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The pace of nature.

Going for a walk in a forest, is a lesson in the pace of nature.

What if you to leave your phone at home today, and go for a half-hour’s walk in a woodland? What might be waiting at the end?

There might be upwards of ten emails, and a few social messages. Tiny distractions, waiting on your device for your immediate attention.

But in the forest itself, not much might have happened. You might have noticed a few leaves fall from trees. You might have caught a glimpse or two of wildlife scurrying about in the undergrowth.

The same would have been your experience if you’d have taken a walk fifty years ago.

If you were lucky enough to go for a walk in the same woodland fifty years from now, it might also look about the same. Similar familiar outlines of trees would break the skyline. Much the same creatures would be existing in much the same patterns of behaviour.

If it was the same season as before, then you might notice a few leaves fall from trees. Or catch a glimpse or two of wildlife scurrying about in the undergrowth and looking for food.

By then you’ll be on your tenth or twentieth new phone. If phones even still exist as they do now. Maybe you’ll have ten hologram voicemails. Maybe seven emails from the AI assistant in your fridge, and a missed call from your cousin on the moon.

The point is that not much appears to happen in nature in each moment, but it is slow and relentless. Nature has existed, adapted, and continued to exist at its own pace, despite the accelerating pace of our own lives.

I haven’t read anything about trees growing faster to accommodate our desire to cut them down and burn them. There are no reports of bushes learning to grow strawberries in Summer, and blackberries in Autumn. And then potatoes in the Winter, to make themselves more efficient for human needs.

That is of course also the appeal of nature. It helps us to appreciate stillness. It gives us space to breathe, and at the same time provides interesting things to look at in a passive way. You can see things without looking, and give your eyes and your soul a detox.

It reminds us how small and insignificant the human moment is. How soil always smells like soil, and has for thousands of years.

Nature just does, and is.

So why are we destroying something so peaceful? So still? So good for our souls?

In the words of the WWF: in the time that it takes say ‘deforestation’, another chunk of forest the size of a football pitch has been destroyed. This happens every minute, every hour, every day.

And that is just trees, never mind the habitats and ecosystems that are also connected to the trees.

I know that catchy stats are becoming fashionable, which has begun to lessen their impact. But the topic is serious and complicated. Which makes statements with impact a good way of helping people like to me understand the scale.

It is a reminder also that the largest impact of deforestation happens many, many miles from window that I am gazing out of right now. But this does not mean it isn’t happening.

I think we can all see at least a football pitch sized space outside our house or office window. It may be a garden or tarmac, piazza, or other houses. Imagining them being bulldozed in two seconds, is a good visualisation exercise.

I want to do something. Something that makes me think about nature, and about connection.

Should I go out and plant a tree, ten trees, a hundred trees, and million trees?

It is easy to say, but difficult to do. We don’t all have the space to plant trees. I also believe it is also irresponsible to go around guerilla planting trees. But there are immediate things we can do. Rather than doing it directly, regular donations help pressure groups to make change at a level that individuals cannot.

We can also buy products that promise to plant or re-plant trees. We can buy paper and other tree products less, or from responsible sources.

Yet, I wanted to go further and also make a change on top that reminded me of nature. A permanent reminder of the pace and fragility of nature.

A change that will keep nature in mind. A permanent daily thought. Something that will create a new habit, and a planetwise habit.

My choice is not to look outside the house but inside, for now. I have decided to learn more about the pace of nature, by caring for more plants in the house.

If this feels like a small change to many, I have to apologise. But in our house, to say we are minimalist when it comes to vegetation, is an understatement.

We have tried in the past to grow herbs, to keep gifted orchids or other plants alive. But our basil wilts, coriander goes brown andnature dies, and the petals of anything in a pot fall off within a few weeks. We under-water, than panic and overwater.

It is going well. And it has been fun. Our window sills are alive with green. We feel good. We have herbs in the kitchen and succulent plants around the house.

Even in this small connection I have learned and connected with others. Our local pizza restaurant taught us to only water fragile herbs from the bottom. Our friends and family have given tips on patience, observation.

They are of course not an alternative to replanting rainforests. They are not a conscious soothing balm to avoid thinking about the bigger decisions. And that is not the purpose.

They are a reminder, that when we can we should be aware, donate, and make choices that are kind to the planet. When we water them, we are then more likely to make another good choice, as we have nature on our mind. Tending to them, is a habit that is meditative and progressive.

The habit is small, but is additional to our lives. I will still go for walks. I will still consider the statistics, and not think that somehow this fulfils my responsibility as a human being. I will still seek out the big skies, and still consider the big picture. I will still smell the soil, and remember that we are just visiting this planet. That we should be more respectful to nature.

It has reminded me to be thoughtful. To care about the planet every day in a small way as well as trying to make big changes when I can. To be individual and collective in pressure to protect natural areas.

We are all connected, and if we have a spare windowsill, why not fill it with green. If we have space on our desks, why not fill it with green, and then start each work day by taking half a minute to tend to it.

Little opportunities such as this have an impact directly, and they can have an impact attitudinally. They can change how we see the world.

A succulent or a houseplant is small, and the scale of deforestation is huge.

But if we work together, we can all give our planet another tiny bit of help to breathe easier.

For an extended version of this post, please check out the Planetwise Pod!



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