Climate Fresk facilitator. The latter takes place during one morning in December 2021, and is very well done. We review the overall organization of a Fresk; the timing to follow, the content to study, and the way to answer questions and comments.
Finally, in February 2022, I co-facilitated my first Climate Fresk. To say I’m stressed and uncomfortable is an understatement and fortunately I am not the only one supervising this workshop otherwise the participants would have been disappointed! Two other presenters are with me and beautifully speak for these three hours, during which I say about seven words (but seven words is a good start right?). A very interesting exchange follows the game and I come out of there reassembled, telling myself that soon, I too could manage a group by not burdening myself with this fucking impostor syndrome!
And here I am now!
Today, I continue to learn and I await the next Fresk. On the business side, Untraced is developing and plans are becoming clear. As I said, we are doing everything we can to promote the brand and we will start testing traction in Europe soon.
Here it is! Any questions? If so, please shoot!
To end this article, I would like to speak about three subjects that are important to know when you start to take an interest in climate change:
- Management of emotions.
- The ambient denial that we encounter on this subject.
- The right way to address skeptics.
Managing emotions when you start taking an interest in climate change: A year and a half ago, I knew nothing about global warming and I lived in complete ignorance of my impact by consuming and traveling as the majority of people do today. Since this subject has become more familiar to me, I have been asking myself a lot of questions about my/our lifestyles and I must say that these questions are far from easy.
Indeed, stopping global warming is such an immense challenge (which requires that we all completely rethink and change our lifestyles) that I often feel completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge. I try to act at my level and live more consciously by paying attention to the way I consume and move around, but I always have the impression that my efforts, and the new constraints attached to them, are insignificant and unnecessary, especially when you live in a country where people are largely unaware of the problem and emit an average of 16 tonnes of CO2 per year per inhabitant.
Since I studied the subject, I go through multiple states of mind every week (incomprehension, anger, frustration, joy, sadness, weariness, discouragement, disappointment, resignation, guilt, despair, helplessness, etc.) and this roller coaster, inherent to the problem, is impactful and hard to manage. Be aware, you, who are starting to take an interest in climate change! What you're doing is insane and you're totally right to get into it, but take care, because the road is long and it's difficult to go back afterwards.
The ambient denial that we encounter in the face of this subject: The subject is not a popular one in the world. Starting to take an interest in global warming and talking about it also means coming up against very strong resistance from people and facing general, sometimes brutal, denial.
When I started talking about the subject to the people around me, I came to wonder why it was hated, and I found clarification in the book “Comment tout peut s’effondrer” , by Pablo Servigne and Raphael Stevens. This book didn’t reassure me at all, but it allowed me to take a step back. Servigne and Stevens explain there are three major reasons (among others) why people don't care about global warming, even though it poses a real threat to them.
- The 1st reason is cognitive. Our brains do not perceive danger posed by a threat that’s too distant. They don’t see it and therefore do not take it into consideration. When we talk about global warming, we often talk about 2050, hypothetical risks, and consequences that don’t affect us directly. In short, we are talking about something that isn’t there, so we skip it. Conversely, we are well equipped to deal with immediate problems, the consequences of which are felt directly. Perfect example: COVID. The disease suddenly appeared in 2020, it was visible, dangerous, deadly, and many measures were directly taken to fight against it. We all complied, without asking any questions, and we quickly arrived at very convincing results.
- The 2nd reason is our obsession with growth / believing technology will save us. These two ideas have been repeated to us relentlessly since childhood and they’re still relayed by media, novels, and films on a daily basis. These ideas hold a place of indestructible myth in our brains so that any idea or proposal outside this sacred framework is brushed aside. It’s not uncommon today to hear speeches such as: we must grow! Produce more, and move forward! Why? Because we have no choice, because the economy is made to only support growth. We’re told that growing will lead to solutions and miracle technologies. These are the perfect reflections of myths deeply rooted in us.
