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Time to slow down


For those of you to whom the idea of owning Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak appeals, here is a real-life experience from someone who found that a high-vis yellow jacket can have the same effect if worn in the right context.

Mike Baird, an Australian politician, apparently spends one day each year on the streets of his constituency selling The Big Issue. On his most recent outing, and despite wearing the above-mentioned high-vis yellow jacket, Mike was struck by the number of people who hurried passed him in the street with heads down, desperate to avoid eye contact.

It seemed reminiscent to me of our attitude to many of the environmental issues facing society today. These issues are uncomfortable to acknowledge, for in doing so we might have to admit to our personal contribution to the situation and, worse still, actually take some responsibility for change. It’s easier to simply brush past the problems and leave them for someone else to deal with whilst we get on with our busy lives.

Returning to the invisibility cloak. Mike Baird’s conclusion was that it wasn’t fun being invisible. In fact, it was really lonely. Humans are a sociable species. We thrive on contact with other humans, just as we thrive on contact with the natural world.

In our pursuit of immediate gratification, in our rush to achieve our goals, we  can end up isolating ourselves from other people and from our communities. In so doing we are actually creating a very lonely world for ourselves – the opposite of what might truly give us the happiness we crave.

The image of this post features a leopard tortoise in Northern Namibia. A gentle reminder to slow down to a tortoise’s pace from time to time. Maybe to take a moment to smile at the next Big Issue seller you see in the street, perhaps even to stop and talk to him or her.

I believe that our lack of compassion for each other is at the heart of today’s sustainability issues.  It’s about our interaction with other members of the human race, not just our interaction with the natural world.

Maybe a few slow tortoise steps every day could help to bring about positive change?