Slowing down to save lives can save the planet too

We have known for a while that things have to radically change, because the crises we are dealing with cannot be resolved with simple, imposed measures. We must start living differently and companies must organize themselves on other ways. But the transformation from endless growth to less consumption and less and sustainable production is not going fast enough.

We often hear from our parents or grandparents how simple life used to be. There was little choice in food, you ate whatever you found on your plate. You bought clothes at a local store, but much more often you got the discarded clothes from your sibling. There was a local pub to get together and you really only knew the people in your village or neighborhood in the city. The Prime Minister you could watch on TV (if you had one) and your profession choice was inspired by your direct environment.

How different it is now. The internet gives us direct access to a whole world of choices. We can order what we want at any time of the day. Whether that’s a pokébowl, an hour of housekeeping or a dress that was seen on the catwalk last week. We are connected to thousands of people at the same time via social channels and dating apps. You can communicate with the President of the United States in 280 characters via Twitter. Not only can we set up and organize our work fully online, we can also do this from anywhere in the world.

We have not replaced offline  with online life, we have started doing it both. So it makes sense that it has become quite busy. Many working days are not just filled up with endless email flows and chat messages, physical discussions fill in the remaining gaps in our agenda. We look at clothes online, then try them on in the store and then buy them online again. We get into contact via the internet, but that date will still take place offline at some point.

We have gradually moved from less to more, always adding something. More and more products for problems that we don’t actually have, more and more experiences that we believe we need to lead an interesting life, more and more contacts that we can’t possibly all maintain. Building up quietly is easier than building it down slowly. Just like eating a little more every day is easier for most than eating a little less.

In times of corona, cutting back is no longer a choice. Current measures determine for us what we cannot do. There is a natural shift from capitalism, marketing everything to make more money to altruism, using all means to get through this uncertain time together as well as possible.

Technology is used to be in contact with whom we cannot physically meet and to help each other. Most commercial messages in our social media feeds have made way for messages that serve a social purpose, wasn’t that what social media was really meant for? Companies do not use their newsletters to sell us even more, but to offer free services that drag us through this period. Even the government is beginning to recognize that this is not the time to place short-term economic interests before the health of its population.

“Death is a stripping away of all that is not you” according to Eckhart Tolle in his besteller “The Power of the Now.” “This quarantine is a stripping away of all that I don’t need”, popped into my head when reading this sentence.

This crisis is causing enormous suffering and damage, which cannot be denied and should not be downplayed. But it also takes us to the essence. How often do we hear that people on their deathbed realize what really matters in life, and that it is never actually that promotion or that holiday home.

I believe we are experiencing something similar now. We will not go back to ‘normal’ after April 6, after April 28th or somewhere in June, we have already started something new. We have become aware of how little we actually need as we are forced to step back. And a step back, that is exactly the step forward the world needs right now.

Words by Nadine Ridder / Photo by Craig Whitehead

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