Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Go Slow: For Our Planet and Our Health

I recently ran across Lloyd Alter's Treehugger article "Go Slow to Help Slow the Climate Crisis" while scrolling my social media feed. It was a good read here in the winter, when the time of the year lending itself to cold, chilly, and hibernating. I like the idea of being more deliberate in our approaches to our choice. 

However, the most striking part about this whole article was that it was dated December 30, 2019. 2019! Only 3 years ago, but given the past 3 years, three years can feel like a lifetime ago.

Moreover, December 2019 was ironically 3 months before the start of the Covid 19 pandemic started mid-March 2020. The pandemic which forced all of us to "go slow" for months (and some of us, now, for years).

Alter's 2019 article focuses on slow food, slow cities, slow travel, slow cars, and slow space. And it makes sense how these would make a greater impact on our planet:
  • Slow Food: Eating locally, seasonally, and in a farm-to-table manner means our food travels shorter distances, provides us with greater nutrients, and makes a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Slow Cities: Walkable cities and town centers with no cars helps bring about a greater reliance on local businesses. It grows connection and community and lowers greenhouse gases.
  • Slow Travel: Planes are carbon intensive. A shift to alternative travel promotes less emissions and more opportunity to slow down, take a look around, and smell the roses as you go. 
  • Slow Cars: Driving a little slower or a smaller car saves on fuel, emissions, and improves your gas mileage (which saves you money). Carpooling and public transportation also help in congested communities.
  • Slow Space: There's a lot of cheap, poorly constructed, toxic materials in the items we bring into our homes. Making smart decisions with what you do and don't bring into your home benefits the planet that houses it.
All excellent points in moving slower intentionally to help promote the planet. In a way, though, in reading this article retrospectively in 2023, it reads like a premonition.

As a planet of people who have collectively lived through a pandemic, there has been a lot of shift in people's perspective on community, health, wellness, and personal decisions. While we were all living through the pandemic, life seemed to be screaming "less is more!" For many of us, it still does. 

However, as more people are seeing Covid 19 in the rearview mirror (whether that is medically accurate or not), the desire to "return to normal" is causing the "go slow" lessons learned these past 3 years to dissipate like fog. Is it just me, or does it seems like people are starting to forget? More importantly, should we forget??

This idea of going slow also parallels the "quiet quitting" movement that has gained traction this past year. As Cal Newport (author of Digital Mimimalism) described in his 12/29/22 New Yorker article "The Year in Quiet Quitting," quiet quitting is when you maintain your employment, but you stick with your listed job requirements. You draw stricter boundaries between home and work--especially as it has become blurred, blended together with remote work, zoom meetings, or email pings all weekend long. You do your job, but you stop burning the midnight oil going over and above. It will all be there tomorrow. Your goal: to make sure you have a life along the way. 

Lives most certainly are meant to be lived, and we do only have one of them. 

As a 30+ year veteran teacher, I have noticed that wealth of articles specifically tying all of these ideas together. Teachers were the March 2020 heroes who readied for remote learning at a moment's notice. That revered reputation was short-lived. In fact, life back in the classroom intensified with greater demands when the kids all came back in class. Teachers left the workforce in droves, leaving current teachers to double up due to no substitutes. Also for those who stayed, they are dealing with increased concerns about student socialization/behavior, "learning loss" (a term I hate), and growing mental health issues. 

We learned so much during the pandemic--and we want those lessons to not go by lost, in vain. We need to remember: less is still more. Slow and steady still wins the race. These 3 articles that have spoken loudly to me about all of this:
As I write this post and reflect on going slow for our planet, our health, our students, and our classrooms, I have homemade soup simmering on my stove. I chuckle at the irony as it makes for a good metaphor. Sure, I could put my soup on a high heat and "cook it up quick." But, it is through the marinading and the melding of ingredients where the magic happens. The end product is full of flavor to savor. That slow simmering pace feels like it has a wealth of benefit. Strikes me the same with life. Especially if peppered with a lot of time spent outdoors, in exploration and adventure.

As Ferris Bueller once said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Seems like good advice for both humans taking care of themselves and their planet!

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