- The 3rd reason is our ability to deny dangers that seem too hard to face. We know the origin of global warming, we no longer dispute the risks, but we do not react. It’s too difficult and it involves too many changes in our lives. So, we get used to these dangers and put them aside. When we’re told about it, we prefer to oppose the existence of these risks, which upset our vision of the world too much, and we spend a lot of time looking for good reasons to justify this behavior.
Do these reasons speak to you? Personally, it scared me but it also allowed me to put things into perspective. Then, I logically wondered how to talk to skeptical people.
The right way to address skeptics: Participating in the Fresks and talking to the facilitators helped me a lot to see more clearly how to address skeptics. It turns out, there’s not one way to do it, but several. We all react differently to messages delivered to us and the best way to deliver an important message is to adapt to your audience, while knowing the risk that each strategy entails.
Here are the possible approaches and associated risks:
- To scare by talking about the consequences of climate change, at the risk of seeing people shut down or being insulted and therefore you lose all credibility
- Stay smooth, at the risk of not being heard
- Be factual, talk about figures, at the risk of being taken for a killjoy, spoiler of the evening and not open to debate
- Or tell stories, this might be the best solution that has been advised to me so far. First, finding common ground with and then linking climate change to our lives to give a personalized explanation.
Do you have other ideas? I'd love to hear them.
That's all for today. I hope you enjoyed this first article and the various points covered will help you take a step back if you are interested in the subject! It's not all screwed up! It is important to say it! But the battle will take a little time... In the next article, I really want to talk about carbon offsetting and greenwashing. I love these topics right now, and I'll try to talk about them as clearly as possible.
Here's a non-exhaustive list of interesting sources that have been recommended to me. I only quote here the resources I’ve read, aware there is still plenty more to discover.
IPCC is the bible, it’s irrefutable science. It may not be the easiest to read but for me it’s the basics. The IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a scientific body attached to the United Nations, whose mission is to provide detailed assessments of the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its causes, its potential repercussions and the strategies to adopt to prevent it. The reports are dense, and therefore not very digestible, but the summaries for leaders are accessible. The IPCC has just released a new report on February 28, 2022, and it’s often from the incredible work of these groups of scientists that all the content available online today is developed. This is THE most reliable and credible source of global warming.
Easy to read:
- Le changement climatique expliqué à ma fille, by Jean-Marc Jancovici
- Le climat en 100 questions, by Gilles Ramstein and Sylvestre Huet.
- Les limites planétaires, by Natacha Gondran and Aurélien Boutaud.
- Saison Brune, by Philippe Squarzoni.
There are three accessible books making noise at the moment but I haven't read them yet:
- Tout comprendre (ou presque) sur le climat, by Claire Marc, Anne Brès and Thomas Wagner.
- Le Monde sans fin, miracle énergétique et dérive climatique, by Christophe Blain and Jean Marc Jancovici.
- Chroniques énergétiques, by Greg de Temmerman.
- L'âge des low tech, by Philippe Bihouix.
- How to Change Everything, by Naomi Klein.
- Plan B pour la planète, by Naomi Klein.
- Rise And Resist, How To Change The World, by Clare Press.
A bit difficult to read:
- Comment tout peut s’effondrer, by Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens.
- Une autre fin du monde est possible, by Pablo Servigne, Raphaël Stevens and Gauthier Chapelle.
- Devant l’effondrement, by Yves Cochet.
- Limits to Growth, by Donella and Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers.
- Bon Pote, was very warmly recommended to me after doing the Fresk and frankly, I go there every week.
- The Shift Project, the think tank of Jean Marc Jancovici.
- TED - climate talks (there are several to listen to).
- Le réveilleur
- Understanding Climate Change
Other sources, interesting projects and personalities to follow:
- ADEME, the ecological transition agency.
- Time For The Planet, a great project, and great entrepreneurs.
- Work For Climate, a great project, in Australia, and great entrepreneurs.
- Magelan, their content is super clear.
- Valérie Masson Delmotte, one of the most knowledgeable on the subject.
- Jean Marc Jancovici, I mentioned him several times in this article.