The Inherent Hubris of Business

I think it’s time we all ask the question: why are we in business if not to leave the world a better place? 

The tragedy of our time is undeniably the ecocide taking place on a scale that in the eyes of most was content to remain mere science-fiction. Unfortunately the all too familiar narrative of anthropocentric dominion is nothing new. Yet the current gravity of our planet’s prognosis illustrated by sources like the UN’s IPCC 2018 climate report conveys the severity of our moment in a new light. There is no denying it; this is our generations’ fight.

 
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If we listen, we can hear scientists and intellectuals across generations sounding alarms from all corners of the globe. Yet the seismic shifts they are prescribing seem to many too costly and unattainable in a world that’s grown accustomed to the luxury of convenience. In recent interviews along with his new book The Uninhabitable Earth, journalist David Wallace-Wells outlines an incredibly grim forecast for us. Describing what he refers to as the “elements of chaos” the reader bears witness to vivid portrayals of not only what will in all likelihood happen to our planet, but equal parts shockingly recent history that we have all too easily forgotten. Take for example the European heatwave of 2003 that left a staggering death toll of 35,000 in its wake. This was over fifteen years ago. More recent still, five of the twenty worst fires in California’s history were recorded in 2017 alone.  It gets worse still with wildfire destruction projected to increase twofold by 2050. But amid the harsh reality of science it’s here that we begin to find hope. We couldn’t be more in this fight together if we tried. Wallace-Wells seems to make it abundantly clear, no single individual will tip the scale in either direction as it currently stands. To the contrary, this is where we begin to find the power we hold as individuals. That power lies in our decisions and the ownership we choose to take over them.

Now let’s consider the role of business in our planetary equation. In and of itself business implies a broad range of obligations. We each take pride tending to matters of personal business we find most pressing in our lives. Most common of all we can likely agree the idea of business also drums up notions of trade + commerce. What is all too often taken on its face to be an unshakable meme, business is in fact a malleable concept defined time and again by the dominant paradigms of both society and the individual. Speaking as a couple of 90s kids ourselves, it feels like we’re still living in a paradigm the eighties came to reward: growth, by any means necessary. The all too dismissive platitudes “it’s just business” or “it’s not personal, it’s business” come to mind. But that’s just it, at its core business should be personal. The businesses we choose to build are a reflection of the values we hold most true. And yet here we find ourselves, at the culmination of decades dictated by a boom and bust model. Infinite growth built upon the shaky foundation of finite resources. But alternative models exist.

We were fortunate enough to grow up with an early love for outdoors. Along the way many of us developed an affinity towards the brands we’d seen atop peaks as well as on the frontlines of environmental activism of our day. Hell, one such company fancies itself “the activist company.” I’m looking at you Patagonia. But in all seriousness, there’s a certain obligation to use whatever platform one might have to address the wrongs we witness. If you grew up with cinematic masterpiece The Boondock Saints then like us you know as well as anyone the greatest evil is the indifference of good men. And this is where business has the opportunity to impart solutions congruent to the forces at play such as progressive legislation or the nonprofit sector. Just as brands like Patagonia, Askov Finlayson (a personal favorite of late) and others of comparable clout have rallied around the cause of our home planet, we’re starting to see a new chapter in business unfold. One defined by principles over profits. While the two are not mutually exclusive, we must remember to tend to the former if we expect anything of substance to come from our business. We’re confident the latter will follow suit.

We aim to confront this head on at Remnant. The titular question is at play here; why us? Despite anyone’s best intentions, to start any business is to say, “We have something of value to offer and you should compensate us for it.” As it relates to Remnant, we find it less a question of whether or not to start but rather to add another business to our planet. One can all but assume it will be an uphill battle. Not to mention the inevitable costs associated with starting any business. The global environmental and economic challenges we face today are overwhelming and too difficult for anyone to comprehend in their totality. Wallace-Wells helps make sense of this when he describes climate change as what the theorist Timothy Morton calls a hyberobject—a conceptual fact so large and complex it can never be properly comprehended. Recognizing the inherent challenges this provides, marrying our environmental and economic realities is paramount to the success of our business model. 

As daunting as these challenges are, our goal remains simple. The Remnant Society will serve as an alternative to an increasingly spurious narrative: that our future has been dictated by our past. We believe it is within our power for each of us to live and work in harmony with our planet; to right the ship so to speak. At the same time, it’s equally unrealistic to expect the change we so desperately need without thriving economic examples rooted in a redefined notion of success. This is where we believe our guiding philosophy offers some solace. 

 
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Our aim with Remnant is to build a lifestyle as much as a product and our philosophy lies at the core of both. In doing so, we believe the intentions we choose to engage with daily carry through in the lives we live and the business we’re building. To curate or intend anything demands participation on the part of the individual. That is to say one must take pause and reflect in order to distill anything of true value. The same holds true if we are to intend a future of substance. No one can do this for us. But therein lies the power of community. We can choose to empower one another and support our efforts to make more informed choices. Recognizing this is truly empowering. We sincerely hope The Remnant Society can help set an example and foster a community that strives for better together. 

Imperfect as we all may be, humans have always found great strength in the stories we tell and the communities we build around them. And despite the shallow pool of connection sitting within most of our pockets, ironically enough each with a multitude of apps designed to help us share our daily story, so many of us remain isolated in the golden age of digital. To add insult to injury our home planet is dying by our own hand. This reality can all too easily manifest in a sense of helplessness or, possibly worse, futility. And yet, if we cannot spur the change needed in the individual, society at large doesn’t stand a chance. How can we expect a system to change if those of us that comprise it remain stagnant? As individuals we might not always make the best decision but we believe Remnant want to help make some a little simpler. It’s not just about buying hat or t-shirt made from recycled plastic, it’s about choosing one path over another. It’s about living a better story. Choosing to invest in a small business not only sends a strong economic message, it unites maker and consumer on a path that to this day remains challenging despite so many of our modern conveniences. 

History affords us examples of folks who have bucked trends choosing rather to rally support from a community of kindred spirits in pursuit of deeper roots. My mind goes to communities built our music in support of a shared dream. As lifelong fans of music ourselves, we’ve built The Remnant Society in the likeness of what feels more akin to a band than a business. Just like that garage band you started with your best buds, the dream that inspired us to take our first step continues to define us and is what drives us to this day. Holding ourselves accountable can be challenging at times but it’s the only path that leads to something greater than ourselves. And yet, there’s no single answer to address the issues we face as a species and planet. One could argue to live in isolation of the most limited of means may contribute least to our growing list of concerns; but little if any progress will be found here. Instead choosing to engage with our present reality and aspiring to intend our collective future affords each of us the opportunity for growth. Together we can rewrite the doom and gloom narrative one choice at a time.

We certainly appreciate the love + support.

Peace,

T

T CallahanComment