Is our shift to a sustainable future really dependent on tearing up the seafloor?
That’s the question that needs to be asked about deep seabed mining; an emerging industry that intends to extract minerals from the seafloor to meet the growing demand for the metals used to create smartphones, solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles.
Marine habitats such as abyssal plains, seamounts and hydrothermal vents, which are widely regarded as the potential origin of all life on earth and took millenia to form, could be destroyed in this quest for metals and minerals such as nickel, copper and cobalt.
Few are aware of deep seabed mining and the destruction it will cause if allowed to go ahead. Although the impacts remain unknown, projections suggest that biodiversity loss would be inevitable and likely irreversible. The activity could impact tens of thousands of square kilometres of seabed in deep abyssal plain areas and potentially release toxic chemicals and sediment plumes.
Just because the deep sea is out of sight does not mean it doesn’t affect us; it is essential to maintain our climate, holds potential biomedical breakthroughs and wildlife that science is only beginning to understand.
Deep seabed mining threatens this; so WWF approached us to help them elevate the issue in the public consciousness.
Together we set about creating a set of animations that highlight the mystery, wonder and fragility of the deep sea and what is at stake. Because the deep sea is hidden from our everyday view but holds incredible value, we wanted to make something of this and decided early in the creative process that the animations needed to immerse the viewer. The deep sea is home to remarkable and enchanting wildlife such as the Caspar octopus, Deep sea cucumbers, Pacific white skate, Pelagic siphonophores and Glass sponges; all of which provided us with rich material to amaze the audience. To achieve this our talented illustrator Maria dived into exploring videos and photos of wildlife and echoed those in her own style.
During the process, we came to understand that science knows far more about the moon than the seafloor of the planet we live on. We decided to include a scene of the moon to show how absurd that fact is.
It was also imperative for the animations to link the deep sea to the lives of those watching. At first this seemed tricky when so few people have visited the deep sea. Instead we chose the very thing most people have access to and would be watching the animations on; a smartphone or tablet.
The minerals that deep seabed mining will destroy the seafloor to extract are already in their hands. This changes the question from where do we get more of these minerals to how can we innovate to reuse the minerals we already have easy access to? Instead the question is how to push the boundaries of innovation and infrastructure to allow us to recycle our old devices as if it was second-nature.
Because ultimately, as our partner at WWF put it: “How can we ever build a truly sustainable circular economy if we continue to use finite resources?”